The Ministry of Hospitality
Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which when translated means Dorcas); this woman was excelling in acts of kindness and charity which she did habitually. But it happened at that time that she became sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upstairs room.”
Acts 9:36-37 NASB
Everywhere we look right now, there are advertisements selling the ‘picturesque’ Thanksgiving – a well-dressed family with perfect smiles, all sit down to enjoy platters upon platters of food, not a single unkind word to be heard.
None of these advertisements show small children refusing to eat anything but the mac and cheese, no wide-eyed boyfriends nervously sweating while meeting the entire extended family for the first time, and of course, and nobody arriving late or missing from the gathering… I always have a small laugh at those commercials because they aren’t realistic.
However, these things reveal something about our culture – there is still the deep desire to have that kind of picture-perfect holiday with the perfect meal, the perfect conversation, the perfect attendance, and the perfect traditions.
As we continue praying for the Military in the month of November, we must pray for the service members and their families who might be separated from their spouses and children or separated from their closest family and friends during the holiday season.
A major holiday like Thanksgiving in a military family is defined by uncertainty: services members might be deployed, they might work straight through the holiday, or, if the service member is off duty and allowed to travel, it is often too late to book affordable travel arrangements. Essential missions and national security efforts don’t stop just because of a day on the calendar; all traditions and celebrations are ‘up in the air’ and nothing is guaranteed.
Seasoned military families will hold loosely to traditions and make new and different plans each year. It’s honestly beautiful to see – I’ve watched military leaders opening their home to the entire unit on days like Thanksgiving, so no one is alone.
As a military spouse myself, I’ve been convicted and challenged in this area – I shiver with anxiousness just thinking about such… radical hospitality. I think: How would I preserve my traditions? What if the house is too loud from so many people gathered? What if no one likes the food I cook?
When I take these anxious worries to the Lord, He reminds me of the disciple Tabitha in Acts 9, who was “excelling in acts of kindness and charity which she did habitually.” Scripture doesn’t say she was habitually following her traditions. She was showing kindness and giving of herself, serving others. Her life would’ve been easier if she had focused only on her own needs, but she chose to be obedient to God and serve others. If Tabitha were a disciple among us today, I can image her holiday table would be full of people who would otherwise be lonely, who otherwise might not have a place to fellowship. Instead of focusing on what would be most convenient and comfortable to her, she would be focusing on what would be most fruitful in the Kingdom. And when it seemed her days on earth were complete, the description given about her life fulfilled the commandment from the Lord from Matthew: “love your neighbor as yourself.”
How We Can Pray
Traditions and a desire for a nice holiday aren’t in themselves negative things, but when they stop our hearts from being open to what new things God is doing, they become a stumbling block and must be reexamined, and even let go, in order for us to fully step into the opportunities God has for us to grow and minister to others.
We can pray for military families to let go of anything that is preventing them from clinging to God and His promises. The promises that He will never leave us, and that He is the Vine, and we are the branches – always connected to the source of good things, with a Heavenly Father who wants to see us grow and flourish.
We can pray for the 50% of men and women in uniform who aren’t married to be warmly welcomed into someone’s home and affirmed that their presence is valued and important. Without a spouse to celebrate a holiday at a new base, it is easy to isolate and begin to believe the lies that Satan loves when people are alone - that life is meaningless, and they are unloved.
We can pray for the churches and Christian communities around military bases to be like the disciple Tabitha, “excelling in acts of kindness and charity.” These believers have a wonderful opportunity at Thanksgiving to welcome new people into their homes and minister to them! Already, I’ve seen members of my local church asking new military families if they have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving – people they have just met! All because they are focused on the fruitfulness of the Kingdom over their own comfort.
Will you pray with me right now?
Lord Jesus, You are the Vine, and we are the branches. You have called me to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God through the ministries of evangelism, service, and hospitality. Right now, I lift up our nation’s military. I pray for all who are deployed overseas, that they would seek You when the feelings of loneliness are exacerbated by being away from loved ones over a holiday.
Wrap military families in Your love, renewing their minds to cling to You – You are a firm foundation, the solid rock on which we stand. All other ground, traditions, and expectations are sinking sand. Open opportunities for gatherings and Gospel conversations around the Thanksgiving holiday, to point to the truth that our ultimate thankfulness is to You, our Creator and Savior! Lord, I pray for military families to be able to meaningfully connect with family back home, and I ask You to soften the hearts of the ‘hometown’ family, to rejoice at any opportunity to connect with their military loved ones, even if it is just through a phone call or video chat.
Reveal Your will to the local believers and congregations in military communities – show them how they can use their strategic location to fulfill their missional calling of ministering to the military members right in their neighborhoods. God, help me to let go of my traditions and expectations that might be stumbling blocks, in order to wholeheartedly enter into the ministry opportunities, You so graciously give to me. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
LIGHT Your Path!
Please join us as we “Lift up the Word and Light Up the World.”Here is some LIGHT for your path as you walk by faith and pray for our military during this Thanksgiving season.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:36)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 )
Please add your favorites to this list and be encouraged to repeat them in faith-filled prayer for our military in the Thanksgiving season.