The Heart of the Host Family

Post by: Kyle O'Donnell When our Fellows program director told me that the Fellows live with host families from the church, I must admit that it wasn’t the arrangement I expected. I envisioned something more like a fraternity house or perhaps a dormitory, which housed the Fellows and many of their gatherings. Imagine a Presbyterian spin-off of The Real World, sans the cameras – that’s honestly the idea I had going into the application process.

As hilarious, fun and dramatic as that situation might have been, I thoroughly understand why the church has chosen not to do that for the Trinity Fellows. Besides obvious logistical reasons, cloistering the Fellows away from the larger cross-generational community would diminish the depth of our involvement in the body of Christ and potentially fail to adequately and realistically prepare the Trinity Fellows for the way things are in the broader church. Living with a host family, however, has been, even in this short period of time, incredibly rewarding and a realizably excellent way to fulfill part of the Marketplace Fellows mission statement: Marketplace fellows are embraced by the local congregation of Trinity Presbyterian Church and experience the fullness of life in the local church.

I have received the embrace literally from many members of the congregation, but especially from my host family.  My host family, along with fifteen other families from the congregation this year (plus many others over the past decade), has opened up their home, their resources, and their personal family life to a complete stranger. In their home I am not a mere boarder.  I share in many of their daily and intimate experiences – meals, recreation, prayer, chores, conversation – but because of the fullness of the program, I am not able to be constantly present in every moment of their lives. As unconventional as this situation may appear for a recent college graduate who is used to living on his/her own, I have experienced nothing but charitable embrace and warm hospitality.

That embrace is manifested in multiple ways, but most of all, I realize it on Sunday mornings, when I am welcomed by my host parents and their sons to stand and receive communion with them. These moments of sharing the Lord’s Supper together have embodied the fullness of the life in the local church that we, Fellows and Christians in general, are called to experience. Just as God has shared his table with us in His love, so too our host families share their tables with us, and I can think of few more beautiful acts of Christian love. Thus we see that host families are more than just hosts. They are Christians sharing with their neighbors; brothers and sisters welcoming each other to walk together in faith.

For all of this Christ-like hospitality I have experienced, I want to thank my host family and all the host families for inviting us into their lives and supporting us freely in our walk with Christ.  Just as Priscilla and Aquila submitted to the call to host the church in their home in 1 Corinthians, they too have graciously sacrificed to host the church in their homes. Their actions mean more than they may know, and help in more ways than I think we may realize at this time of our lives. I only hope that this time may be as much of a blessing to the host families as it is for the Trinity Fellows.