This week I’d like us to visit in the home of Karen and Don Ellis. Don works as a pediatric specialist in the emergency room at Duke. Karen makes a home for their family of seven children, ranging from 6 months to 17 years. She homeschools five of the children. Days are busy in the Ellis household.
Though exposed to hospitality as a child during extended family gatherings, Karen came to recognize the joys of hospitality as a grad student, already in her own living space. Hospitality quickly became a part of their home after she and Don married. Don had experienced it in his own home so this was a natural transition for him.
What does hospitality look like at the Ellis household? Hosting life group on Friday nights, having the homeschool co-op community meet from time to time at their house, Yard youth group meetings from the church, coffee with friends or neighbors, hosting medical students from Bolivia for several months – these are all faces of hospitality for the Ellises. Their home may not always be in perfect order; that’s alright because what else would you expect from such a full house!
The practice of hospitality impacts the Ellis children, even at their young ages. They are already gaining skills in caring for the needs of others. The older children are already acclimated to having additional people in their home and want to make coffee or cookies and want to engage with guests. They look forward to having special events (the annual Super Bowl party) and like to help plan for them. They like to greet guests, make them feel comfortable and interact with them, but sometimes, too, the children just need to retreat into their own space.
One of the most fondly remembered expressions of hospitality is the group of medical students who spent several months in the Ellis household. Because they were with the Ellises for an extended period of time, there was time for cooking together, learning how to prepare Bolivian food, investing in the lives of these young people, sharing the gospel with them, and building lasting relationships.
I think that you can get a sense that, for the Ellis family, hospitality is a natural part of the ebb and flow of their home. It may not be done perfectly. That doesn’t matter. The important thing is that lasting relationships are built in the welcoming environment of the Ellis home.