In Africa, hospitality is the context for relationships. It always involves food and/or drink and is done in the home. Even if there were restaurants to visit, to entertain someone in a restaurant would not be personal enough in Africa. To offer someone to come into your home to visit is to say “I offer to relate to you personally.”
Hospitality is not scheduled in Africa. Spontaneity is part of the hospitality; a special menu or cleaning the house first is not required. It could mean meeting the need for a meal when it is suddenly needed. When someone drops in to visit, it is acceptable to let your guest “blend into” whatever you were doing, and they become part of the activity. In this culture of “community”, the guest is most important and our personal desires come last.
In Kasenga I have already received visitors sweaty and covered with paint, dirty from pulling peanuts, and in the midst of cooking (or eating) several meals. It does not matter to the visitor; they know they are unexpected and so they are willing to fit in, as appropriate. I’m expected (as much as I am able) to converse with them in the language of their greeting (French, Swahili or Bemba).
How does this scenario compare as an American? If Jesus were to drop in, would we welcome him more hospitably as an African or as an American? Something to consider…As an American, I am learning to show hospitality more like an African. It’s not easy. It is a process.