April 19, 2023
In this third Podcast on the subject of Christian hospitality, David and Karen Mains discuss one way to help overcome the “loneliness pandemic” that is targeting our society.
We pray that American churches will catch the vision of Christian hospitality as a powerful remedy for overcoming the loneliness pandemic in our society.
Karen: When faced with the COVID pandemic, it’s common knowledge that America rallied to see its spread brought under control.
David: This visit we want to suggest a serious solution for what is now being called the loneliness pandemic.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
Karen: I believe there’s a connection between the two, the COVID pandemic and this high rate of statistics we’re seeing regarding loneliness.
Karen: And we’re defining loneliness as an absence of meaningful relationships and that’s what’s at the core of what’s being called this present loneliness pandemic.
David: Here’s Karen, a sobering statistic. One in five Americans reports having no one to talk to when they hit difficult times.
Karen: Oh, my goodness, one in five?
David: That’s part of that spike in suicides all through the country. You say it and it’s easy to say it, but when you feel what that means, that’s pretty bad.
Karen: I feel this, the large percentage of spikes in suicides are among men your age. And then on the other side, it’s among sort of the upper high school age of girls. It just hits you, doesn’t it? It hits you right in the heart.
David: Let’s quickly get to a plausible solution, Karen, rather than spending our time talking about the problem. Here is our key sentence and I’m going to say it once and then I’ll probably say it a second time later on and then a third time. We pray that American churches will catch the vision of Christian hospitality as a powerful remedy for overcoming the loneliness pandemic in our society.
Karen: It’s powerful.
David: Okay. You didn’t catch it the first time. Excuse us if we’re not. We come back to it repeatedly. Okay, I’m not going to look at the problem anymore. I’m going to talk in terms of our own experience. We are going to a new church. As we age, we said, let’s find a church in our…
Karen: … little town.
David: West Chicago.
David: And we visited a number of churches and then we had this feeling that God called us to a given church. Both of us felt the same thing. God spoke to us that morning. We went there. As we look at our experience, Karen, let’s talk about what we have done in the area of hospitality. Okay, we have been there two-thirds of a year now, eight months. This is just reporting. If you think it’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter to us. This is what has happened. We have had couples come to our house during that period five times. So, we’ve had five couples come over. Usually they’ll stay for, I would say, probably between two and three hours. They’re very warm and gracious people. Then we have also, in the course of those eight months, well, I’ll set it up this way. We have tickets for what?
Karen: We have tickets to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who plays at the Wheaton College Lovely Auditorium, which is nearby us.
David: Yeah. So, three times a year, we have tickets and we, I don’t know why but I, bought three tickets instead of just two for us. And we said, we’ll take a guest each time. And twice, we’ve taken individuals from the same church. So that gives us the times we’ve had people over for and they weren’t big meals, but they were simple meals. And wonderful times. And then two times because those concerts get out just a little after 10 o’clock where you don’t have a chance to talk very long, but you do talk a long time anyway. And those have been really good experiences. Would you say any of those people that we got to know so much better during those times of hospitality in one way or another? Would you say any of them were lonely? Would you classify them that way?
Karen: I don’t feel that about those people, particularly.
David: I’ve thought about the individual. There may be one very gracious woman who has blind disease, and she would have every right to feel lonely on occasion, but she doesn’t exude that in any sense.
David: So, these are normal people. We can’t count any of those as saying we reached out to lonely people, but because we’re talking about a series, we said who maybe in the church would be lonely and maybe would enjoy coming over as well. So…
Karen: We looked everyone over in our mind.
David: How do you come up with this?
Karen: Well, there are some midlife men, four or five of them, who always sit in the back, and they sit together. And…
David: They all come to church together.
Karen: They live in a sort of a halfway house, home across the street, and we go up and greet them. They’re very friendly. But we decided that we hadn’t had those gentlemen over to our home for dinner. I mean, as we were thinking about the exercise of hospitality, and particularly in light of the statistics we’ve been digging up and running into on loneliness in our country, we thought that’s a group of men we need to have. We don’t need to have them all at the same time, but we need to have them so we can get to know them better.
David: The question is, do you invite one over? And we decided to take on the whole group. So, deciding that that was going to be the case, that all of a sudden put us in a place where that’s a lot of people that come at one time. So, we said we need to reach out to one of the other couples we’ve had here and say, would you like to co-host this with us? And we’re not planning on a big meal. And he says we can have hamburgers for better weather.
Karen: Yeah, it’s simple. We have a barbecue in the backyard. We can do that. The weather’s nice. But the idea of co-hosting is more than just having another couple come help us with the food and the apparatus that goes into putting a meal together. But to also get to know these gentlemen as we get to know them. So, there’s more than just a casual, pass-or-buy kind of conversation. How was your week? How are you doing? Remember, one of the men said he was depressed. And that’s quite a revelation to make to other strangers. And we weren’t able to follow up on that, but we really want to have them into our home.
David: When they come, there’s the normal greeting, but at a certain point, whether it’s if we all sit around and we begin to talk, they kind of take over and say, we want to get to know you. So, we are going to ask a question and then we’ll get all of you to respond. And if that’s working well, we’ll ask an additional question and so on. What kind of questions would we ask? You don’t say, are you lonely?
Karen: Or you don’t say, what is your psychological disability? If they feel comfortable and safe, they generally will volunteer. There are intimate details of their life, but we’ve done this so many times. There are some standard ones that seem to work. One question we might ask, what is one happy experience you can remember from your growing up years?
David: I think that that’s a fabulous question because it’s non-threatening.
Karen: And it doesn’t get into the negative areas that they may have faced in their original family.
David: So again, you’re just asking, what’s a happy memory you have from your growing up years?
Karen: Another question we ask a lot is if money was no problem. Is there somewhere in the world you would like to go above anywhere else in the world? Some place you always want to visit. Or you’d like to go back or to see?
David: That’s a leading question. That’s very good because it allows everybody to take a turn…
Karen: Yeah, everyone.
David: … and talk to it and it doesn’t threaten anybody. The other question you asked, which I think kind of walks you down a roll. Looking back on your grade school experience, tell us about someone who made you feel loved. Now those are great questions and you and I are great listeners. And all of a sudden, we’re getting to know who these people are. I’m kind of jazzed about asking these guys to come over. We’ll have to figure out how you do the transportation and all the rest. But we’ll figure it out. Yeah, it’s not that big a deal.
Karen: So, we’re saying that this is an example of our personal lives. Of how hospitality can be used to alleviate some of the loneliness pandemic in our country right now. And I think that it’s worth challenging our listeners to say, “Do you know any lonely folk? Is there a widow who’s lost her husband or we’re only being alone, or it doesn’t matter their ages?” I just think that the Lord lays these people on our hearts. We think about them in off moments when we’re not thinking about anything else. And it’s the Holy Spirit, I think, really nudging us to include, to welcome, to invite.
David: There’s a great scripture that has more power when you read it than the power of the Mains is talking about their experience of getting to know other individuals. This is from Luke 14, Karen. You could probably share it from the heart, but I’ll just read it from the scriptures here. “Then Jesus said to his host, when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives or your rich neighbors. If you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” It’s not only to be repaid then, but it will also be you will be repaid by getting to know some wonderful people who are some of the best friends you ever had in your life. These are not people who really have been invited because I’ve said to several people in the church. How well do you know the gentleman who comments it in that one section of the church. And their usual response is, “I really don’t know them very well. I think they live in this home over there.” So anyway, with help from another couple in the church, we’re going to say, “let’s get to know them.” Now, does that make you feel you’re obligated in some way to this person or these people, so that you have to invite them over again? Or that they have to become your closest friends? I don’t feel that way at all.
David: I just say this is a normal thing for Christian people to do. To respond and just say, “I want to get to know you better.”
Karen: I think that scripture is powerful because what we see when we read Jesus’ words are the physical manifestation of those, someone blind, etc. But so much of that is representative of another kind of displacement. It’s being blind to the good things that God has done in our lives. It’s being unhealthy as far as our connections with other folk. And so those are the ones we want to find. Those people who are not in the inner circles. The ones who stand around the edge of the crowd.
David: That’s a good way to put it.
Karen: And all of us know those sorts of people. And when we notice someone like that in a group setting, let’s say after church we’re chatting, we need to say to them, “Why don’t you come over and talk with us?” “Hey, don’t just stand there by yourself. I’ve seen you do this a lot of times. Come and talk. Tell us more about yourself. We’re just getting to know one another.” So, we include even on that level. And that is an act of hospitality.
David: If you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to that key sentence. Once again, to keep us on target, we pray that American churches will catch the vision of Christian hospitality as a powerful remedy for overcoming the loneliness pandemic in our society.
Karen: I have an application for this. Someone said to me, it was in my Writers’ Group, “Oh, you need to get to know Catherine so-and-so. She just lives up a little way from you in West Chicago and she has the gift of hospitality and the concern for hospitality.” Never met this gal. So, I got her email from my writer friend, and I wrote her, and I said, “Someone’s been bragging on you and gave her the name of a mutual friend of ours.” I said, “Is there any way we can get together and talk about hospitality in our community?” So, she is coming this afternoon to our house at three o’clock.
David: I didn’t even know that.
Karen: Surprise. I said, okay, I need to show her all the things that we have done on hospitality. I began to gather all of the products over what 30, 40 years of ministry. And I thought, “Oh my Lord, we’ve got a library here.” There’s this beautiful poster that we’ve done. It’s just wall art.
David: In this inhospitable world “A Christian home is a miracle to be shared.”
David: We talked about it last time. We should talk about it every time those are being printed. So, if you’re interested in one of those, we’d be more than happy to send it to you. As you find that it arrives at your place, you said it is really nice. Yeah, but we see that because it’s hanging in our home a bigger version. The one that we’re talking about is like a 9 x 12. But in this inhospitable world, it may not be for you or for me. But at least the figure was 20% of the people in the country are in this loneliness category. So, one way they who cares you’re talking about an awful lot of people in this inhospitable world “A Christian home is a miracle to be shared” and that’s a reminder this home is a miracle. Everybody wants to see a miracle. Your home can be a miracle for people. It may even save their lives in numerous situations. But the church has that possibility of coming alive to this gift of the Holy Spirit.
Karen: So, let’s think about every church in our community. And that’s what you and I’ve been doing. We live in this little town. We’ve said that before, and there may be 20 churches here, “What would happen if they all began to extend hospitality in their neighborhoods?”
David: Yeah, they might see a revival without having a revival series.
Karen: They certainly would see a community beginning to be built. And they would get to know their neighbors. Those neighbors would become friends. It just could be such a revitalizing outreach. I have this wonderful story I was teaching on hospitality, and I said to the group, “Do you have a story of a time when hospitality changed your life?” One woman raised her hand. She was a pediatrician and she had taken care of an infant who had been very, very ill. Was able to restore that infant to health. Parents were grateful. They had taken the baby home with them after six months. They called her and said, “We want you to see how this baby is thriving.” Just such a sweet thing. So, she went to see how the baby was thriving. And her words were, “I wasn’t a Christian before I went there. I was a Christian when I left.” They led her to the Lord. Isn’t that just an extraordinary story?
David: In this inhospitable world, “A Christian home is a miracle to be shared.” Isn’t that neat? That is really good. I’m going to repeat it one more time. I want people to stay after I repeat this sentence to just get information how you could get one of those wall art. So that’s simple. I call it a simple poster. Here’s the sentence. We pray that American churches will catch the vision of Christian hospitality as a powerful remedy for overcoming the loneliness pandemic in our society. Okay, we got a lot in today. Dean, your turn again.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address: email@example.com. That’s all lower-case letters: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2023 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
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