Save on Hotels with Christian Hospitality Networks
We travel a lot. No, really, a LOT. As authors and speakers, we’re on the road more months than we’re home now.
We used to picture speakers as those glamorous people who flew in to the conference, stayed in the nicest rooms, and had everything taken care of. Then we became speakers. We didn’t want to leave our children behind while we flew around the country. We weren’t willing to lose our own children while helping other people to do a better job raising theirs.
Conferences, though, just aren’t going to pay for a speaker’s whole family to come, so that meant we had to make it work on our own. Forget flying, we’d drive. And driving meant a lot more time in travel. And that meant lodging along the way. Lodging we had to pay for.
Hotel rooms every night will eat up your budget pretty quickly, so we had to find an alternative. In the summer, we could throw our tents and sleeping bags in the cargo trailer and camp, but that doesn’t work so well in Indiana, Iowa, and North Dakota in March (where we’ll be this month!). Just no. This Southern blood is too thin for that.
Instead, we stay with other believers. We’re members of a couple of Christian hospitality networks that help us find families willing to host us for a night.
Sounds scary to stay with strangers? You know, not really. If there had ever been a problem with them, they would have been removed from the network.
Isn’t it embarrassing, though? Actually it’s not. If they didn’t have the gift of hospitality and enjoy welcoming new friends, well they certainly wouldn’t put their names down for something like that! Our eldest was horrified when he heard we’d be staying with people we didn’t know on a trip he took with us a while back (remember, he’s an adult, so he seldom travels with us). After staying in a few homes and seeing what a blessing it was to meet new brothers and sisters in Christ, he did an about-face and said he wanted to list his own home in the networks. It’s like visiting with friends you just haven’t met yet!
A Candle in the Window is probably our favorite network. It’s mostly Christian homeschool families and we’ve had an immediate connection with everyone we’ve stayed with. There is a $30 a year membership fee (free for missionaries or the first in a state or a country), but there is no fee when you stay with a family or have a meal with them. The network is still fairly new, so some areas do not have homes. Why not sign up? It’s a fantastic way to meet other believers and make new friends!
Mennonite Your Way isn’t just for Mennonites. Years ago, Amish and Mennonites would talk about “Mennoniting your way across the country,” as families would contact churches in each area and ask for someone to host them. Eventually, they made a directory and then other Christians discovered it. I think a Presbyterian family runs it now. 🙂 It’s $30 to receive the directory, then they ask that you discreetly leave your hosts a donation (some of the families are struggling financially and it helps to cover the cost of your stay). The recommended donation is $10/adult, $2/child, and $2/meal. Even a big family will find that a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel room — and a much bigger blessing, too. Hospitality homes are most common in areas where there are many Mennonites since MYW is best known there.
But, how do you know if they can accommodate you? Each directory tells you something about the host family, such as how many people they can host and in what kind of accommodations. Often it tells you what kind of church background they have and even what they do for a living and how many children are in the home. Ultimately, though, you just contact them and ask if it’s convenient. Sometimes a certain host family will have to refuse (one we contacted was about to have surgery), but usually they welcome you with open arms.
But, really, isn’t it awkward?? Melanie is very shy (honestly!) and this is a bit of a stretch for her, but really, it is so worth it and it’s not just the money you save. We have very happy memories of the many different believing families that have hosted us – elderly couples, big homeschool families, empty nesters, young families, but every time it seemed like a divine appointment with something special God had for us and for them. Relationships require risk. If you never reach out, you won’t have the joy of making the connection.
We can’t tell you how much a blessing it is for you and your children to know Christians from all walks of life – rich and poor, Arminian and Calvinist, homeschoolers and public school teachers, people just like you and people from different cultures. When we stay in their homes and share meals together, it gives us perspective and humility.
And it’s a whole lot of fun, besides. We’ll never forget the family we stayed with in Manitoba who had built 300 meters of snow tunnels in their yard. They bundled up our children, gave them headlamps and took them for an amazing adventure in the dark! Or, the sweet family in Saskatchewan who turned out to be homeschoolers who had graduated all their children. The husband got up early that morning and went out to hunt down the traditional foods he’d eaten growing up and fixed us a very special breakfast. We’ll never forget them.
Oh, I forgot. This was supposed to be about saving money. Don’t worry, when you stay with Christian hospitality network families, you’ll save a lot of money — and you’ll enrich your lives, too.
Have you ever stayed in a Christian hospitality home? Do you know of any networks we’ve missed?
Hal & Melanie