Steve came to Manchester from Colombia in 2019 to learn English at a language school. Learning English would improve his job prospects back home and being an adventurous guy he jumped at the chance to immerse himself in a new culture.
I first met Steve as he clutched his bike and smiled as I opened my front door. I immediately noticed Steve’s openness as I welcomed him in to take a seat at our living room table beside other students from all over the world.
Steve had seen an advert online for a Brazilian meal we were hosting for international students in our house. We’d never met him before yet he cycled over in the dark to meet with us. As I spoke with him and other students that night, they all shared how this was the first time they’d been invited into an English home. As I saw students from Japan, Spain, Brazil, Italy and South Korea get to know one another and share food, I was moved by the simplicity and power of this diverse group meeting in one place, eating together and connecting for real, not over a screen, not lost in the crowd but each person was seen, known and able to participate.
After the meal, Steve stuck around after the others left. We got chatting over a drink and he opened up, sharing he’d felt lonely and isolated since moving to the UK. We spoke about the challenges of moving to a new place and adapting to a new culture. He seemed interested in the invitation to join us for church in a home on Sunday.
Sunday came around and I was pleasantly surprised to see Steve turn up at the door again with his bike. He came in, grateful for the opportunity to meet some more new people. Together we turned to Matthew 18 and considered how Jesus commands us to forgive someone who has sinned against us, seventy times seven. The words of Jesus struck a chord with him. Steve began to share about the complications in his relationship with his Dad. To our shock, he said he felt he needed to forgive his Dad. As he sat at that kitchen table, with kids running around, we walked Steve through a prayer of forgiveness. Steve was able to not just forgive his Dad but know that Christ had forgiven him personally. Steve acknowledged Christ in his midst, forgave his Dad and accepted God’s offer of salvation by faith.
A few weeks passed and Steve knocked on my door again. This time he was wearing swimming trunks ready to get baptised! With our Church family present, we ran the bath and dunked him. Steve was a new creation indeed! Smiles filled our faces and Steve’s complexion was visibly different, he looked lighter and brighter, I believe a result of him knowing Chirst’s forgiveness for himself and for his Dad.
Each time Steve knocked on my door, he was closer to Christ. For him, coming into a home was a safe place, a place of real connection and authenticity, a place to receive hospitality and be introduced to a community where each person was participating and contributing. Opening our homes invites an intimate, authentic experience for our friends to know us and know Christ. As stories are shared, cultures come together and we host God’s presence, people like Steve are invited to meet with Jesus in the environment he spent most time in, eating and drinking with his followers, seekers and sinners.
It doesn’t take much to open up your home and you don’t need to feel like your home is in perfect condition! All it takes is a text message and a smile and you could invite a student into a brand new adventure by sharing your time and your home generously. Sharing communion, praying and eating together are practices that are easy ways to demonstrate the gospel and that Christ is already sitting at the table with you! Who could you invite over to your house this week?