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Generous Hospitality: Adoption

By Charlie Osewalt | 18 April 2016

Generous Hospitality: Adoption

When I first moved to London about three and a half years ago from New York, I wasn’t too worried about making friends. I was fairly popular in New York; successful in work; had a wonderfully supportive family and church. I felt that the adjustments would take time, but with patience relationships would come.

I was very wrong.

I had badly underestimated my need for friends, for emotional support. My wife was still in the States sorting some issues out and for six weeks immediately after Christmas I was basically alone. I had also underestimated the effect the lack of sunshine would have: everything seemed (and was in part) dark and grey. I needed some friends. So I thought about adoption.

Our church in the States had a number of twenty-something people, and through working on ministries with them, developing a mentoring program for young people and just eating and listening with them, Priscilla and I developed deep friendships. So deep, that we began to ‘adopt’ a half a dozen young women and men individually into the Charlie and Priscilla clan. We would ask them if they wanted to be adopted, they would say “What does that mean?” and our response was: we will be there for you as much humanly possible from emotional to spiritual and financial support. Why did we do this? We are practicing hospitality.

Paul closes his letter to the Romans with, “Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.“ (Romans 12:13). Sharing with the Lord’s people is the inner face of generosity. Hospitality though, is generosity’s outward face and must be practiced in a discipleship way to those unlike us and out of our comfort zone. The Greek work for hospitality here is ‘philoxenia.’ It combines the word ‘phileo’ which means ‘love’ with the word ‘xenos’ which means foreigner or stranger. Hospitality means loves of strangers. It is a life value for all, especially those who are different or alone, strangers in a strange land. This was me three years ago on arriving in London.

So I started slowly building relationships at work and in church and with my new neighbours (important aside - here in the UK: build relationships slowly; don’t try to spend things up too fast. And if I ever go back to the States I will use this principle and slow down my “New York minute” of relationship building). Eventually we started to ‘adopt’ Brit twenty-and-thirty-somethings as our UK hand-picked children. We explained the adoption process. Our family grew. And so did I. We were being built into a new community.

You see hospitality is not fear of strangers (xenophobia) but literally love of strangers (philoxenia). By hospitable love I received the blessings I was so thirsty for: relationships. But I had to change myself and understand those around me. I had to stop seeing through the prism of my need and through the eyes of the others. Not love too fast; go slow. Be patient as you wait and listen well. And look for people not like me, as this is how you build a hospitable generous community.

Right before I left for London I asked a friend who worked for two years in Berlin what was the most important principle in this relocation. He said, “Keep the old community they know your back story; but build a new community.” He was right.

 And the building is still in progress.


Read more like this:

Can you be a Christian and be rich?

The Generosity of our Testimony

Home For Good



Posted by Charlie Osewalt

Charles Osewalt is a husband, father of four children and former elder at Redeemer Church NYC. He has worked in schools for the last twenty years as principal in the Morrisanna section of the Bronx. He formerly worked as a content and curriculum specialist for Stewardship. He tweets at @charlesosewalt


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