“Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
On December 18, 1981 my wife and I spent our fifth anniversary at a guest house at Sun Moon Lake, a well-known honeymoon destination in the mountains of Taiwan. Just two months before we had moved from Portland, Oregon to Taichung, Taiwan to start our work in the Chinese world.
After checking in, we went to the gift shop to enjoy the views of the lake and look at locally produced curios. A few minutes later we heard two people speaking in British-accented English. Following the sound of their voices down a stairwell and around a corner, we were surprised to meet two Chinese tourists visiting from Singapore. Soon we were chatting back and forth learning about their teaching careers in Singapore and their being on an extended Christmas holiday visiting some of Taiwan’s famous destinations.
It was so fascinating getting to know them we asked if they were free to join us for dinner that evening. They said they would be delighted to even though they were a bit embarrassed to join us as we celebrated our anniversary. We said we would have many opportunities to spend future anniversaries together, but this was our only opportunity to get to know them better! Over dinner we continued our conversation sharing how we came to be living in Taiwan learning Mandarin Chinese.
As we were getting up from dinner, we gave them our phone number and address and said, “If you end up having extra time or if you need something, please give us a call. We would be happy to have you stay with us.”
A few days later we received a phone call. It was Guat Hua, one of the teachers who said, “My travelling companion is sick and we don’t feel like continuing our itinerary. Could we come and spend a week with you?”
We were both surprised and delighted. A few hours later, two days before Christmas, they showed up at our apartment. One of the highlights of that week was having them attend the Christmas Eve service at our church. At the time, we were learning Chinese culture as well as Chinese language. After the service, we were asked if we wanted the youth group to sing Christmas carols at our home. They hinted it was culturally expected that we have some Christmas treats to share with them after they sang for us.
Guat Hua and her friend told us that the carolers might not come until after midnight. They also said that while our assortment of Christmas cookies would be appreciated, it was common to serve carolers green bean soup. The hot, slightly sweet soup would help warm them up! We had never eaten green bean soup and didn’t have a clue how to make it. So, we all went to the local store, purchased what was needed and then they prepared it to serve to the young people from church.
This “random” meeting and the hospitality that followed was the beginning of a 36-year friendship with Guat Hua. Soon she became one of our financial supporters. In 1998, we visited her during a training in Singapore. In 2010 and 2011 she spent in China. In 2014, she visited us in Colorado and we still correspond regularly. She enriches our lives and we are an encouragement to her.
I believe that our experience with Guat Hua and her friend illustrates that we are supposed to love others as brothers and sisters, even strangers from countries we have never visited. And we should not forget to extend hospitality. Somehow, acting in love and offering hospitality opens the door to divine mystery, friendships and unexpected blessing!
About the Author: Ron is the IDEAS Director of Community Life for Asia. He and his family lived in Taiwan for 20 years, building friendships and being transformed by their community. Read Ron's previous blog post: What I Learned About Hospitality in a Chinese Village