Re-imagining Hospitality: An Interview and a Giveaway! {Book Club}

Re-imagining Hospitality

Today we are welcoming Leslie Verner to Book Club! She is no stranger to Velvet Ashes, as you’ll find out below, and I’ve had the fun opportunity of meeting Leslie in person! She’ll be sharing about her book Invited: The Power of Hospitality in An Age of Loneliness. Make sure you stay tuned at the end of the post for a giveaway!

Leslie, it is so fun to have you here in Book Club! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi! I published my first article online with Velvet Ashes several years ago and I wrote one of my first blog posts just so I could link up with the Grove (and Sarah Hilkemann was the first to comment!), so it’s fun to share here about my book.

I lived in China from 2005 to 2010 and I wish I had known about VA while I was living overseas. I taught English for the first three years I lived in China, then studied Mandarin full-time the last two years I lived there. I thought I’d live in China forever, but God had other plans. I started writing because I needed to work out all the kinks in my soul surrounding re-entry and ended up writing 31 Days of Re-entry on my blog. I experienced tremendous healing through writing out my thoughts and feelings surrounding leaving China and returning to “normal” life in the U.S. Writing is like therapy for me, but cheaper.

After China, I married an actor who is a professional audio book narrator and I returned to teaching middle school in Chicago until I had three kids in four years. We moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2015. (Just answering this question helps me understand why my head is still spinning from so many transitions in such a short amount of time.)

Can you share a little bit about the process of writing Invited? What inspired you to write on the topic of hospitality?

Writing this book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That sounds dramatic, but writing felt like it demanded every ounce of creative and emotional energy from me. I didn’t have much left for a long time after I finished. That said, it was also one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.

When we moved from Chicago to Colorado, we struggled to find community. In the process, I kept thinking about the hospitality I experienced in China and the way non-Western cultures organically practice hospitality, usually favoring community and relationships over independence and individualism. I wondered what it would be like if we in the West began adopting some of the same habits of hospitality. An editor from Herald Press contacted me and asked me if I was working on a book proposal. I wasn’t, but soon realized I had book-length thoughts about culture and community, not just blog-length ones.

Who did you write this book for and what do you hope people will come away with after reading it?

Although I would love for many Velvet Ashes readers to pick it up and I think you’d be able to identify with many of my stories, I wrote this for those living in the West who may not have had the same exposure to how other cultures value hospitality, community, and relationships. Western churches, communities, and neighborhoods would transform if we loved people the way Jesus did.

How has God used the process of writing Invited in your own life?

Writing this book stretched me as a writer to take risks, learn more about the craft of writing, and to develop a discipline of writing. I also struggled with all The Voices in my head telling me I couldn’t, I had no right, I didn’t have what it took, no one would read it and if they did, they’d probably hate it. Imposter syndrome attacks on every bend of the writing journey.

But God (and my husband) helped squelch the voices and remind me that God led me to write the book, it would reach someone—perhaps many people, and was worth the emotional, physical, and financial toll it took on me and on our family. For a long time, the book is part of you. Then you (miraculously) finish and it drifts off into the world and becomes an entity apart from you that God can use whether you know about it or not. As a follower of Jesus, it helps to remember my identity is not wrapped up in my book. Our belovedness is never altered by our successes or failures. We are loved before, during, and after we do the thing God leads us to do.    

We love getting and sharing book recommendations in book club. What’s your all-time favorite book? What are you currently reading that you would recommend?

That’s easy. Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. I wouldn’t have had the gall to begin writing publicly if it weren’t for that book. And I recently finished The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith and This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a non-fiction book of essays by Ann Patchett, and would highly recommend both books, especially for writers.

Thanks, Leslie, for sharing about your book Invited!

Leslie writes about faith, justice, and cross-cultural issues at www.scrapingraisins.com, in her monthly newsletter, and elsewhere on the web. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

And now, for a giveaway! You can win a copy of Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness by sharing in the comments. What is hospitality like where you are living? What have been the challenges or gifts? What questions do you have for Leslie?

Comment by Sunday, October 6th to be entered in the giveaway!

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Make sure you grab a copy of our next Book Club book Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy. We’ll be starting next week with the first section! Here’s the schedule for reading the book:

October 8: Forward, Intro and Chapter 1

October 15: Chapters 2 & 3

October 22: Chapter 4

October 29: Chapter 5

November 5: Chapters 6 & 7

November 12: Chapter 8

November 19: Chapter 9

November 26: Chapters 10 & 11

Photo by Pierpaolo Lucarelli on Unsplash

33 Comments

  1. Kay Lynn September 30, 2019

    I live in Boise, Idaho, and am connected to Velvet Ashes through a friend in Eastern Europe. Hospitality here is often more like “entertaining,” but one my favorite memories at our house is inviting friends for an “apple party” this fall (picking and chopping and juicing the apples from our tree together, followed by dinner on card tables in the front yard. I have heard about this book and look forward to reading!

    1. Becki October 1, 2019

      Hospitality is not about having it all right before you invite, it’s about just inviting. But it also takes time in a new place and you have to be patient in the growing of community, it takes time. Having lived many years in China and now in Thailand, it’s fascinating for me to compare the different ways to show hospitality and experience community. I’d love to read this book.

  2. Brittaney September 30, 2019

    I live in the interior of south east Brazil and here hospitality is shown by inviting someone in to sit at the table and have a cup of coffee. Here, at my house (where I live with 5 other Brazilian young women), we practice this same thing- it’s beautiful and can be challenging at times (as sometimes I want quiet when there are a bunch of people over), but it’s more beautiful than challenging, if that makes sense and it has taught me to be more inviting and to offer what I have, even if it’s very simple.

  3. Angie September 30, 2019

    Our family will be moving back overseas in about 3 months and my new role will be hospitality and missionary care so I would love to read this book as I think through my ideas about hospitality and the new culture we’ll be in.

  4. VC September 30, 2019

    I learned so much about hospitality being in the middle east. Most people there made sure they never ran out of tea, sugar, cookies, fruit, and drinks in case a guest might drop in. The room for guests was always clean and ready to receive visitors and if they came near a mealtime the host always invited them to join them. I still have a lot to learn. I would love to read the book.

  5. Cathrin September 30, 2019

    I live in Northern Nevada which has a very transient population, people move a lot. And there is a tension in the community between those who are native, and not. As a Christian (and introvert), I struggle with hospitality and look forward to reading your book!

    1. Diane October 2, 2019

      I have lived in the Balkans for 3+ years. Hospitality is huge and often involves several “courses.” It often starts with juice or soda and sw sweet and or salty snacks followed by a meal then LOTS of tea and sweets.

  6. Amy Young September 30, 2019

    Leslie, I am so proud of you and the conversations you have started about hospitality. For me, hospitality often looks like “guestpitality” — I far prefer going into other people’s space than having them in mine :).

    1. Theresa October 1, 2019

      We have a family friend who jokes that his spiritual gift is receiving hospitality—your comment reminds me of that 😜

      1. Amy Young October 1, 2019

        Theresa 🙂 . . . I know I’m not alone :)! (And there is an art to being a guest too :))

    2. Leslie Verner October 1, 2019

      Thank you, Amy. You and I both know this book wouldn’t be the same without YOU!! And you are welcome to be a guest in my home ANY day;-)

  7. Katie September 30, 2019

    Hospitality where I live: you get invited multiple times (so that you know the offer is genuine), there is SO MUCH food and it is put on your plate for you. You are asked questions and you are listened to. After lots of eating and conversation there is tea and sweets.
    Then, more conversation and if someone there can play an instrument then that might be brought out. There might even be dancing!

  8. Emily September 30, 2019

    We are currently awaiting visas to begin our overseas journey to church plant, and will be heading to a place that is highly suspicious, untrusting, and has seen so much conflict. Im looking forward to gleaning truths from this on how to love and serve well, not just opening up your home, but your lives, offered in joyful service. This will also help address and bring out any unknown or unvoiced expectations we might have about fostering and cultivating relationships in a context that is difficult. Thanks so much!

  9. LS October 1, 2019

    I’ve lived overseas for 11 years now, and hospitality is a very real part of this life. Neighbors. Youth. Short-term mission workers. Friends. Sometimes I choose to be hospitable, but many times the guests are dropped in my lap. I would love to read a book that would help keep the love of people and guests aflame even on the days when I don’t feel like seeing anyone. Guests are a very real part of this life overseas, and I hope to always enjoy and value them.
    I’ve followed Leslie’s blog for some time now, and so am excited to see this book ready for the world!

  10. Maggie October 1, 2019

    Where I live in SE Asia, hospitality is spontaneous. You walk down the street, someone invites you in and suddenly you’re deep in conversation and being served tea and cake. Its also acceptable to invite yourself over to someone’s house. There’s usually no asking, but occasionally they will call in advance to say they’re coming.

  11. Jenny October 1, 2019

    Living in Iceland hospitality is a lot about stopping by for coffee, lots and lots of coffee and treats :). But at times relationships seem to stay more at the surface. I’m still working on incorporating more of this in my life because with 4 kids I do like my moments of solitude, lol and I also sometimes nervous I’ll be inconveniencing someone if I just drop by. But the times where we have shared meals and taken meals to those that were sick or grieving it has brought such impact to others and us.

  12. Sherri October 1, 2019

    I lived for 16 years in Italy and am now living in the Czech Republic. Those years of living in Italy taught me so much about hospitality, the gift of good fresh food, showing love though a carefully crafted meal, etc. It has been valuable to bring that to the Czechs. Hospitality is not one of my spiritual gifts, but the Lord has taught me how important it is. I just had 23 people over for lunch on Saturday. I was reflecting afterwards that I didn’t stress out about like I would have years ago. I’m thankful for how the Lord has grown me in this area.

  13. Hannah October 1, 2019

    I have lived in Japan for 5 years, first in the city, and then in the countryside. When living in the city, hospitality often felt almost non-existent, and society’s idea of spending time with others revolves around late-night drinking parties with co-workers, something many people feel obligated to participate in (we do not drink). However, when we moved to the countryside, my (Japanese) husband and I experienced hospitality in a completely different way. For example, the people in the rural areas love to share the bounty from their gardens with each-other, and have community meet-ups, such as a breakfast cafe, once a month. I love how people will stop and say “hello”, and greet each-other, even if it’s just nodding to a stranger driving by. This certainly doesn’t mean that things are perfect, however. For example, many young families live with their grandparents, and find it hard to bring home or spend time with friends without the interference of older family members, who may not give younger family members much privacy. Young people also often feel pressure to return or reciprocate gifts, rather than feeling that gifts from neighbors come “no strings attached”. My question for Leslie is, what are some of the differences you felt between hospitality in China vs. Colorado?

  14. Phyllis October 1, 2019

    Ukrainian hospitality is amazing, and it’s usually expressed through food: loaded tables and course after course. 🙂

    My questions for Leslie are about this: “An editor from Herald Press contacted me and asked me if I was working on a book proposal.” Is that normal? How did the editor just happen to contact you?

  15. Patty October 1, 2019

    I was so excited to hear about Leslie’s book. It’s a theme that is very close to my heart. We (all) in the West need to read this book. I grew up in Latin America and after getting married my husband and I lived in North Africa, SE Asia and the Caribbean. One of the common things that all these places have is hospitality. Their cultures/societies put a strong emphasis on hospitality, they made it a priority on a daily basis.
    I have been back in Canada for four years. One of the things I have missed is the hospitality of the communities where we have lived.
    The comments that struck me most from the interview with Leslie was; ” I wrote this for those living in the West who may not have had the same exposure to how other cultures value hospitality, community, and relationships. Western churches, communities, and neighbourhoods would transform if we loved people the way Jesus did”. I totally agree with this comment – it would transform our communities with Praise being the end goal.

  16. Liz Schouten October 1, 2019

    After many years of hospitality in China being my main role….we are home in Canada for a year, living with my in-laws. It’s only been a four months, but already I feel the void – it’s not easy to figure out how to do hospitality well when you are living in someone else’s space. I don’t have a team or a group of local friends to welcome to my house, to cook for, to encourage, to hang out with. I miss it already.
    I’ve just gotten a job working at an extended-stay hotel that is highly focused on making folks feel at home. My hope and prayer is that I can help build community there, even with a transient population. So this is what I’m asking: “Use me and my gifts. Make me a blessing to someone today.”

    1. Abigail Zhao October 12, 2019

      Liz, I’m in my husband’s home country for a temporary time after living in China for more than a decade, so I totally feel what you’re saying! 🙂 Plus, it’s a big city here, so hospitality rarely happens in people’s own homes. Though we were blessed to be able to have 4 different friends over to our current house sit, which was SO fun!!!! Guess this is just the chance for each of us to be creative as we pray to find ways to practice hospitality. 🙂

  17. Debbie October 1, 2019

    In England, a man considers his home his castle and very private and so hospitality is not practised as much as some other countries. So it’s a real honour whenever we are invited to a meal. However, we have to accept the fact that we will have far more people into our home than is reciprocated. I love having time to light candles, prepare early and not be rushed, and serve some fun foods. Tomorrow I have invited international ladies to my home to process the apples from our tree. In return, I will give them lunch and an apple dessert. I am making red pepper tapenade, hummus, herbed olive oil, and a Spanish meat/cheese/nuts/fruit platter. .

    1. Leslie Verner October 1, 2019

      Can I come? That sounds amazing! And I feel like I’ve come to much the same realization–that I will invite more often than I am invited. And I’m okay with that (on most days, at least).

      1. Debbie October 7, 2019

        Thanks for writing 🙂 yes, I would love to have you! 🙂 What country do you live in?

        1. Debbie October 7, 2019

          Oops, silly of me to ask what country you’re in… Your the author of the book 🙂 so you are in Colorado of course. My son went to university in Ft Collins. I look forward to reading your book!

  18. Michelle October 1, 2019

    We have only recently arrived in Spain so I am still learning, but it is much more common to go out somewhere and it often takes a while for people to enter each others’ homes. So hospitality is an honor. I have been told that initially it looks like baking something for neighbors and taking it to them. Birthday parties can also be a good way to have people in.

  19. Amy S October 1, 2019

    Hi, Leslie! Love all the memories our family has of you with us in YC. But my favorite memory is when you came to GY and spent an entire day playing in the snow with my then 8-year-old daughter–who is now a college freshman! We’ve recently permanently re-located to the States after 28 years in China, and have become care-givers for my 92-year-old mom. So hospitality (and everything) looks different now. I realized that many of my mom’s friends are also mostly staying at home and so I’ve begun to take her around to visit these dear ladies. So that’s what hospitality is looking like for me. They’re all a bit lonely and love getting together. And I’ve found that hospitality begets hospitality. On our first visit to one friend, she laid out lovely teacups and had her daughter make us cookies. (Her husband told her, “Or course, Amy will want tea; she just left China!”) This week, this friend has invited my mom over to hang out Friday night while the rest of her family attends a high school game. She’s already planning muffins and fruit! I’m looking forward to blessing and being blessed by these wonderful women as my mom and I visit around.

  20. Jenny M. October 3, 2019

    I live in West Africa, and there are certain cultural expectations to follow when welcoming others to your home. First, you shake hands, and you must offer the visitor water right away. Then, you ask them for the news. This means, “How are you?” Once the visitor says how he/she is, then you shake hands again. Then, the host asks the news again. This means, “What is the purpose of your visit?” The visitor then tells why they are there. Then, the host shakes hands with them again. After that, they can talk about the purpose of the visit. Also, there is sometimes a “go-between” such as a person who receives what the visitor is saying and explains it to the host. There might be translation from language to language going on with the “go-between”, or it might just be explaining in the same language. This mediation is also an important part of the visit especially if the visitor is not close to the one visiting.

    When the visit is over, the visitor cannot just get up and leave. The visitor must ask for “the road.” This means asking permission to leave. Depending on the people group of which the host is a part, the host might give “half the road,” meaning they want the visitor to come back and get the other half. The host may also give the “full road,” which means that the visitor is welcome to come back, but it is up to him/her as he/she chooses.

  21. manda October 4, 2019

    I would like to cultivate greater hospitality in my church community.

  22. Theresa October 5, 2019

    I live in Germany alongside people from all over the world—Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners, Africans, and of course, Germans. The host culture is pretty closed with regard to having people in your home, but there is a bit of an anything-goes attitude about all of us outsiders and our openness… so in some ways, we’re forming a new culture out of the mash of cultures represented. We love having people in our home and alongside us in real life, and we’ve been able to do that here (though refugees seem most eager to be in a family environment).

    I grew up in the D.C. area, which is pretty transient, and as a kid/teen I learned with my mom how to throw open our doors as-is—my dad’s the kind of guy who likes starting house projects but doesn’t really enjoy finishing them, and he’s also the kind of guy who invites anyone in earshot with no notice at all, reasoning that “we can always have hot dogs” 😉 And so my mom welcomes people into her home and life, enjoying the company and caring for others without feeling the need to always polish everything up (though she can plan an amazing fancy meal with the best of ‘em, too). I’m finding as I get older that this is rare, but I love it, and it’s what I’ve always done because it’s what I’ve mostly always known.

    My question for Leslie: do you see a distinction between Christian hospitality and other genuine/caring types of hospitality? If so, what exactly makes that clear or meaningful? Intrigued to read your thoughts, and hopeful with you that your book can be an encouragement for others to start throwing their doors open, too. Thank you!

  23. Regina Chari October 6, 2019

    Hospitality in Zimbabwe is a huge value. Children are taught from a young age how to make visitors feel welcomed. A welcome always involves food and a beverage, likely a bit cup of tea heaped with sugar and a dash of milk. In Zimbabwe we greet our visitors at the gate or the door and we walk them at least to the gate. Often if they are walking home to to the bus we will walk “half way” home with them as we carry on our conversation.

    It’s a joy to live in a place where hospitality is valued so highly… but it was a learning curve for me for sure! ❤️

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