Sunday, July 24, 2011

Radical Hospitality Part 2: Welcoming Mike and Sally into our home

So here's the story of our attempt at being hospitable to total strangers. It all began after church one Sunday in February when we met up with another couple for lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the south side of Paducah, KY.

As we entered the restaurant, our friend, Bill, was talking to some guy who was asking for money. The next thing I know, Bill invites this guy and his wife to join us for lunch.

As we ate lunch together, our two guests reeked of alcohol. Renee was seated next to the guy whose name was Mike. When she she learned that they were homeless, and his wife, Sally, was pregnant, Renee instantly volunteered our home: "You can stay with us tonight." I think I almost choked on my meal at that point. While I really appreciated my wife's desire to be hospitable and do the "good Samaritan" thing, she could have at least given me a heads up or  some advance warning. I'm thinking "Honey, just pull me aside and let's talk about this before we extend an invitation." But no...maybe Renee figured that I was spiritual and mature enough to realize that this was the right thing to do.

We brought Mike and Sally home with us where they proceeded to take much needed showers as well as wash their clothes. We drove to an abandoned lot to pick-up their their suitcase full of clothes which they had hidden in a shack.

Mike and Sally stayed with us for a total of two days, but they were in and out of our lives for the next several weeks. They fabricated the story about Sally being pregnant which was intended to elicit sympathy and it worked. However, what was true was the fact that Sally had a master's degree in counseling and had worked in Seattle, Washington for a while. She came from a family of lawyers here in Paducah, KY and for whatever reason, she did not want to stay with them. Sally and her husband, Mike, were alcoholics.

After their two-day stay with us, we received phone calls almost daily asking for a meal, or a quick visit for a clean shower, or a ride somewhere. I prayed and asked the Lord for wisdom in wanting to do the right thing and seeking to be loving and gracious. Along the way, Renee and I talked and prayed with them. They both claimed to be Christians. I suspect Sally may have truly known the Lord but her husband Mike was such a "player" that I only God knows Mike's heart and his eternal destiny.

The last time I saw Sally, it was to visit her in the ICU at the hospital where she almost died because of health issues, complicated by her alcoholism. She was happy to see me and before I left, I prayed for her and asked the Lord to take care of her and give her rest, healing and wholeness. Her husband, Mike, had finally landed a job on a barge making good money, but he quit the job the minute he discovered that Sally was in the hospital. He loved Sally, almost to a fault, in the sense that he had to be in control over her and everything going on in her life.

About 3 months later, Sally died and her family here in Paducah held a memorial service for her. In the obituary, there was no mention of her struggle with alcohol, or homelessness.

I don't regret entertaining these strangers and I suspect that we will do something like this again. Maybe next time Renee and I will talk about it before we actually rush into something. But then again, it will probably be spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment, with the decision having been made days, weeks, months, years before in our quiet moments with the Lord where we offer ourselves as His bond slaves to do His will whenever and wherever. I suspect that Renee and I need more encounters with people like Mike and Sally who push us out of our comfort zone. What do you think?


  1. wow. wow. I find this fascinating. Of course it was a good idea to help them. But I am stymied by the fact that lots of people that I meet who are living a crazy lifestyle because of a substance addiction...don't have any motive to return to what I consider a "stable" life. I would have recommended counseling. Ironically. It makes me wonder what lead up to the alcoholism in the first place. And at that point, is there any hope of recovery? This story makes me feel sad and powerless.

  2. Yes, I could see where this story could be depressing with no happy ending. However, the other way to look at this tragic tale is that we are not responsible for the outcome, just to be obedient. We're called to be conduits of God's grace and mercy without regard to the outcome.

    Of course, they both needed counseling and a lot of other things as well. But for Mike and Sally, the tracks in the road were so deep that apart from God's saving grace, they were stuck in the decisions made years ago. God could have opened their eyes and transformed their lives instantly.

    This hearkens back to my "Why Me?" post. It's the sovereignty of God, and I'm only responsible to do what He puts on my plate.

  3. Bonjour,
    It didn't take to fast into the article to realize you were writing about the Sally that Lori and I shared many special times with. So, after telling Lori that I thought it was her, I finished reading the article aloud, man were we shocked to see she had passed. Sooo Sad, I had spent hours talking with Sally about psychiatric issues of which she was indeed quite privy, and we shared the Word of God with her in multiple settings. We knew her when she really was, in fact, pregnant at 39 yoa. Anyway, So very glad that you allowed the love of God to love her like you did! Small world - Great writing. Love you guys... David and Lori

  4. " will probably be spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment, with the decision having been made days, weeks, months, years before in my quiet moments with the Lord where I offer myself as His bond slave to do His will whenever and wherever."
    This story moved me and touched my heart. It really made me think about the desire God has placed in my heart to help others. It caused me to reflect upon my willingness to be obedient to His call. It certainly speaks of the tragedy and victories that occur in human lives everyday, which remain unseen and/or forgotten unless someone shares their testimony. The tragedy is that these young people never received the physical, emotional and mental healing here on earth that was so desired for them, at least not Sally. I won't even question his or her salvation, as God only knows. However, I will proclaim the victory here, which is that God chose you and your wife for such a time as this to do His will to love others unconditionally and to show that love through actions, not just words, and you and your wife faithfully responded "yes" to His call.

    I am certain Sally's family will never forget your heavenly touch on her life when she needed it most. And if they are still unaware, I am certain it will be revealed. I am also certain Mike will always carry with him the gift of God's loving compassion during this time in his life, which was delivered by your obedient hands. I also know I will achingly remember this story and prayerfully hope I never forget it. Your love and openness, out of your obedience to serve Christ, compels me to show more love and relinquish fear and prejudices and to move with the courage of Christ out of my comfort zone.

    Also, one last thought. It is so clear that this is everyday life for so many people all around us, struggles, addictions, loneliness and rejection----we just need to open our eyes to the pain of others. The world is decaying with sin and the love of Christ seems to be fading, as we buy cars, build houses, and take soccer lessons to busy our empty Christian lives. People are dying into eternity and we have either helped them or hurt them. There is no lukewarm, safe place for us to hide until the rapture. We are either in the army of God, fighting with our full armor, surrendering ourselves to His will and abandoning ourselves to be His servants or we are self-preserving Christians that fail to see why we are truly here.....and unfortunately all to often rendering ourselves useless because we don't see that we were appointed for a time and place such as this and that God desires to use us to change the lives of those whom He sends stumbling upon our paths.

  5. Angela, don't give us too much credit. We were obedient on that one occasion...but only God knows the many other occasions where we have blown it and didn't obey his prompting.

    I am reading the new book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. What amazes me is that he found himself in the grip of God, compelled to move forward towards a purpose that would eventually take his life.

    I think those little small choices we make every day help prepare us when we are faced with the big decisions--they are easier to make because they were forged in countless smaller decisions which required obedience and faith.

    Renee and I still have a long way to go, but hopefully, we are headed in the right direction.