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Gratitude and Hospitality

A Letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving with the Iranian Presbyterian Church of Berlin, Germany

July 2018

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Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest and you received me.’ (Matt. 25:35) – St. Benedict

Salaam and guten tag from the West Coast of the United States, where we are in the midst of our itineration travels. We have been so encouraged and blessed by each community we have spent time with this summer. Earlier this year as we realized our housing plans for this summer were not going to work, we sent out a request (plea!) by email for housing, the use of a car in each place, and possible airline miles to help with our travel. We felt like it was perhaps too much to ask. As we started receiving responses from California, Washington, and Alaska, we were surprised and thankful to realize that all our requests were completely provided for, and our itineration plans fell into place within a week of our asking. We had been worried about how it would all work out or if it would even work out, but thanks to you all, we have been enjoying a rejuvenating itineration as we spend time with supporting churches and catch up with old friends at each stop.

Inspired by you all and the generosity we have been fortunate to receive, we have also shared our apartment with a family who is spending time in Berlin this summer while we are away. While it is tempting to keep what is one’s own to oneself, it is a much greater satisfaction to be able to fulfill the needs of someone else from one’s own resources. We have been reminded in the last months of the beauty in drawing human ties a little closer across time zones and life experiences, of how thankfulness to strangers can turn into new relationships, as we have gotten to know those who reached out to offer us what we needed. Thank you again!

One person who exhibited great generosity and hospitality was Rev. Mehdi Abhari, whose memorial service coincided with our time in Southern California. We feel fortunate that we were able to meet with him on a few occasions and have been inspired by his life’s work, which was focused on sharing and embodying the message of Christ among fellow Iranians. He also worked tirelessly to support the church in diaspora, which included the church in Berlin. At his memorial service, many stories were shared about his life, and we learned how large an impact his life and work have had on the church worldwide.

With these things in mind, we are always thinking about those around the world who have left their homeland and who are in need of something. Or even those who haven’t migrated far or at all, but who have great needs. One of our daughters recently asked why people left public spaces in such dirty conditions, and our answer was that perhaps whoever left it like that wasn’t thinking about the other people who would want to use that space. She immediately said, “I’m glad we are not like that!” Well, we are all sometimes like that, thinking just about ourselves and our needs rather than about others, especially if those others are of a different economic background, a different country, a different skin color, a different religion, or any other group against whom we are biased.

We have been shocked to learn what is happening on this country’s own border, and it has sometimes felt strange this summer to visit churches and talk about our work with migrants and refugees in Germany when there is much to be addressed here in the United States. Our daughter’s question seems simple enough. Why wouldn’t people think about what other people need and then act on that? The world would certainly be in a much different state than it is currently if that were the case en masse.

However, we try to do what we can in our day-to-day interactions to think about what others need and even just to show kindness to those we interact with as we go about our day-to-day life. Perhaps you will join us in doing the same? What if we inspired each other in ever-widening circles to show kindness to each other and to offer what we have to those who need it? There are not often easy answers to such issues as borders and mass people movements, but there is an easy answer to human need: to show each other love.

St. Benedict has some inspiring quotes, including the one above that encourages us to receive anyone in need as a guest. St. Benedict goes further to say receive your guests as you would receive Jesus, a man from Nazareth who was born in Bethlehem. It’s hard to imagine that sort of reception, much less always easy to receive all guests graciously. It is not just the chosen guests who should be received as Christ, but all guests, regardless of their background. All people, regardless of their status, their government … and the list goes on.

We have been thankful that our family has been graciously received as guests by many generous hosts. As always, we are thankful for all the ways you support our work in Berlin. Your notes, emails, birthday cards (thank you!), financial gifts, prayers, and sharing your time and resources with us all are so meaningful. The list could go on. We have been truly inspired by you as our hosts and our hope is that we would all choose radical generosity at a time when we are often told to think about ourselves. We are taking these thoughts back to Berlin to put into practice. Please join us, in generosity, welcoming others, a smile for someone we would rather pass by, in choosing to learn someone’s story, and ultimately to share the love of Christ.

With love,

Ryan, Alethia, Ariella, and Laila

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