Dudley Daniel couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He sat in the corner of our lounge and watched. Later on when it was all over, he said, “I don’t know how you live like this.” It was just another Sunday. Our house was jammed, wall-to-wall with bodies. They were in every room, making chai in the kitchen, chatting on the veranda and on the roof.
When Chris and Meryl came, they brought notes on, “How to open your home.” After a few days with us, Chris changed that to, “The importance of closing your home.”
Hospitality was one of the most important things for us in those early days. For those who had no family it meant they belonged. They had a house to relax in and a place to learn. They knew they could pop in any time and there would be food and chai and conversation.
At one stage we felt we needed at least one day off, so we asked people not to visit on a Monday. The response was interesting. It was as if they couldn’t believe we wouldn’t want to spend our day off with them. We were best friends. We were family. Why would you not want to spend your day off with your family? We felt so awful but they were fine when we assured them that we still loved them and there were six other days to be together.
An open home meant an open life. People could see how Tony and I were with each other. They could see the fun we had and they could see when there was tension between us. It was up to them to decide what things they would do and not do in their own marriage and parenting. They watched how we raised our children and how we disciplined them. It was helpful for our kids to know there were others watching when we weren’t around. The couples that had children started to look just like us. When their kids were naughty, they would make them look them in the eye, make sure they understood, put them over their knee, give them a couple of spanks on the buttocks with the bum woody, hold them, kiss them, make the child say thank you and off they would go. When a baby was born, I got all the ladies together and demonstrated how to bath it and change it.
None of the village mums used nappies or waterproofs. It was a revelation to me that those things were a Western luxury. The babies were wrapped in any cloth available and they wee’d and poo’d all over everything. We deliberately didn’t get carpets for our house. It was easy to wipe the marble floors and it didn’t matter how much mess was made. I taught the mums how to make cloth nappies and how to make waterproof pants with plastic bags. The soft, thin bags worked best. Small ones were perfect for new-borns. I cut the handles in half and snipped the corners of the bag according to the size of the baby’s legs. Once the bag was pulled on, the handles were tied around the baby’s waist. All the mums started using them and it made their lives so much easier. It was a good way to recycle plastic too.
Most of the discipleship took place over plates of food in our home and other’s homes. There was a vulnerability about it; sitting on the floor, eating with our hands, hearing stories of parentless, fatherless sons and daughters. Having people listen to our stories and struggles brought healing to them and us. Our house was their house. Their house was our house. Home sweet home.