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The Art of Hospitality

July 8–12, 2013   |   Vol. 116, Programs 31–35

It’s difficult to travel in a struggling economy, and it’s easy to be lax in practicing hospitality. How do these problems relate? Tune into this week’s Home School Heartbeat to hear Mike Smith and Theresa Bowen talk about A Candle in the Window, a hospitality network that provides an economical way to travel and encourages fellowship!

“Consider hospitality . . . to be a little taste of heaven”—Theresa Bowen

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Would you like to know more about how your family can participate in A Candle in the Window hospitality network? Follow the link to explore their website!

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Is your family planning to travel on a tight budget, or are you looking for a way to practice hospitality? This week on Home School Heartbeat , Theresa Bowen tells Mike Smith how her network, A Candle in the Window, is making family travel not just more affordable, but more encouraging, too!

Mike Smith: This week I’m joined by Theresa Bowen, who founded A Candle in the Window hospitality network. Now, this is a national network that helps families on the road find local families who open their homes for a dinner or an overnight stay. Theresa, welcome to the program!

Theresa Bowen : Well, thank you, Mike. So good to be with you.

Mike: Theresa, tell us about your hospitality network. What is it, and when did you start it?

Theresa: A Candle in the Window hospitality network is an online network of Christian households that open their homes to one another for either a meal or an overnight stay of one to two nights. Over the years, hospitality’s just been an integral part of our lives and our hope is to multiply the blessings that we’ve experienced in our own home and the home of others. We launched about 18 months ago with just one famil—ours. It was a bit slow go at first; but it’s really begun to snowball, and now we have more than 360 Christian families in about 56 different countries. We have lots of homeschoolers; we have lots of missionaries. We invite missionaries to join us for free. You know, Mike, while saving money especially, in a struggling economy is extremely appealing, we truly believe that the greater blessing will be through just sitting down with other believers and hearing of God’s faithfulness around countless dinner tables, and that’s ultimately why we’re doing this.

Mike: Well, Theresa, this is such a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us today. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Theresa, thanks for joining us again today! Your network, A Candle in the Window, connects traveling Christian families with a meal and a place to stay with other members of that network. Now, Theresa, why is hospitality important to you?

Theresa Bowen: Well, first of all, Mike, I want to differentiate between entertaining and biblical hospitality. You do not have to be Martha Stewart or have a large home to practice true biblical hospitality. Biblical hospitality is a command in Scripture. But beyond that, a heart for hospitality reflects the very heart of God, and when we open our doors and our hearts and our lives and offer refuge and refreshment in Christ’s name, we invite people in to see us as we really are, and all our weakness and dependence on God. My husband’s a pastor, and so much of the fruit of our ministry occurs right around the dinner table. There’s just something that happens when we break bread together and open God’s Word and sit and talk by the glow of a candle. And more often than not, God draws us closer to Himself and to one another. And through hospitality, the dinner table becomes the nexus for education, for worship, fellowship, evangelism, and even training in servant leadership.

Mike: I couldn’t agree with you more, and thank you so much for sharing that with us today. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Theresa, how can our listeners get involved in Candle in the Window hospitality network? In other words, is there a screening process that families must pass before they can use A Candle in the Window?

Theresa Bowen: Well, we would love for all of your listeners to visit our website and explore: www.acandleinthewindow.com . And we designed the website to be both a secure communication network through which members could contact each other but also provide resources that will inspire people to delight in hospitality. We worked with a Christian attorney to make it just as safe a process as possible, and this is how it works: anyone can visit our website and see our locations and benefit from our resources. However, it’s not until a person joins that they can access the member directory. When you join, you fill out a pretty extensive profile. We never ever give out a person’s last name or address; you would only be known as Mike in Purcellville, Virginia. Members initially contact other members through our messaging system, and once you receive a request then you can look up that person’s directory, and you can learn a lot from that. We also ask our members to provide a reference letter from a church leader, but only you, after corresponding online, can give out your last name and street address; we never give out that information.

Mike: Well, Theresa, thank you for that very helpful information. And I’m sure this network could be a valuable resource for many of our listeners. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Theresa, would you share some stories from people who’ve found hospitality through the Candle in the Window network?

Theresa Bowen: Yes. We actually have a page on our website called member stories where your listeners can go and read excerpts of emails we get back. Those are the stories that make me smile. We’ve had several European homeschool families come over and travel throughout the United States, and one thing I would love to be able to do is connect Christian families overseas, especially homeschoolers, with one another for their encouragement. We got an email from a Swiss family who were so discouraged because the last homeschooling family they knew had moved away and they were lonely. Also, we had a father and daughter who were filmmakers stay with a family in England on their way to India and as a result, the English family is having them back to host one of Europe’s first Christian film camps this summer. We also had another large family in New Mexico with lots of young children, who had had one guest through the network, then they didn’t get any more for a while, and the children came lamenting and saying, “Why aren’t people coming?” And so the mom said, “Well, let’s pray,” so they sat down and prayed that God would send somebody and that very day they got another request.

Mike: Isn’t that great? These are such great testimonials, Theresa! Thank you so much for the great work you’re continuing to do through the network. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Theresa, you have made hospitality a hallmark of your family through Candle in the Window network. Can you share with us some other ways families can practice hospitality on a day-to-day basis?

Theresa Bowen: Well, the first thing that I would say is, don’t wait for things to be perfect. Go ahead and begin practicing hospitality right where you are. Don’t wait for your children to grow up and be well-behaved; it’s a blessing for them to grow up with company. Two, I’d say, be intentional. Think about the people in the stories you want your children to hear and invite those people over for dinner. Three, fit it in with what you’re already doing. One thing that we enjoy doing is uniting hospitality with whatever we’re studying in school. For example, the year that we read the Little House on the Prairie books, we would have a dinner at the end of each book, and we would dress up and eat whatever they were eating at that point in their lives. But we’d always invite another family. And finally, and probably most importantly, I want to stress: be grace oriented. Be gracious when your host or guests do things a little differently than you do, and consider hospitality, especially to strangers, to be a little taste of heaven where we join with the throngs from every tribe and nation throughout the ages. We’re all unique, but we’re all one.

Mike: Well, Theresa, thank you so much for starting this organization; this is absolutely tremendous. And we’ve really enjoyed having you on the program this week! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Theresa Bowen

Theresa Bowen, along with her husband, Craig, and family, is the founder of A Candle in the Window Hospitality Network. The Bowens make their home in northeast Florida with their five children, ranging in age from second grade through college, and Nana, Theresa’s mom, a retired school teacher and a special blessing in their lives.

For Craig, a pastor, and Theresa, a longtime homeschool mom, hospitality has been a tremendous blessing, a blessing they hope to multiply in the homes of other believers around the world. They comment:

As we leaf back through our guest book, we are reminded of visitors from about half the states in our nation and missionaries or nationals from some 18 countries, representing five continents, many of whom we had never met until they “came through” and stayed with us. There are sweet memories of times with family and friends as well . . . special celebrations and spur of the minute pot lucks, church gatherings and neighborhood get togethers, reunions and “Little House” dinners. We see these guests as “divine appointments,” living, breathing answers to the prayer, “Lord, bring whom you will.” Believe me, there is nothing extraordinary about our home or family, apart from our availability and our desire to share what God has given us with those whom He brings. Might God be calling you to offer up a similar prayer?

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