But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia* and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
Moving in the middle of the school year sucks, so we did everything we could to ease the transition. A month before they started, we brought the kids to their new school, just blocks from our new church, and let them meet the teachers, find the bathrooms and the coldest water fountains and at least wave to their soon-to-be classmates.
We scheduled a family trip and spent time building sand castles, riding the waves and nursing sunburnt shoulders. We bought special, first-day-of-a-new-school outfits and planned a fun dinner at their favorite restaurant.
Despite our efforts, anxiety was high on the first day. Our new school district doesn’t have buses – all the kids walk or parents drop them off. So the front lawn each morning and afternoon is a cacophony of elementary school kids, backpacks slung on one shoulder, shrieking around the flagpole, friends seeking out each other.
And there we were. The new people, with our fourth grade daughter and first grade son. No waving to the neighbors or chatting with other parents. No quick grins of recognition or casual conversation about the weather. Just the new family with nervous smiles making our way to the front door.
Across the lawn, we heard someone yell, “Madeline.” That’s our daughter’s name, but we didn’t know anyone in town. We kept walking.
“Madeline,” the call came again.
We started up the stairs.
“Madeline,” said a girl, grabbing our daughter’s sleeve. “You’re Madeline, right? The new girl? Well, I’m Mia. And we’re so glad you are here! We’ve been waiting for you.”
In that moment, the day transformed.
Can you imagine? They were waiting for her, anticipating her. A class was lucky enough to have the new kid. Someone knew her name.
A year later, whenever I see Mia, I say a prayer of thanks, for her generosity and hospitality, for welcoming our daughter and family with a pureness of heart that not many 10-year-olds possess. Oh, but would our churches and members have the same open arms.
In the days when I imagine heaven with pearly gates and puffs of fluffy white clouds, I hope to hear the same welcome.
“You’re Richelle, right? The new girl?
“We’re so glad you’re here.
“We’ve been waiting for you.”
What does it mean to offer hospitality without strings?
When in your life have you felt completely welcome, completely wanted, without having to give anything back?
Have you offered that radical hospitality to others?