Embodying God's HospitalityJuly 25, 2012
Recently I’ve been reflecting on the subject of hospitality. Not commercial hospitality, though it is a vital part of Hong Kong’s economy. Not tea and cookies hospitality, though the offer of food and drink does improve most social situations. The kind of hospitality I’ve been looking at is divine hospitality – the radical welcome that God extends to the world in Jesus Christ.
When our life is comfortable and secure, we can forget how inhospitable our communities may appear to those we regard as strangers such as migrants, refugees, persons of other faiths and even nature itself. This reality was brought home to me at the 7th Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS VII) held from July 1-5 at Methodist Theological University in Seoul, Korea. The theme was “Embracing and Embodying God’s Hospitality Today”, exploring Christian hospitality in the Asian context of migration, ecumenism, interfaith relations, peacemaking, gender, and ecological justice.
I don’t consider myself an Asian theologian by any stretch of the imagination. But no theologian from Hong Kong was able to attend, so I was invited by the Divinity School of Chung Chi College to participate. I thought I was going for learning and exposure. However, I quickly discovered that everyone who attends is expected to work!
The first requirement was the submission of a paper. Since I have been researching ministry to refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong, I presented a paper on that topic. Then I was asked to be on a panel at the Women’s Forum and to serve on the Drafting Committee for the Congress Statement. These duties kept me busy during the meeting, but I can say it was a rewarding experience to make a small contribution to the development of Asian theology. The CATS VII message and statement can be found at http://cca-fmu.blogspot.hk/ on the website of the Christian Conference of Asia.
Besides gaining fascinating new friends and ideas, two activities were especially meaningful for me. One was worshipping at Saemoonan Presbyterian Church, the first Christian church established in Korea, where we were warmly welcomed. The other was visiting the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery. A graveyard might seem a strange choice given all our options offered by the organizers for an exposure trip. But I was drawn to paying tribute to the early missionaries of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who sacrificed everything to share the Gospel and serve the people in a new land. I was deeply inspired by their witness and accomplishments, which continue to bear fruit for the Church and the nation to this day.
As a 21st century mission co-worker of Global Ministries, I am grateful for the continuing hospitality of the Hong Kong Church. It is my prayer that our partnership in ministry and mission will continue to bless China and the USA. As the Congress of Asian Theologians affirmed, our hospitality is simply an overflowing of the Triune God’s abundant hospitality and our joyful and thankful response to it. Jesus Christ is the ultimate model of Christian hospitality that is given and received. As guests and hosts of divine hospitality, we are called to incarnate those same gifts. When we open our homes and hearts around the world to welcome the stranger, we open our lives to the generosity and grace of God.
In the peace of Christ,
Judy Chan is a missionary serving with the Hong Kong Christian Council. She is responsible for communications for the Council. She is also in charge of ecumenical radio broadcasting ministry, English publications and ecumenical partnerships in Hong Kong and overseas.
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