by Brenda Patrick
THAT’S RIGHT. You read it correctly. “Haas”pitality is hospitality served up “Joe-and-Barbara-Haas style.” Ever since entering the pastorate in 1951, Joe Haas has been “given to hospitality” (I Timothy 3:2), faithfully fulfilling that Biblical requirement for a pastor; and Barb has been right by his side, serving and smiling.
The Haases accepted the call to the mission field in 1967 when the oldest of their five children was a sophomore in high school. Their “welcome of guests with warmth and generosity” (as Webster defines hospitality) first impressed me as I viewed slides of their mission work in France. More than one third of the pictures showed people in their home: birthday parties, Bible studies, Sunday night after-church fellowships, teens from the youth ministry, individual French families, and university students. Those pictures beautifully illustrated something I remember Dr. Haas saying: “We always practiced losing our lives in the lives of our people.”
That practice became particularly sweet to my former pastor husband and me when the Haases chose to retire in our city of Goldsboro, North Carolina, and become members of our church. They bought a house and settled in, but not for long! Dr. Haas became the interim pastor of a church in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and actually served as pastor for eight years. The couple would drive back and forth between their home in Goldsboro and the parsonage in Jacksonville. During those years of ministry, the Haases, although in their early seventies, started several ministries at the church, including an annual couples’ retreat and a Patch the Pirate Club for children. For several years in a row, they would reward the Patch Club with a huge end-of-the-year party by bringing the kids—remember, the Haases were in their seventies—to their home in Goldsboro for a backyard cookout, an elaborate event complete with fun and games. The children’s favorite time was always the bonfire, with a time for singing and devotions. This was followed by a slumber party: Mr.Haas would stay at one end of the house with the boys, and Mrs.Haas would be at the other end with the girls. The kids loved everything and begged for this special time each year until the Haases retired for the second time. Only eternity will reveal the great impact of their “Haas”pitality on those young lives.
After retiring again to our church (this time to stay), Mr. Haas approached my husband and asked him to make a list of people who would be good prospects for them to have into their home. That kind of request is music to a pastor’s ears, so my husband quickly produced the list. The Haases started down the list just as quickly, continuing their ministry of “Haas”pitality.
One tradition that never grows old in the Haas home takes place around the dinner table after the meal. Brother Haas shares his salvation testimony and encourages each guest to do the same. Living next door to the Haases was a single mom with her teenage son, who was a student at our Christian school. Of course, they had these neighbors over to eat. When testimony time came, the mother admitted that she really didn’t have a salvation experience to share. Dr.Haas led her to the Lord that very night before she ever got up from the table.
Around-the-table soul winning has been repeated many, many times in the Haas home over the years, with scores being saved. This practice truly makes the “welcome and entertaining of guests” holy hospitality and the dining table a sacred place. By the way, Brother and Sister Haas are in their early eighties now and are still having people into their home: ministry families (including the pastor and his wife), missionaries, individual church families, college students, and their Sunday school class. They continue to have people share their salvation testimony around the dinner table. How precious!
Without a doubt, hospitality demonstrates friendship, but Christian hospitality takes on a deeper meaning. It is definitely a time when actions speak louder than words. Opening our homes to others declares that we are opening our hearts to them as well. When people know we care about them, they will open their hearts to us. We can win sinners to the Lord, influence Christians toward spiritual maturity, encourage the down-hearted, and be thoroughly blessed ourselves, all around the dinner table. Someone has rightly said, “People do not care what you know until they know that you care.” The invitation to “Come over to our house” translates as “You are special to us; we care about you and your family.” Hospitality is a powerful ministry tool that greatly extends our influence for the Lord.
Having people over is not a matter of money, age, personality, or house size. It is a matter of obedience. Romans 12:13 instructs all of us to be “given to hospitality.” Given in this verse means “pursuing the practice of ” and carries with it the idea of being habitual. We should never consider hospitality an inconvenience, burden, pressure, or ordeal which we practice only grudgingly (I Peter 4:9), but we should ask the Lord to help us to see it as a privilege, a spiritual opportunity, and an adventure. “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
Maybe you do not see yourself as a confident hostess. Remember that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” This is also true of hospitality. Choose to participate.Start with family, familiar friends, or a needy couple that you know. With the Lord’s help, some goal-setting, and some cooking, you will be well on your way to the land of blessing and “Haas”pitality.