By Kyle Henderson
My son was hired for a temporary job. It is a great job and great opportunity, but it will only last two months. He has been looking for a while, so we were excited. He had only five days to secure a place to live. So we began immediately.
We searched online, but could not find much that was interesting or available. I reached out to some friends but no one knew anyone in the area. With only three leads in our pocket we made the two and half hour drive and began our search. We drove to the best of the possibilities. We had been told that it was a fixer-upper in progress, but this seemed like a total rebuild. It was too much chaos and we crossed it off the list.
We were headed to second lead when I decided to audible.
“Why don’t we stop in a Baptist church and see if they have any ideas.”
Google told me that we were just a few hundred feet from a prominent name-brand Baptist church. I figured being a pastor I would find some camaraderie. We pulled in and I hopped out with anticipation.
Two people met us. The first was friendly and smiled and kept working as she was busy cleaning up from VBS. We had lots of sympathy for her; my wife is a children’s pastor. The second person was the receptionist in the main office. They did not seem busy. I introduced myself and told her where I served as pastor. I introduced her to my son and told her our story. I told her my son (I was sure she could hear the pride in my voice) was going to move to her town and was looking for a room to rent. Did they know anyone in the church that might have a room?
I was met with a blank stare. Finally we got an audible, “No. We don’t know anyone.”
The silence hung between us. I started over again making sure she knew that he was looking to rent a room, that he would be working in a downtown government office. I said that in our church we knew several people that had guest rooms and I was just wondering if anyone might be interested.
“Nobody tells us they have a place like that.” There was no encouragement in the voice.
I tried a different tactic.
“Do you have anyone in the church who deals in real estate?”
“Well, you could try down the street.”
She gave us a set of complicated instructions to a place across town. We are not sure if they have anything to do with the church. It was clear I was not getting anything else. We left.
I was deflated and disappointed. My son’s first comment was:
“They didn’t even invite me to church.”
Later he said, “I don’t think I would ever go back there.”
I was embarrassed. I did not expect them to solve my problem, but I thought a little welcome might be in order. I would love for my son to have a place to worship. Some temporary jobs turn into long-term jobs. He is going to make a good church member somewhere, but not at that church.
I have replayed the conversation and wondered what would have happened in my office. I believe it would have happened differently. I think we would have gathered around a new person and invited them in to the circle. I pray we have not been as dismissive.
In Hebrews 13:2 the Bible says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers.” I think it is easy to forget. I am not often the stranger. Last week I felt alone and vulnerable and I felt like that church let me down. I was embarrassed in front of my son who has some of the normal reluctance of the church that characterizes his generation.
It is easy to get so occupied that we miss opportunities. Even when we can’t solve all the problems we can listen and be attentive. It was a good reminder this week. I’m glad our faith is secure and our love for church is clear. I’m afraid a person with little foundation could have been shaken by the encounter. Just a few seconds of empathy would have been so helpful.
About an hour later I put a notice about our troubles on Facebook I got immediate responses and incredible help all from people who love Jesus and showed it in the simplest ways. I was disappointed with a church, but glad to be part of the Church.