Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Red Letter Book Club. It is a review of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book, “Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests.”
Every now and then I read a book that I can’t put down. The stories not only capture my full attention, but I’m left thinking about the characters long after the book is over. Strangers at my Door: An Experiment in Radical Hospitality, written by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, is a book that sucked me into the beautiful mess of living in a hospitality house.
For those unfamiliar with that term, hospitality houses are homes that always have open doors for whoever may need it. There are people in these homes who are long-term community members, but they also have people who come and go. The purpose of the hospitality house is to welcome the stranger, just as Jesus welcomed us. For many, this sounds like an awful, terrifying idea. It goes against everything we believe in- what about the issues of safety and privacy and nuclear family , etc etc? In this book, Jonathan talks about some of those through the stories of people and situations that he has experienced in the hospitality house that he started in Durham, North Carolina.
More than this, however, he tells the stories of the strangers who have taught him more about God than what he could have learned by sitting through a sermon or listening to a podcast of a great preacher. He tells stories of the strangers who have turned into close friends and second family. How does a Washington-bound twenty-something end up raising a small family in a house full of people who are very unlike him?
Jonathan also does a fantastic job of weaving the theological foundation of welcoming the stranger throughout this book. The book is more than stories in that way that it makes the reader confront his or her thoughts and feelings towards the type of hospitality that goes beyond the idea of inviting a new family in the neighborhood over for pot roast. It’s a challenging book in that way.
I’ve always been really interested in learning more about how some of these new monastic communities have started, and what they are actually like (instead of what they are designed to be like). Jake and I have lived in community-ish settings a time or two, and have experienced the ups and downs. We know that it is so not easy, but that it is also so rewarding at times. I enjoyed reading about someone elses’ experiences too.
Take a look at this book trailer for more: www.jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com
This post is a review of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book, “Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests, ” currently featured on the Red Letter Book Club.