September 5, 2021

Extending Hospitality to Strangers

            It was a strange request from our son Matt. “Dad, our friends Alfred and Muumbe Kalembo from Zambia have no place to go for Christmas. Would you and Mom like to invite them to spend Christmas week with you at the Cabin?” He was calling from Asbury Seminary in Kentucky where he and Alfred were third-year students. “And, by the way,” Matt added, “They have five children and the youngest are two-year-old twin girls.”

            After getting the green light from Dean, I said, “Yes, son, we would love to have your friends spend Christmas with us.” A few minutes later Dean and I were gasping for breath. We had invited perfect strangers with five children to spend a week with us in a cabin that had only three beds! And we did not even know if they could speak English!

            It never occurred to us that we were obeying the biblical instruction found in Hebrews 13:1-3. This is how J.B. Phillips translates it: Never let your brotherly love fail, nor refuse to extend your hospitality to strangers—sometimes men have entertained angels unawares. Think constantly of those in prison as if you were prisoners at their side. Think too of all who suffer as if you shared their pain.”

Had I read the passage back then, I would have laughed at the idea that we were extending hospitality to angels. To us, Matt’s friends were simply a poor family from Africa that had no place to go for Christmas and Dean and I were meeting their need.

            Our apprehension turned to joy as we shared that week with the Kalembo family. Their gracious presence was like a sweet fragrance in our home. They loved Jesus. They loved life. They loved us. Within days it seemed like we had known Alfred and Muumbe all our lives. Before the week was over, we had decided to “adopt” each other. We were more than brothers and sisters in Christ; we were family! And for twenty years now, the “ties that bind” have only grown stronger.

            In the years since that Christmas in 2001, Dean and I made three trips to spend time with our friends in Zambia, their homeland. They have returned to our cabin more than a dozen times during visits to the US. Three of our sons and several grandchildren have journeyed to Zambia to share the marvelous ministry of the Kalembo family. Our hearts have been one in the work of Christ in a land ten thousand miles from Alabama.

            When we shared Christmas with them 20 years ago, we had no idea that “poor boy” born in a remote African village would return home and become a leadership giant in his country. Not only did he become a bishop in his church, he served two terms as president of the Council of Churches of Zambia. He was even called upon to preach the eulogy at the funeral of the president of Zambia. God used the voice of that poor boy to comfort his nation when their president died!

            In these days Alfred and Muumbe are back at the Cabin with me and we are celebrating the publishing of his autobiography, BREAKING BARRIERS. His inspiring book is now available from Amazon in paperback or on Kindle. Few children born in remote African villages are able to obtain even a high school education though Alfred, by God’s grace, secured a Doctor of Ministry degree. His Pilgrim Wesleyan Church has but one bishop, and he is that bishop. Driven by compassion for his people, Alfred has inspired the drilling of hundreds of wells that now provide fresh water for thousands of Zambians. Muumbe has established several schools that now provide education for the poorest of the poor. 

            Are Alfred and Muumbe angels? I don’t know. I do know that they are authentic servants of Christ. I do know I love them and they love me. They are family to me. And without a doubt, one of the wisest decisions Dean and I ever made was to open our home to them during an unforgettable Christmas week. Get Alfred’s book and read it; I think it will convince you that God will bless you for extending hospitality to strangers! + + +