Building God's House with Hospitality

06/15/2017 .
Kathy Benedetto  .  Volunteer Storyteller

When they see an opportunity to help someone, they grab it. Bill and Gayle try to make a habit out of being generous with their time and resources. While sitting in church on a Sunday morning a few years ago, they heard pastors would be visiting Saddleback Church from around the world and needed help. These pastors coming to attend The Purpose Driven conference were often unable to afford the cost of everything: travel, accommodation, and registration. Bill and Gayle signed right up. Though it felt natural for them to open their home, the couple didn’t realize how their hospitality would lead to receiving help for themselves when they needed it.

Bill and Gayle had joined Saddleback Church four years earlier after moving to south Orange County to be near their daughter and her family. They immediately joined a small group, completed Class 101 through 401, and found ministries to serve with in their free time. Gayle began training as a church counselor and Bill put his coaching abilities to work as a SHAPE guide, helping volunteers connect with the right ministry to serve with. Despite their busy schedule, Bill and Gayle wanted to take another volunteering step and open their home during the conference. “Why not do this?” Gayle said. “The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful home near Saddleback Church.”

Jose and Norma arrived at Bill and Gayle’s home a few weeks later. The young couple from Chicago had lived in Puerto Rico before moving to Illinois to start their own church. Jose had grown up in a crime infested area and learned very early in life to identify himself as a member of the “Jesus gang” when approached by other gangs. He would talk with them about God and they left him alone. In Chicago, Jose and Norma were dedicated to helping young people avoid the gangs and attracting them to their local church. The worship, teachings, conversation, and brainstorming with pastors filled them with great plans and vision.

In the evening, after the conference, they listened to Bill share his experience as a SHAPE guide. Bill had been encouraging members at Saddleback, now he was helping other pastors do the same with their own volunteers. The small Chicago congregation was building volunteer teams and Bill had great advice to help them get started. Jose and Norma were excited to take this concept back to their church. “Their questions and enthusiasm were fun to watch,” Bill said. “Yet they never would have been able to come without the support of the housing we provided.”  

The following year hosts were needed for another Purpose Driven Conference. Gayle had recently lost her sister and still felt weighed down by her grief. She hesitated to sign up again, but in the end, decided they should continue helping the visiting pastors. The next couple, Pastor Doug and Dorothy were newlyweds in their late 60s. Both had lost their first spouses, but found love again later in life with each other. As they got to know each other and Gayle heard their story, she shared her own struggle after losing her sister. Patiently listening and speaking words of encouragement from a reservoir of understanding, Doug and Dorothy modeled for Gayle how to navigate through her pain. “Pastor Doug recommended several books and gave us two essays he had written on loss,” Gayle said. “I shared these essays with my brother-in-law. He also found Doug’s words to be a source of comfort and healing. While you think that you are helping a person in need, God turns around and uses it as a way to support and encourage you. It was just a wonderful blessing.”

What started as an act of hospitality developed into life-giving friendships. Bill and Gayle have stayed connected with their visiting couples by continuing to pray for them. The bonds that were established through hospitality are now connected through prayer. “Your guests may be strangers at first,” Bill said, “but that only lasts a few minutes. After that, you’re friends for life.”

To learn more about The Purpose Driven Conference, click HERE.

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