This past winter, barely a month before the COVID 19 travel shut down, I experienced hospitality that truly came from the heart. It could not have come from a place of abundance except for an abundance of the heart. The hospitality I experienced defies a suitable adjective.
I had traveled to this country a few times. Before I left home I had packed things that would be of use to the local residents. I had gleaned from my abundance of things. I had observed on previous trips the type if items that would be very much appreciated. No I didn’t bring what was necessarily most essential.
The people I visited live in the poorest province of their country. As they await help for basic infrastructure or daily needs they are regularly told that the government has run out of money. So they have learned to make do.
Given my Canadian lifestyle we had assembled a suitcase full of things that would be appreciated.
- knapsacks (essential when you walk everywhere)
- baseballs (it’s their national sport)
- T-shirts (still need clothing in a warm climate)
- bath towels (always appreciated)
On my most recent trip I learned that there are various other items that are now in short supply. The US trade embargo had been eased under President Obama. After he left office the embargo had tightened up considerably. So many necessary items were in short supply:
- personal hygiene products
- shampoo, tooth paste, toothbrush
- bicycle tires and tubes
- tube patch kits
I decided one day to travel inland. I had been into the interior by 4X4 a couple years back. This time my most suitable means was to go by bike. Except for the first kilometer the bike was not too helpful. I walked most of the way in addition to pushing a single speed bike up the mountain with me. It meant almost 1000 meters of climbing for an 11 km trip. The climb was even too steep most of the way to ride my bike down on the way back.
The 26 C heat of the mid morning sun against the south slope I was climbing was enough to make me consider more than once to abandon the climb. But I knew I just had to get to the top of the first crest and things would be better. There would be some shade and the road if you want to call the mountain track I was in that compliment, would level off enough to resume biking.
I was not disappointed. The scenery became spectacular. The variety of vegetation amazing. The sounds of birds when one is biking is not drowned out by any other sounds.
I passed several homesteads. There was no one in the yard so I kept going. After reaching a small crest of the road I could enjoy a few minutes on the bike as I coasted down. It was near the bottom of this long hill that I approached a couple of homesteads with definite signs of life.
I should mention that I do not speak Spanish and once one is off the resort no one speaks English. However, the language gap was not a problem. I had with me a few baseballs and a couple baseball caps. With the few greeting words I know in Spanish and a knapsack with a few ‘gifts’ I found a great opener. The baseball and cap I offered brought a huge smile. I asked if he had a child. He said yes so I told him the cap was for his son.
After talking with the young man (well I had no idea of his age) he invited me in. It was close to noon. He introduced me to his wife. After complimenting him on some of the things in his sparsely furnished house he wanted to show me his television. I assumed it was a black and white model. I couldn’t tell because only the audio worked. He was proud of his concrete living room floor. When he had poured the concrete he had used the bottom of a drinking class to create a texture in the finish. A technique not unlike stamping concrete to make it look like textured rock, except on a much simpler scale.
He called me into his backyard to show me the coffee beans he was roasting on a fire pit. When I stepped back inside his wife had set out some food for me. A bowl of bean soup, some rice and a glass of water. I declined the water by pointing to my camel pack. I had always been advised to be cautious about drinking water from unfamiliar sources.
When I was finished my lunch I was given a largish glass of expresso coffee. Now I’m not a coffee drinker and so I first declined the coffee. Then I kicked myself for turning down the offer of hospitality. I quickly changed my mind. While I’m not a coffee drinker I did very much enjoy the coffee.
To keep the conversation going I shared some of the pictures I had on my cell. It provided a great back drop to sharing family and things related to daily living in a different country. It provided me an opportunity to learn more about their life. During my visit a neighbour and her daughter stopped by for a visit. They too were intrigued to have a visitor from Canada.
When I was ready to leave they wanted to take a picture of me with the family. As a parting gift I gave each of them a lapel pin of the Canadian flag. Just as I’m ready to walk back to the road I was offered a plastic bag of roasted coffee beans.
It was by now 2:00 pm. As I started back I realized how hot is was outside. I was even more aware how the generous lunch and the break gave me the energy and sustenance I needed for the trip back. The trip back while mainly downhill was almost as slow as coming up. With the road being steep and the surface of gravel, dirt and boulders I could not trust the brakes on the bike to get me down safely. On a few stretches that were less steep I did attempt to coast down. After experiencing two spills I thought better of it. Not till I got onto a hard surface where I could get proper traction did I once more attempt to ride my bike.
I arrived back at the resort quite animated. My travel companions were quite amused and figured it was the double sized serving expresso coffee. They were partly correct, but for me it was the overwhelming generosity and hospitality from a family in the mountains.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
What had me animated was not from entertaining strangers unawares but from having received hospitality from angels unawares.