Updated: Feb 9, 2021
There was a time when I read the story of feeding the five thousand and I thought, that’s a nice story but it’s just a story, because that can’t actually happen. Then there was a time where I thought, Jesus really did feed five thousand people with just a basket of bread and fish. Jesus performed actual miracles, but that kind of thing can't happen in the here and now. But for the last few weeks, I have been witness to just such a miracle, very surely centered in Christ who continues to exist all around us and performs miracles every day.
A couple of weeks ago a family from the Congo came to La Casa and decided to stay, not having anyone else to receive them here in the United States. We were able to provide them with this small hospitality: a safe place to stay, a community of support (including a fellow speaker of Lingala!), and trips to the store for food and essentials. That was all that we had to offer. While it was a world apart from the perils of their journey or the dehumanization of the detention center, the truth is it wasn’t much compared to the luxuries that you and I are accustomed to having each day.
But for this family, this hospitality was just the seed of a plant that has grown and branched and produced masses of fruit. They have taken this tiny support and grown it and spread it and turned it into baskets upon baskets of provision for others.
The first day they were here, they went outside to the shed here at La Casa to look for a couple of extra items of clothing for their daughter. The shed was packed with years of donations that had been tossed in, unsorted. They found some broken dolls at the bottom of one bin and I said, “Oh, we just need to throw those away.”
They looked at me in amazement. “You can’t throw that away.” the man, Chicco, said. “There are children in my country who would treasure these dolls.”
So started an incredible plan. He took everything out of the shed and, for days and days, sorted and organized, packaged and labeled. Most of the small stipend we provided to the family upon their arrival, they sent home directly. But with what remained, they bought items from the charity shop on the corner. Chicco fixed up several scooters and bicycles that he bought there and added them to the growing pile of things to be sent back to Africa.
He labeled every single package with “Church Mennonite.” Telling me that he wanted his church to know that these things came from our church and not from him. He contacted an organization that agreed to ship everything to his home church in the Congo. And his church in Congo really is a home church. All the members of his extended family, more than 30 families, come together for worship in his father’s home. Chicco carried them here with him in his heart, and is using the support that we could provide and the leftovers that we were trying to get rid of to provide for so many more people. And his own hospitality in turn will continue to branch and give and spread.
This shipping effort, in itself, is a multiplication of hospitality. But this is just one way in which this family has multiplied provision for others from the small seed of hospitality.
The other day Chicco carefully packed bags of clothes, toys, and food that we had spare and asked me to drive him to a hotel outside of the city. He gave these packages to a family that he had met on his travels who were leaving that night but had no spare clothes or anything else for their two small children.
He has spent the days since finishing the packing, cleaning and painting the interior of La Casa. His wife cleans the church and La Casa and gives food to everyone who walks in the door from our other families staying here, to the SOOPers, to Bibi and her family.
And Chicco, who played for the Congolese national team, has been the catalyst for a weekly soccer game at our church providing time outdoors getting exercise and having fun together that has been a gift in this pandemic era.
I am completely in awe of this miracle of the branching and multiplication of hospitality. It has been a blessing to witness. We are so blessed by them and I have been blessed by them to recognize the truth of Jesus walking among us performing his ongoing miracles.
What we sow in the Spirit, we reap in the Spirit. The Spirit working through us sowed this first hospitality. And now we and many, many other families will reap hospitality in the Spirit.
If you would like to participate in this amazing project, we are accepting donations to be sorted and packed (after we separate what we need here at La Casa). We also need help for the cost of shipping all of these materials to the Congo. If you would like to make a financial donation to support this special project, please contact Dianne (210-851-6284) or Katie (210-475-2257).
See below all of the pictures of this miracle in action.
The shed at La Casa before.
The sorting begins.
The organized shed.
Items ready to ship.
Sharing hospitality with others.
Painting La Casa. Creating beauty for future families who will stay with us.
The weekly pickup in the park.
Chicco wanted me to share this picture of some of his extended family in Congo who will receive these gifts.
How can you sow a seed of hospitality this week?
How can you participate in multiplying hospitality this week?