Missionaries are usually some of the most flexible people on earth. They are used to being put in a lot of different situations and accommodations. There is no one “right way” or “best way” in which to accommodate the missionaries and speakers in your conference. Some churches don’t have as many resources as others, for various reasons, and this therefore limits their options. This is understandable.
We will list some options and then make our comments giving many different things for you to think about and consider as you plan for the conference.
A. Homes of your Members
B. Hotel or Motel
C. Prophet’s Chamber
D. Empty House of a Church Member
E. Furnished House
F. Christian Camp
G. Sunday School Classrooms
H. Christian School Gymnasium
We want to be practical and helpful to both churches and missionaries. Therefore, we are taking the liberty to bring up many issues which would be wise for you to stop and consider. Everyone wants to be a good host. We want to help you to be the best host you can be for the Lord’s servants. See III John 5-8. Hospitality may be a gift given to some but we should all strive to be the best at being truly hospitable. (We are open to comments and opinions from churches, pastors, and missionaries. Please, feel free to write to us and tell us what is on your mind regarding this topic. It may be that we have failed to think something through in its entirety or that we didn’t even think about an alternative that is available. Your help is greatly appreciated.)
Some churches do not have the option of putting missionaries in a hotel due to finances. Other churches have told us that they put missionaries in hotel rooms simply because no one in the church wants to host a missionary.
We have been questioned many times regarding our preference as to being put up in a hotel/motel or the home of a church member. There is no “consistent answer” to this question.
There are times when we have been in hotels too much. We can get tired of hotels/motels and need more room and more fellowship.
There are times when we have been in many homes and we eventually not only get tired of traveling but also get tired of staying up late talking to our hosts. After all, we are on the road sometimes for weeks at a time and attending meetings in conferences night after night.
Our best answer is that it really depends more on where we have been recently, where we have been staying, and even on how we are feeling at the time. Sometimes our bodies beg for a nice, quiet hotel room and other times they beg for fellowship and the “homey” feeling that a member’s home can provide.
We will discuss the pros and cons of each of the hospitality options and let you consider what is best for your particular situation.
This is a great place for fellowship. Often missionaries can sit around with their hosts and just relax, staying up late and talking. This can be a lot of fun and a blessing to both sides. Christian hospitality is definitely a gift and should be practiced by all Christians.
This is a great place for relationships. Relationships and lasting friendships are often built when a missionary family stays in a church member’s home. Letters and emails begin to go back and forth. Telephone calls are made. This is beneficial to both your people and your missionary family.
This may even grow into a relationship where your people get more involved by remembering the missionaries’ anniversary and birthdays, as well as sending cards, gifts, and packages that encourage the missionary family while on the field. More prayer often goes up by these people in behalf of the missionaries they hosted. The host family may get a heart and burden for missions because of the impact the missionary has had on them.
This is a great place for ministry. Missionaries have a lot of stories both from deputation and from the field. Adults and children who hear these stories are often challenged spiritually, some even to the point of going into missions themselves.
Many special speakers who travel from conference to conference prefer to stay in hotels where they can get more work done. They have messages to prepare, letters to write, phone calls to make, work to do, and sometimes just need the rest and solitude that a hotel room provides.
Missionaries have work to do as well, whether they are traveling for a weekend or in a conference. This can usually be done better in a hotel room than in the home of a church member.
On the other hand, if the missionary has children and if the host family has children the same ages with which to play, it is possible that the missionary parents will get more done in someone’s home than they can in a motel room with the kids in close quarters.
Hotels offer the advantage that the missionary does not have to feel like he is being watched all the time. He can “let his hair down” as it were and not feel the pressure of having to be on his best behavior in someone’s home. Some parents are under a lot of pressure trying to keep their children “in line” all the time while in the home of a family from a prospective supporting church. And this pressure goes on week after week for many. (As much as we would like to deny this, we must remember that missionaries and their children are still human. This is not to make an excuse for bad behavior but a reminder that even the best of us make more “mistakes” under constant pressure.)
Some churches have apartments in the church that are usually referred to as “prophet’s chambers”.
Sister churches sometimes have prophet’s chambers that can be taken advantage of. Of course, the distance is farther but the price is usually right.
A prophet’s chamber is a good option overall but there are some factors that need to be considered.
How many people are in the family to be hosted? Is there room to sleep them all? Are there enough bathrooms realistically for them to shower and get ready for church?
Is the prophet’s chamber decorated mainly for adults and will there be any problem if a family with small children is hosted there? Is the church worried about things being broken or messed up?
Usually a church invites several missionaries for the conference. Logically not all of them can stay in the prophet’s chamber at the same time.
Prophet’s chambers have the benefit of usually being on church property. If the family has children, make the gym, playground, church library, piano, and game tables available for use during the day.
We have stayed in several different houses of church members through the years. Some families live in a newer house and have kept their older house especially for missionaries and guest speakers. They may either be furnished by the family themselves or by the church.
Some families have been on vacation and left the keys to their house for the church to use to house the missionaries.
Others have actually moved out of their homes for a few days to stay with other family members close by and left their house for the missionary and his family to use freely.
(Of course, you may want to be sure of the character of the missionary family before you put them in the home of someone who has all their personal items still in the house. Something could be broken, misplaced, lost, or even stolen. I wish I could say that this is not a necessary precaution to take since they are missionaries, but, again, children and adults still are prone to accidents and to the sin nature. I trust you will find this to be an unnecessary precaution but a wise one nonetheless.)
Churches that are located in areas that have a large tourism base may want to consider renting a furnished house. A church in Charleston, SC rents a home on the ocean for all of the missionaries to share. This is a large house with 6 bedrooms, each with their own private bath. It was actually built for people to rent when they come to the beach. The advantages are obvious:
1. It is a gorgeous home and the missionaries feel duly spoiled by the whole experience. One veteran missionary said that it was the nicest place they had ever stayed in during their married lives. The church made it clear that they wanted to do something special for the missionaries and they succeeded outstandingly!
2. Everyone has their own private space. Those who chose to go directly to their rooms after the service are free to do so. Rising early or sleeping in are equal options.
3. The fellowship between the missionaries is great. This particular home has a large living room/dining room/kitchen area. The kitchen was stocked with breakfast and snack items.. Lunch/dinner were served at the church. Those that wanted to spend the afternoon chatting or enjoying fellowship after the service were able to do so.
Overall, a home designed for larger crowds of tourists provides a relaxing place to be and the cost is generally comparable to putting everyone in a motel, particularly if your conference is held "off season".. Both privacy and fellowship are available, allowing the missionaries the opportunity to enjoy the best of both. Not every church is in a tourism area, but there are furnished houses for rent in many locations.
Some churches have Christian camps in the area which can be used either for free or for a much lower price than the cost of a hotel or motel for several days.
There are benefits here in that there is usually much more space in which to live and breathe. Bathrooms tend to be larger with more facilities. There are games, recreation activities, and room to run and exercise. Usually this tends to be a very safe place for the parents to let the kids get out and romp around without worrying about them getting into the street or lost in a strange neighborhood.
This is an option as long as certain conditions are met. There must be bathrooms and shower facilities readily available. Also, this space must be off limits to the church people as long as the missionaries are staying there, unless they are personally inviting someone in, of course.
Much of what has been said regarding prophet’s chambers and Sunday School classrooms can be applied here as well.
These recommendations deal with all missionaries, while others which we will deal with later, apply basically to some special cases.
Location is an important factor in every option we have listed. It can be rather discouraging to have to make a 40 or 50 minute trip to and from the host church every day, sometimes even numerous times. Therefore, the general rule is that the closer the host location is to the church the better.
Be sure you are placing your missionaries in a place that is kept clean. Yes, missionaries are flexible and probably face some very disgusting situations on the foreign field. But that does not mean that you should put them up in the home of just anybody who volunteers to keep them. I have never known many missionaries who were complainers. But I know of situations where the missionary family has had to go around and clean the house from top to bottom because the host, who welcomed the service, did not have time to do any cleaning beforehand.
Veteran missionaries and their children have been accustomed to living in some very extreme weather conditions on the mission field. Some have lived in the tropics while others have lived in the more frigid areas. It would be wise to consider this when housing the missionary family. Some may need more blankets for sleeping purposes. Others may need a fan in order to sleep, or even air conditioning. You, of course, want your conference participants to get their needed rest and to sleep well.
If the church or host intends on providing food/meals for the guests then it would be wise and a kind consideration to ask the guests ahead of time about their diets or any food preferences they may have. Although this may require a little extra time you will find that most missionaries are not very “picky” but that they appreciate the consideration. Others may have some genuine needs or preferences that should be considered since you want them to feel at home and to enjoy their stay with you. (Example:: Some guests will prefer whole milk while others prefer 2% milk, 1% milk, or skim milk. For those missionaries who prefer 0% milk, whole milk seems to be very creamy while those who prefer whole milk find 0% to be nothing but water. If you plan on buying milk for them anyway, why not ask them about their preference ahead of time? If you don’t have a way to ask them or not enough time to inquire about it, then it is best to buy a type of milk in the middle of the spectrum.)
It would be wise to know if the missionary/speaker has any allergies (for example towards animals, foods, or mold/mildew, etc.).
Missionaries need a place where they can have their daily quiet time. As they travel they encounter many different circumstances and can be very creative in finding places to have their devotions. Sometimes that place may be outside in their car or under the motel staircase or in the pool or exercise area. Remember that usually not everyone in the family awakens at the same time in the morning. Thus, while one may want to read the Bible very early the other may want to sleep a little longer…in darkness. If children are sleeping on a sofa-bed in the living room then even that room is not convenient for devotions. We realize that not every situation will be ideal but you may want to at least consider this question and think about what you would want to do if you were in their place.
If you can provide a Sunday School room, a table in the fellowship hall, a changing room of the baptistry, the church library, or even a chair in the kitchen, it would be helpful, as long as that area is not being used by others. Some pastor’s have even offered their private study for use by a missionary during his stay.
The same thing is true of those needing a work space. The living room table in the home of your members may be alright IF the host doesn’t spend hours trying to talk to the missionary while he/she is trying to work.
Often missionaries are on the road for weeks on end, especially if they are in several missions conferences on the same trip. Washing and drying clothes becomes an important issue. Laundromats are a blessing sometimes but not always convenient.
We recommend that one of the following options be pursued.
1. If the misionaries are hosted in a home that has these appliances, then it would be wise for the host family to make them available to the missionary family.
2. If the missionaries are hosted in a place where these appliances are not available then someone from the church could invite the missionaries over to their home and offer the use of their appliances sometime during the conference.
3. If the missionaries are hosted in a place where these appliances are not available then people from the church could offer to take the missionaries’ laundry and do it for them and return it clean, dry and folded or ironed.
4. People from the church could offer to take the missionaries to a laundromat.
5. Missionary houses or apartments could be equipped with a washer and dryer.
I want to reiterate the fact that missionaries are generally flexible and adaptable, not inclined to complain, and easy to satisfy. This, however, is not a good reason to put your missionaries up in the home of just anyone. Some caution is always in order. Let me explain.
I will begin with an example from a real life situation. Some time ago several missionary kids, all girls, were separated from their parents when visiting a church. Supposedly they would be staying with an older couple whose children were gone from the house. However, the girls discovered that there was an older son living there who had come back home to live after going through some “women” difficulties. This son was at the time studying to be a witch, seriously. Although he was not suppose to be around the house during those days that the missionary girls were being hosted, it was clear that he still was coming and going and also had access to the girls bedroom. The girls were very nervous in that home, as one can imagine.
Another missionary, while raising support, was housed in a roach infested trailer.
Once some MK girls were hosted in a home where there was no door to their bedroom. Even though they could change clothes and get ready for services in the bathroom, still it was an inconvenience. But the worst part was sleeping at night without some form of privacy.
Story after story can be told of hosting situations like these, some even worse, but that is not our purpose here.
Wisdom and discernment must be used when choosing accommodations for all guest speakers, whether they are missionaries or not.
No one likes to stay in a house that is infested with fleas, roaches, or rodents.
The bottom line here is that the church leadership should know the hosts well enough to know that this host will not be an embarassment to the church nor a hindrance to the well-being of the missionary family in your conference.
In order to be helpful to those who may not do a lot of hosting let us give some particular suggestions for hosting missionaries that may have some special needs. We may not be as thorough as some would be but we have not experienced all of these situations ourselves. However, these should be enough to alert us all to the fact that we should be considerate and thoughtful of the needs of others who are coming in to serve and minister to the church.
Stairs: Some missionaries may have trouble with going up and down stairs. Some can not walk long distances. Be considerate of these special needs.
Diet: Some missionaries are on a special diet or have to eat at specific times due to taking medicine.
Health Needs: Some missionaries may tire very easily and need more time to rest after traveling or after speaking. Some live with pain and suffering but continue a rigorous schedule. They need time to get away to some private place.
Although this next recommendation may seem to be very obvious, due to stories we have heard, we still feel that it needs to be stated. Do not host speakers and missionary men who are traveling alone in a home where the lady of the house may be single, widowed, or without her husband during the day. This would also apply to situations where daughters may be alone in the house during the hosted stay.
Also, do not host a single or widowed missionary lady in a home where temptations can not be avoided. Use extreme caution when deciding on accommodations for these servants of the Lord. They do not like to face awkward or embarrassing situations nor should they be expected to face situations that could cause temptation to any of the parties involved.
Some pregnant women have special dietary needs.
Some pregnant women may not be able to maneuver well up and down stairs.
Some pregnant women need more or quicker access to a bathroom than normal. (If you have several couples in your conference and one of the wives is pregnant, give priority to this specific couple when choosing a host that will meet the special needs of the pregnant missionary lady.)
Many missionary conferences can be very exhausting to everyone. This is especially true for pregnant missionaries who may also be expected to teach a children’s class, speak at a women’s luncheon, or sing several times during the conference. Thus, it may be necessary for the pregnant missionary wife to get more rest, especially in the afternoons. Keep this need for more rest in mind.
Care should also be taken to inquire of the husband or to talk directly to the lady about what she feels she can and cannot do during the conference. (Remember, most women have a hard time turning down pastors when requested to participate in a conference, especially if they feel that the future support of their ministry may depend on their cooperation. Remember, too, that not all pregnant women go through the same types of symptoms and hardships during pregnancy; therefore, do not assume that just because a missionary wife is pregnant that she can’t participate in the program.)
Make sure there are sufficient towels and linens to care for larger families.
Many large families travel with their own pillows because it is rare to find accommodations that have enough pillows for all their children. But you should still inquire into this possible need.
Beds are not always necessary for every individual of a large family. It is nice to have beds for everyone but usually larger families are even more flexible than others and are used to sleeping on the floor when visiting relatives, going on vacation, or staying in hotel rooms.
Air mattresses may be borrowed from people in the church when necessary. Sleeping bags are another option for bedding, as is laying out several blankets and making a comfortable pallet on which to sleep.
(We have been placed for many days in a prophet’s chamber and been given air mattresses for the children to sleep in the fellowship hall or classrooms of the church. Church people were told ahead of time that the fellowship hall was off limits to them as long as the missionaries were staying there.)
Remember to not place a large family in a place where there may not be enough bathroom space everyone to shower, use the mirrors, toilets, etc. If the family is to be in services each night during the conference then they will need to use the bathroom facilities a lot. Make other church facilities available to the missionary family as well in order to ease up on the difficulties of everyone getting ready for the services at the same time.
Although most missionaries do not travel with their pets, there are some rare occasions where this occurs. Hopefully, the missionary will alert the pastor or responsible person to this situation ahead of time.
This may eliminate your options as to where to host the missionary or with whom to host them. Some people may desire to host the missionary but not desire to host a pet.
You may want to ask the missionary himself about what he normally does with the pet when being hosted by churches.
We trust that these suggestions will be insightful and helpful. We are not telling your church that missionaries have to have the best in luxury accommodations. We do believe that you want to do your best and treat God’s servants in an appropriate way for His glory and for the benefit & blessing of the missionaries who are participating in your world missions conference.