welcome and wapsi

About this time yesterday there was a tear in the eye. Barby and I were returning home after a 40 hour visit to Vizakhapatnam - or Vizag, for short. In expressing my gratitude to the couple who had welcomed us into their home, I became a bit misty. Here we were - so very different in so many ways which the world measures (age, ethnicity, income, education etc) and yet in a matter of hours we experienced such a bond together. I found myself going back into their home, after the prayers and goodbyes, to express this to them, in my own stumbling, fumbling way.

Two factors. One is the love we share for Jesus. There is this joy of salvation - and also the joy of service together. It creates such tight bonds among people who have so little in common - and it does so quickly. The other factor is hospitality. Barby and I experienced some of the sweetest hospitality known to humankind. It flooded into our lives. With so little to give (to our Kiwi eyes) in their little flat tucked behind and above their little church, they just gave and gave and gave.

My mind went to all those missional conversations back home. They need to be refreshed to recognise that this is family, this is home. Have we lived enough with the implications of what it means for the church to be 'the household of God'?

But here is the irony. This experience took place against the backdrop of a raging debate in the media here - every day, in every newspaper - over ghar wapsi. [NB: it is not wise for me to be too explicit about this in a public blog]. Literally, the phrase means something like 'home return'. My friend, Benji, helped me see that it is a bit like the story of the Prodigal Son - but in this case 'the far country' and the 'eating with pigs' is being a Christian and so we are talking about people returning home, or 'reconverting', back to the faith they once believed. It quickly becomes a fascinating discussion (with plenty going on behind the scenes which I'll leave to your own imagination - and internet research!).

My hunch is that one response lies in ensuring that this sweetest of hospitalities is being practised. One that breaks down the factors that keep people apart because it lives the gospel of reconciliation. One that breaks through the idolatry of the nuclear family, wherever it may be worshipped, because it lives to include those who are excluded. One that embraces the household of God, locally and globally, as family and as home.

nice chatting


PS... We loved Vizag. As a little boy with my love of maps, I was fascinated by this city on India's east coast with the long name that stretched out into the Bay of Bengal. This was my first visit. I was kinda excited. On 12 October 2014 Vizag was viciously attacked by Cyclone HudHud, as our visit to the fishing harbour made clear.


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