Thursday, March 26, 2015

Practical Hospitality: First Things First


I love it. I love hosting people, especially those in ministry. I love turning my home into a little hospital for the body, soul, and spirit of those who enter. It really isn't my gift, just a passion. And I want to do it well.


There is an order to it. And first things must come first.

So what exactly comes first when you are dealing with hospitality?

Meal planning?
Guestroom planning?
Gift basket shopping?

There is something else way more important. Actually, it is the most central and vital element of the whole process. The success of everything else actually hinges on this one aspect.

Often, hosting people in our homes is a Martha load of work, but if we have the Martha spirit it will ruin every effort. We need a Mary spirit through it all.

Luke 10:38-42 "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

We recently hosted a group who had come for survey purposes. They were here for about a week. I knew the workload was about to rise dramatically, but my greatest desire was to finish the week without being "cumbered about" and "troubled." (Now that's a tall order!)

The first thing to prepare isn't towels and scrubbing things and menus. The first thing to prepare is our hearts.

Why am I hosting these people? Where is my heart in it? Is it a grudgingly done task?

1 Peter 4:9 "Use hospitality one to another without grudging."

Everything we do is supposed to be for God's glory. That's the whole sum of the matter. Hospitality is for the Lord no matter who we are serving.

When the heart is right, everything else will fall into place because everything will be done in His strength and guided by His leadership.

So how do you prepare your heart?

Just like Mary.

Sit at His feet in the time leading up to your opportunity of hospitality. Do not neglect quiet time alone with Him. And pray...

Pray for:

  • Faithfulness to your quiet time each day.
  • A soft heart toward God's leading.
  • Right priorities during your guests' stay.
  • Wisdom in decisions, purchases, and preparations.
  • A kind tongue.
  • Provision for the things you will need to serve your guests.
  • A gracious and giving heart... That you will give your home and things to the Lord so that you can in turn easily give to your guests.
  • An enduring/forbearing love that can overlook offenses.
  • Those who are going to be staying in your home. Ask God to use you in their lives. Ask Him to help you see needs that they may not express. Ask Him to help you walk in their shoes mentally.
  • The mind of Christ.

Now that our hearts are ready, let's take the next step.

To be continued...

by Charity, Southern Asia

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chicken Casserole

An easy to make chicken recipe that is a family favorite!

4 Chicken breasts (chopped and cooked until done in a skillet over medium heat)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup** 
1 can cream of chicken soup

**As I have mentioned in my other recipes, I use the recipe below only, (I double it for this recipe) to make it a cream of chicken soup, I place two bullion cubes in a small bowl and add approximately one cup of boiling hot water to them, stir them until they dissolve, and stir that broth in to the sauce mixture. I also add some chopped canned mushrooms and a little bit of the juice and/or one mushroom bullion cube to give the mixture a cream of mushroom soup flavor.
White Sauce Base

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1cup milk

In 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Gradually stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; boil and stir 1 minute.


8 oz. sour cream
2 large rolls Ritz crackers (crushed) **or an equivalent cracker
1/4 cup melted salted butter

Mix soups and sour cream together in a large skillet. Add cooked chicken. Mix crushed crackers with the melted butter. Place half of the cracker mix in bottom of glass 9x13-inch pan. Pour chicken and soup mixture into dish on top of crushed crackers and top mixture with the remainder of the cracker crumbs. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius (375 F) for 25-30 minutes. Cook until lightly brown and bubbly.

I usually serve this meal over rice to help add more bulk to it to help with filling the ever empty stomachs of our preteen boys. :) It is also delicious served with corn as a side. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Frosting

As missionaries we often do a lot of entertaining and nationals just love it when you can give them a "taste" of your home country. I love it when I make something, usually a dessert, that for them has a really unusual ingredient and they only understand it is in the recipe when you tell them. Pumpkin bread, Zucchini bread and carrot cake are three of the most surprisingly delicious desserts for nationals here in our part of the world (Russia). Today I am sharing my favorite carrot cake recipe that was given to me by my mother-in-law. It is a tried and true recipe that has been a favorite of many guests in our home.


3 cups sifted flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
8 3/4 oz can crushed pineapple (drained)
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups carrots (finely chopped)
1 1/2 cups nuts (optional)


Combine first six ingredients. Make a well and then add eggs, oil, and vanilla. Blend well. Stir in pineapple and carrots.

Bake at 180 degrees (325 degrees F) Celsius for 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Frost when completely cooled.

Cream Cheese Frosting


8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups of powdered sugar (1 box)

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl until well blended. Spread evenly over cooled cake.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Shunammite Hospitality

Some food, a bed, a chair, a table, and a candlestick...

No, this isn't some game of Clue... Colonel Mustard in the bedroom with a candlestick. (Though I do love a good board game!)

It's about a precious story of a woman with a great heart for ministry, specifically for the ministry of hospitality toward God's servants.

It was the great woman of Shunem who invited Elisha into her home.


noun hos·pi·tal·i·ty \ˌhäs-pə-ˈta-lə-tē\  generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests (Websters)

That's closely related to the word hospital.
Hospital... an institution providing medical and surgical treatment and nursing care for sick or injured people. (Websters)

Wouldn't it be great if our homes were little spiritual hospitals for those who entered?

The great woman of Shunem had a heart for hospitality. Do we? We are called to hospitality!

1 Peter 4:9 "Use hospitality one to another without grudging."

Romans 12:9-13 "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."


And we should strive to do it well.

Colossians 3:23 "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;" 

There is so much packed into 2 Kings 4 about this amazing woman's skill in the area of hospitality. This was the testimony she had with Elisha and his servant:

"...Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care..."

Whether you are on the foreign field opening your home to visiting pastors, groups, and other missionaries, or you are a missionary sender opening your home to missionaries, hospitality is an art and ministry that can be learned, strengthened, and fine-tuned.

(Confession... in America, I was terrible at hospitality! I am embarrassed at how bad I was! But through deputation and some training on the field, as well as observing people who have the gift of hospitality, I am growing and learning.)

Gleaning Hospitality Tips from the Shunammite Woman

2 Kings 4:8-17
"And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life."

She Had A Desire to Minister to God's Servant

This is where it all starts: Love for God and His people will give us a desire to minister to His servants. That desire will be the driving force in hospitality. Without that desire, without that love, our efforts will come across grudgingly and make our guests feel unwelcome.

She Was The One Who Initiated the Invite

She constrained him... He didn't have to ask her. People do not want to feel like they are imposing on us. Don't want for them to express a need. Ask. Offer. Reach out.

She Had a Perpetual Open Door

" oft as he passed by, he turned in..."

This wasn't a one-shot deal. Elisha knew he was always welcome. The Shunammite made it clear that there was always a place for Elisha and that she and her husband were always happy to see him coming.


She had the makings for bread ready for when he might stop by. She didn't wait until he popped up on the doorstep to go into scramble mode. She was ready. Anticipating. Hoping. When we are ill-prepared, it makes guests feel like they have caused us hardship.


She didn't just slap some stale crackers down on a plate. She fed Elisha well and took the time and effort to prepare him a chamber. Hospitality is work. There is no getting around it. But the more we love the Lord and people, the more the effort will seem light because it brings us such joy.

She Was Willing to Sacrifice

The truth of the matter is that whenever Elisha stopped by, she had to interrupt her schedule. But to her, it wasn't an interruption. It was an opportunity. It was a priority. She and her husband also had to take the time to prepare a chamber as well as sacrifice the space and furnishings. How willing are we to truly sacrifice for those who enter our home? How deep is our giving? How tight do we hold on to our space, our privacy, our things?

She Sought Out Elisha's Needs

She put herself in Elisha's shoes and thought about what his needs would be. He needed a place to rest. A bed. He needed a place to study and eat. A table and stool. He needed a candlestick for lighting. Elisha could have gotten by with just a bed and candlestick, but to the Shunammite woman it wasn't about giving him bare minimum. It was about meeting his needs. Ministering. In hospitality, we need to think through what our guests many needs may be and seek to reach out to those needs... physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs.

She Expected Nothing in Return

She didn't do these things with a desire to receive reward or recognition of any kind. She was blessed simply by ministering to God's servant. How often do we seek out appreciation, recognition, or reward for ministering to others?

Prepare to Be Blessed

The Shunammite may not have done these acts of hospitality expecting anything in return, but she sure was blessed because of it. God gave her the child she had always dreamed of having. When we host God's servants in our home and take good care of them, God blesses us.

Now let's get really practical. How do we translate this into real life in our homes?

To be continued...

by Charity, Southern Asia

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Homemade Biscuits and Gravy

Sometimes, especially on Saturday mornings, we all feel like a little taste of good ol' traditional American food and having breakfast together before the day gets really busy is a great way to start the day. For me and my husband, it is also a reminder of Bible College bus breakfast when we would look forward to when a special lady was making biscuits and gravy for the college students. Her biscuit making skills made her as famous with the students as her bright smile and sharp sense of humor. Now that this dear lady is in Heaven, I love to pull out this hand-written recipe which she shared with me just after my husband and I were married and make them for our family.

Just a random photo of what looks like canned biscuits. Not the ones you
would see if you make this recipe. :)

Homemade Biscuits

 2 cups of flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening (cut in)
1 cup milk

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender. Add milk. Mix all ingredients together lightly with a fork. (**Remember, the secret to fluffy biscuits is to NOT overmix them.) Dump moistened ingredients onto lightly floured counter or mat to be cut out using a circular biscuit cutter. Once cut in circles, gently place the biscuits onto a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown, approx.12-15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and place on a cooling rack while you make the gravy. 

**This recipe makes 10-12 biscuits

White breakfast gravy

1 Liter milk
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. ground sage
salt and pepper to taste

Pour 1 liter of milk into a saucepan and heat over medium heat until it is warm (check it with a finger dip). Whisk in the flour, ground sage, and salt and pepper. Continue to stir until the mixture begins to thicken. Add more milk until gravy reaches desired thickness.

Friday, March 6, 2015

When We Get Stretched

Photo: Ambro

I don’t know about you gals, but it seems that many of the things I’m asked to do—stretch, stretch—aren’t exactly in my line of expertise. For example, I’m not a public speaker. I love doing things behind the scenes, even coaching others, but public speaking? S-C-A-R-Y! I get physically ill when I have to speak to a group of people. (Literally ill, emotionally wimpy. Think dying inside and you’ll have it about right.) I’m not a soloist, pianist, or actor. (That’s putting it mildly!) I’m just not naturally gifted in those areas. Of course, a missionary woman is supposed to be able to do all those things—and well!

Are you ever asked to:
  • Supervise 50 children for two hours each night for four nights in a row?
  • Provide food for the 150 people expected to attend the banquet?
  • Organize crafts for vacation Bible school?
  • Plan special music for the upcoming evangelistic meetings?
  • Draw the backdrop for the church Christmas play?
  • Design literature on your computer?
  • Keep the nursery—with five infants and six toddlers, and only one helper?
  • Write a new gospel tract—in Swahili, Urdu, Italian, or Cantonese?
  • Give the keynote address at a ladies’ meeting with six area churches attending?
  • Bake and decorate sheet cakes for the church’s anniversary celebration?
You get the idea. We’re often asked to do things—or we need to do them because there’s no one else—that are totally outside our “talent zone.”

We respond, “Okay. I’ll be glad to,” while shooting a prayer heavenward, “HELP!”

And, that’s exactly where God wants us.

He wants us to have to depend on Him, because that way, He gets the glory. If everything we did in ministry were right up our alley, then we’d just charge ahead and do it. There’d be no prayer for help. We might not go to God at all.

So, the Good Lord stretches us. He presents us with challenges that keep us looking to Him.

Sometimes, we’re afraid.
  • What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee (Psalm 56:3).
  • When Jeremiah was afraid, the Lord told him, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth (Jeremiah 1:7-9).
Sometimes, we need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.
  • God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9).
  • Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Sometimes, we need to find joy in serving God all over again.
  • Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing (Psalm 100:2).
  • And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).
We need to remember that our help comes from an infinite God. He never asks us to do what we can’t do relying on Him.
  • My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2).
  • Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).
Whatever we end up doing, it’s through Him and for Him. All glory and credit goes to God.
  • He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31b).
  • That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians1:12).


So, what about when we flop?
I don’t know why, but sometimes our best efforts are met with some pretty whopping failures.

  • The cake you were supposed to decorate breaks into six ugly pieces when you flip it.
  • The backdrop for the Christmas play falls over, right in the middle of the play, and the crowd howls with laughter and claps.
  • The craft you’d planned to take three nights actually was done in one session—by seven-year-olds.
  • Your gospel tract in Swahili doesn’t exactly make sense to Swahili speakers.

We’ve all had our flops. (Some of mine have been soooo bad you can’t imagine!) So, what do we do when our best efforts fail?
  • Go to the Word and pour your tears and heart out to God. Get comfort for your soul. Listen to what God has to say to you. Be silent. Take time. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . . . Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:1, 10).
  • Ask God to examine your heart and motives. If you have any sin of pride, confess it and forsake it. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • Remember, even if it looks like a failure to you, it might be okay after all. Your guests may never have guessed that the parfaits started out as a broken cake. The Christmas playgoers may have needed a laugh—and they might never forget that play. It might actually have had more of an impact (pun intended) with the falling scenery than without. Who cares how long it took to do the Bible club craft? And, you’ll learn from your Swahili mistakes. Every year, your language skills get better. It’s all okay. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27).

For it is God which worketh in you
both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:13)

God bless you, dear sister, as you watch Him do great things through you!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ready with My Sword and My Trowel... I mean, Tray

What does being a missionary woman look like?

Is it ladies meetings and Sunday school?

Is it walking up and down the streets passing out thousands of tracts?

Is it leading Bible studies, puppet shows, chorus groups, VBS and Bible clubs?

Sometimes I get this picture in my head of what it is supposed to look like... what the pressures tell me it should be like... what I convince myself I must be doing in order to convince others I am doing it right.

Then God brings to my mind Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 4:17  "They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon."

This must have been the strangest wall building effort. A sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.

Ready to fight the enemy and yet also getting their hands dirty in the physical labor.

And so here I am. My Sword in one hand, ready for battle... studying, praying, preparing, meditating, memorizing.

And my trowel?

Sometimes my trowel is a serving tray of snacks. Sometimes it's a spatula. Sometimes it's furniture polish, glass cleaner, and a wash cloth.

Sometimes it's a load of laundry on the laundry line or homeschool books stacked a mile high. Sometimes it's wiping snotty noses and cleaning dirty ears and cheeks.

Sometimes my trowel is running an errand, typing a paper, answering an email.

The trowel doesn't look too glamorous. It isn't shiny like the Sword. It doesn't blaze through the battles ferociously. It's dirty. It's busy. It's often exhausting work. But it is building.

I must admit, it's harder to treasure the trowel. It's hard to see how my trowel is accomplishing much.

And yet the Lord has graciously placed the trowel in my hand. So as I flip that pancake on the stove, grade another homeschool paper, iron my husband's dress shirt, wash that cup, and carry spinach to my neighbor, I take joy in knowing the wall must be built and God has chosen to give me the privilege of doing my part.