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I’ve mentioned previously that I am part of a group of pastors who gather each week to learn and practice discipleship.  We gather into what is called a “huddle.”  It’s been a great experience.  Yesterday was no different.  During our time together, the one who has been leading us talked about the church being like a youth hostel.  A hostel is a simple place where travelers can stop for a time on their journeys.

Often church is much like a hostel rather than a mighty fortress, even though most would prefer it to be that fortress – where people come in and never leave.  A hostel has people come for a time and then leave – being sent out to plant more seeds for the kingdom where God calls them.  That can be true for people who are a part of the congregation for a time, for pastors, for others who have interactions with the church, and more.

Two days ago, our church was a hostel.  A family stopped by seeking a place to stay for the evening.  It was windy and cold – too cold to sleep in their van.  They were from Maine and had traveled to West Virginia for work.  The short version is that the work didn’t pan out for them, so they left.  They loaded up all of their belongings into their van and started to head back to Maine.  Carlisle happened to be a stopping point for one night on their journey back “home.”  They got off the expressway and we were the first church they came across.

I spoke with them, got their names, heard their story, and helped them find a location for their family for the night.  During the course of our time together, I heard the great faith that God had given them.  I could feel it and see it in their mannerisms and expressions.  I sensed the blessing in them in their gratitude.  Who was helping who here?  I felt just as blessed by their expression of faith, as they were in receiving a small amount of help for the night.  It felt as though I were in a re-enactment of Joseph, Mary, and child in their journey from Bethlehem to Egypt.  I can only imagine the encounters that the holy family had with those they came across in their journey – if only for a night.

Church is like a hostel in many ways.  Sometimes we encounter people for many years – we walk with them in their journey of faith from birth until death.  And other times we come across people for a short period of time, saying goodbye before we are ready for them to go.  Either way, none of us are permanently here.  At some point, it will be time for us to go – either through travel or job, or by sickness, age, and even death.

The beauty of a hostel is that everyone recognizes they are on a journey and they stay temporarily.  They look forward to the relationships they develop, and for what they will see and experience during their stay in a location.  Yes, church is like a hostel – a holy hostel.