If we want to really know God better, then hospitality must be an essential part of our everyday lives, says KRISH KANDIAH
I barricaded my bedroom door that night. My mum had let yet another stranger into the house.
This unexpected guest had knocked on our door late in the evening and unlike all the other residents of Wellington Road, Brighton, my mother had fallen for his unlikely story.
The young man hailed from Germany, and was explaining in broken English that he had met a girl on a plane. But it was only after he had passed through customs that he realised that he did have something to declare: his undying love for the stranger who had been on the seat next to his.
He had searched the airport to no avail, but remembered she had told him she was heading for Brighton. So here he was, going from house to house, determined to try every one of Brighton’s 120,000 homes until he found her.
Mum had arrived in Brighton from India aged 16 to train to be a nurse. As an Anglo-Indian child growing up in an Indian orphanage, she had been treated as a pariah. And it was no better when she came to the UK in the 1950s.
She knew what it meant not only to be on the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse, but also to be ignored, dismissed and marginalised as an outsider.
Because her grandmother had gone to such great lengths, following her son’s death in the war, to rescue my mother and her sisters from various orphanages and secure their education and careers, she also knew what it meant to be welcomed in by a family that had lost her and then found her again.
Maybe that is why the German was not made to stay on our doorstep but was welcomed in and given tea and encouraged to share his story.
Pretty soon she was turning our sofa into a bed for the stranger and, because my bedroom was just opposite, I started to turn my furniture into a barricade.
Perhaps I had watched too many movies about conmen or home invasions, or heard too many dark fairy tales, or too vividly remembered my teacher’s warnings about ‘stranger danger’.
I spent a disturbed night clutching my Swiss Army penknife and worrying far more about my own security than that of my gullible parents and defenceless younger sister.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, this love-struck loner resumed his crazy search. We never saw him again.
I like to think that, thanks to my mum’s kindness, there is an Anglo-German couple living happily ever after and telling their children about an Indian woman who demonstrated through her hospitality that she too believed in love.
It’s taken me a long time, but I have changed my views about strangers.
There’s a big shift going on in our world right now – there’s a growing fear of strangers. Terror attacks and a global refugee crisis have made many countries more concerned about guarding their borders than offering hospitality.
In my latest book God is Stranger I decided to take a look at all the times that God turned up as a stranger.
I tracked down all the times he turns up unannounced and unrecognised and I found out something very strange.
Looking at Bible stories from Eden to Emmaus, from Abraham to Jesus, I uncovered some neglected truths that were disturbing and comforting, exhilarating and terrifying.
One thing I uncovered was that the Bible shows us that if we want to really know God better then hospitality must be an essential part of our everyday lives.
It turns out that my mum’s open door rather than my barricaded one was the right response.
Writing the book set me off on a new adventure of discovery with God. I invite you to open the book and be prepared to open your life up to our wonderful and strange God.
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