The Gift of Hospitality
by Marlene Bylenga, SCSBC International Student Coordinator ◊
I was reminded this summer how important it is to practice hospitality. I do not only mean offering hospitality to those who we are in relationship with but also extending our hands and hearts to the stranger who is within our midst. Scripture has several passages which remind us not to forget that we were once strangers needing hospitality. Leviticus 19:33-34 says “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” This scripture and others like it remind us of our responsibility to open ourselves to the stranger. This reminder is not only for individual believers but also challenges communities of believers.
Our Christian schools are also communities of believers who ought to offer hospitality to strangers. As we enter into a new school year, it might be wise to take some time to reflect on and discuss how we might become more hospitable. It might be a good exercise in a Board and/or staff meeting to ask each other how newcomers to your school are shown hospitality from the time they enter into community with you. Are your classrooms hospitable places of learning where each individual is valued and encouraged to share their God-given gifts? The scripture quoted above states that we must include the newcomer as “one of your native-born. Love him as yourself”. Are we loving the strangers as ourselves?
As our schools become increasingly diverse we need to be intentional in finding meaningful ways to include newcomers. How do we do that? One important way is by having the necessary supports in place for the English Language Learner.
Support programs need to be in place to enable these students to be successful in their new environment. Does your school have an English Language Learning Program? Are your teachers aware of the differing cultural values and norms of the various cultures represented in your school-it is no longer safe to assume that every student in your classroom understands the Western perspective and worldview. We should be challenging ourselves to look at our curriculum through the differing eyes of our students and make the necessary changes so that the students are able to share their perspectives and experiences. Are we enabling our students to develop the skills to become discerning disciples of Jesus and challenging them to search out God’s will for all of His children?
The schools within the SCSBC community are incredibly diverse but yet we share similar visions in the way we want to put Christ first in every endeavor. I encourage each school to be intentional in not only welcoming the newcomer but wholeheartedly including them in every aspect of school life.