Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

There were no teacups rattling on fancy saucers as a group of us ladies met this week in a little house in the jungle. However, there was coffee to go around in disposable cups (which are never actually disposed of), a beaming hostess and a group of laughing, smiling ladies enjoying one of the most lovely of afternoons. Our hostess, Ate Miriam, hadn’t planned to have the entire ladies’ Bible study in her home this particular Wednesday. But, when we all showed up to church in the rain and the youth group was also using the church, she quickly led the way, down a muddy road and along a grass trail, to her house. She wouldn’t hear of us walking to one of the public meeting houses in the village, but insisted we use her home for our Wednesday afternoon Bible Study. She rushed on a few steps in front of us to start the hot water, as she knew my co worker, Cathy, and I had the disposable cups, coffee and brown sugar in our bags.
It wasn’t long before we were all gathered into Ate Miriam’s house. Some of us sat on the cement floor while others sat on little benches made of wood or bamboo. Ate Miriam  stoked the fire in her kitchen to boil the water. There was a chicken perched above us in the rafters. (That was until one of the older ladies, literally, grabbed it and threw it out!) A dog was chased out of the way by a few too many people. We left our flip-flops at the door (an opening in the wall), and squeezed up close, sitting barefoot and grateful for a place to meet out of the rain. A child with a fever slept nearby on a mat. Ate Miriam and a friend poured the hot water into the cups, stirred in spoonfuls of instant coffee, along with heaped spoons of dark brown sugar, and then quietly and quickly handed them around. As I sat in the corner, taking it all in, my heart was just rejoicing to see the love and the servant’s attitude of so many of these dear ladies. I felt absolutely at home in her little house, even though it couldn’t be more different to the houses that I grew up in. Our hearts connected in praise and through the attitude of prayer as we lifted our minds to Christ, thanking Him for what He has done for us on the cross and how it is our heart’s desire to lead others to Jesus. It was a wonderful afternoon of fellowship in the Lord.
As she wiped down her little table and extended her hand out for us all to sit down, Ate Miriam, in her little house in the jungle, was the picture of hospitality. We felt welcomed into her home and I was so humbled by her quiet, unassuming way of making us at ease. There was no apology for the state of her house, no presenting of her finest fares and furnishings. She had few, but she gave what she had, and she gave it for the purpose of serving the Lord.
And it wasn’t lost on me, that this particular week, we were preparing for and praying over a new venture for our our ladies meeting. This coming week we are going to invite women from all over the village as we start a new course on “Hope.” We will study the story of the promised Redeemer, from the garden to the cross. As I watched the ladies cut up the invitations, talk about and pray over the names of their families and friends and who they want to invite, it was so humbling to think that God allows us to have this role. He uses us in all our weakness, our limitations, our cramped spaces, our stumbling words and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, he draws others to Himself. Inviting is so powerful, when Jesus is our Hope.
The Lord has been bringing the word, “hospitality,” to my attention a lot lately. At first, I thought this was strange, for I have no intentions of throwing a dinner party, out here in the jungle, any time soon. But, the more I delved a little deeper, the more I realized how far we can drift from what the Bible encourages us and commands us to do. If you are anything like me, then for many of us, when we think of the word “hospitality,” it is almost synonymous with putting on an event, presenting our houses at their best, trying to be creative with our decor, cooking up our best recipes and putting a lot of effort into entertaining guests. It is often only practiced as a special occasion, and is nearly always prearranged. How many of us would invite over the entire ladies Bible study group at a moment’s notice? We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform “hospitality” so well that we are a flustered mess; frantically cleaning, rearranging our furniture, puffing the pillows and muttering promises to ourselves that we will never do this again. It is too much work! We have let the world taint our thinking as we burden ourselves with presenting the best version of us, inside our put-together homes, instead of celebrating the wonderful gift and opportunity we have been given to be able to present our dear Lord Jesus, and His everyday Grace. He gives us countless opportunities to be shining lights for Him to a lost and lonely world, through the cracks and weaknesses of our homes and our lives.
As I watched Ate Miriam move around her little home, I praised God for the reminder that hospitality is never about our house, but it is always about our heart. Ate Miriam’s house is not to showcase her earthly belongings. It is a home, with a door that is always open. I love how, here in the village, when someone is coming to our house they will shout out “tao po.” It is an announcement of their arrival since, there is no doorbell to ring, and nobody calls ahead to say they are coming. “Tao po” literally means, “person” or more loosely translated, “person/people here”. I am often thankful for this vocal  reminder, as I make my way to answer a call, that people are outside my door. People for whom the Lord loves and the reason for which He died; so men and women, boys and girls, could be called the Sons of God. The people that arrive on our doorsteps, the neighbors who drop off our mail, acquaintances who call us at work, teenagers who visit our home; they are not to be seen as interruptions or disturbances in our schedules. No, they are people with needs, calling out to be invited into our lives, to be seen and to be heard. As I thought of Ate Miriam’s example, on a random Wednesday afternoon, I realized that instead of inviting people in so we can impress them, it is so much more freeing to welcome them in, humbly and prayerfully, so we may be allowed the wonderful opportunity to impress upon others the news of the gospel. Jesus saves.
Logan Wolfam says this: “We posture our hearts to welcome others in response to the invitation we have been given through the gospel of Christ.”
Hospitality is gift, given to us, to share with others. To share our lives, in love, to the world around us and to take no thought of ourselves. We are not to seek glory as an acclaimed hostess, but instead, to be honored to be called a servant of the Lord. And friends, it can happen so simply; I know, for I experienced it so gracefully, in a little house in the jungle while sitting on a cement floor, drinking half a cup of coffee.
Ate Miriam, thank you for being a gracious servant of the Lord. Many may look at your house, your worldly possessions and think you do not have much to your name. I have sat in your home, watched you live, and I say thank you for making much of the Name of Jesus. I hope to invest in my home as wisely as you do in yours.
Love, Philippa.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6: 19-21

“Use hospitality one to another with grudging.” 1 Peter 4:9

Izzy had her first day of “real school” this week!
With love tonight from our home to yours. God Bless. Pip. xx

4 thoughts on “Disposable Cups in the Jungle. (Hospitality)

  1. Amy says:

    Came here from she reads truth. 🙂 thank you for sharing. This was lovely and such a great reminder of what hospitality is.


  2. Hi Amy! Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I am really enjoying our study these past few days. This experience with Miriam this week was a great visual to me of all the things we have been reading about. She reminded me that it can be so simple when we give with all our heart. Love, Philippa.


  3. Deb says:

    Wonderful! We all need this insight. You have a gift for making God's Word come alive and you also paint such a vibrant picture of life in the village. Thank you. Just curious, what is the population of your village? You mentioned inviting all the women to the new Bible Study and I wondered how many people live there?


  4. Debbie, thank you for all your words of encouragement! I am not too good with numbers but I think there are around 200 adults in the village right where we live and then a lot more in the 2 villages next to us. The village where we live though is very spread out and it takes a lot to get around to all the ladies. We are excited about this Wednesday and starting this new study. The ladies who normally attend will be inviting their friends and neighbors as an outreach opportunity. We have normally around 15-20 faithful ladies who attend each week, but we would love to see more coming to know Jesus and coming to study His Word. Thanks for asking and we appreciate all your prayers for these dear ladies! Love Philippa.


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