I am not a shopper. I really have to be in the mood to shop. But I can tell you one thing: when I go shoe shopping, I want the perfect fit. I want the shoes to seem as if they were made just for me. I love the perfect balance of style and comfort. Anything less, and they will not make it out the door of the store.
The problem is that we often treat hospitality in our home with the same mindset... what fits us. With hospitality, it isn't about our shoes. It's about putting ourselves in our guest's shoes. What are their needs? What are their goals/purposes/plans? Since we are not mind readers, this step is going to take a little research.
Our guest's needs can be narrowed down to:
A place to clean up and shower
Time to ask questions...
Things you want to know about your guests:
1) How many are coming?
Be sure you have sufficient rooms and bedding for the number of guests coming. If it will be a tight squeeze, let them know ahead of time so they can decide if they would rather invest in a hotel. Imagine a married couple battling jet lag and being crammed in a twin size bed with a toddler... not a pleasant picture. Be realistic, as well as transparent with your guests, about the space and facilities you have to offer BEFORE confirming their stay. If they are fine with the twin bed and toddler scenario, it may mean that financial savings are a priority in their needs. Also, consider investing in things like an air mattress if you plan on being host to guests.
2) Allergies (food, pet, etc?)
3) Goals and purpose of visit?
A surveying missionary is certainly going to have a different itinerary than a supporting pastor coming to visit the missionary. For example: surveying missionaries have limited time and need to accomplish a great deal in that time. This requires greater flexibility in hospitality. Knowing their goals will help you plan.
4) Special eating requirements?
We certainly don't want to serve pastas and desserts every night to a diabetic or someone trying to lose weight.
5) Special sleeping needs?
6) How adventurous are they in their eating?
Face it. Some people just love the food of their home country. As much as I love the food here in our country, others are just not interested. In hospitality, it isn't our goal to change our guests and win them over to the adventures of culinary delight. It is our goal to minister to them.
7) Do they have an itinerary?
Our last guests were here for survey had a wonderful goal. They wanted to eat dinner with different missionaries here as many nights as possible. Knowing that detail, and even helping to arrange some of those meetings, helped me to plan for when I needed to cook for our guests. These guests also needed an enormous amount of flexibility in schedule. They were only here for one week and had to make the best use of every minute. Knowing that helped me to plan meals that were just as flexible so that food wasn't cold when they arrived, we were not waiting on them unnecessarily when their schedule changed, and food never went to waste if they had to cancel dinner plans with us for an unexpected opportunity that opened up.
8) What is their normal eating/sleeping schedule?
With jet lag, this may be pretty interrupted, but it will give you somewhere to aim if you know things like they are not breakfast eaters or that they eat dinner early everyday.
Taking the time to ask a few questions can make the difference between a wonderful trip full of pleasant memories and a miserable experience.
So you have enough bedding and a place for your guest(s) to stay. What do you feed them with out breaking the bank and without living in the kitchen the whole time?
To be continued...