When my son was at the University of Florida, he was part to the UF surfing team.  During those years, we often hosted the entire team at our home for the weekend.  There were guide lines.  The girls slept upstairs.  The guys slept downstairs.  No one slept on the steps.  We provided one meal which was usually the evening meal.  (In the South, we call it supper.)  Everyone was on their own for the other two meals. 

Everyone cleaned up after themselves.  I expected my home to be left in the same condition as when they arrived.  I had no curfew for the group.  After all, they lived on their own in Gainsville.  It would be silly for me to expect them to come in at a certain hour.  Usually, the group would buy one of the supper meals for my husband and me.  That meant that on that day I would have a big breakfast for them.  (Remember I provided one meal each day.)

Our home was never abused or harmed in anyway by the surfing team.  Because of these positive experiences, I realized that this type of arrangement is a good way to accommodate overnight guests.  Perhaps because we live in Florida and two blocks from the ocean and maybe because my husband and I love having guests, we have a lot of company.  Using this arrangement, people feel free to sight-see or roam the beach during the day.  They don’t have to be tied down to our schedule or planned agenda.  They can eat hardy or sparingly.   In other words, it is their vacation.

I’m talking about this because our SC Special Gathering program director is bringing a small group of her members to visit with us for a couple of days.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our mission is evangelism and discipleship of people who are developmentally delayed.  We feel that trips with our members is a hyper course in discipleship.  Our Florida programs have a four day, three night camp where we have about 220 people who come each year.  Our SC program director prefers to take her members in smaller groups and work with them on a more personal level. 

I’m preparing for them.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years about preparing for guests:

  1. Don’t worry about having your home spic and span.  Doesn’t it make sense to do the most cleaning after the guests leave?
  2. It helps to have one room where you can stash your junk and shut the door.  Without that room, I would’ve been an unhappy hostess much of the time.
  3. Don’t worry about keeping the house clean once your guests arrive.  In fact, save your energy and give it up.  They saw that they don’t need to call the health department when they first arrived.  They don’t want to have you cleaning and straightening up all the time.
  4. Don’t have time to clean one or two rooms?  Close the door and declare them off limits.
  5. Allow your guests to help with dishes and cooking.  When we have guests who come for an extended stay, the rule in our home is that whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes. 
  6. Remember your primary job is to make your guests feel comfortable.  Take time to sit down and talk with them.  Making people comfortable is work but it isn’t hard work.  If you are comfortable having them there, they will be comfortable being there.
  7. Have a basket of new toiletries in the bathroom that they can have, if they have left something.
  8. Accommodations don’t have to be Bed and Breakfast quality.  Remember it’s a free room.  Your guests know that and they will appreciate your opening your home to them. 
  9. Keep your meals simple.  Pull out your favorite easy menu.  A large salad with fresh baked bread (from the freezer section of the grocery store) and a large pot of stew makes a wonderful meal.  Spice it up by serving it in your best china.   For the surfing team, we would have a gigantic salad and 20 pounds of Rock Shrimp (a local, cheap delicacy).
  10. Keep your desserts even simpler.  Slice Enterman’s pound cake.  Top with ice cream and hot fudge sauce.  It’s a great, easy dessert.  Or… fresh from the oven slice and bake cookies can be sandwiched with gobs of canned icing then dipped in that wonderful chocolate sauce that hardens when it gets cold.  Pop them into the freezer for a few minutes.  Your guests will go wild. 
  11. Most of all, have fun.  If you are enjoying yourself, you give your guests permission to relax and enjoy themselves.
  12. If you are entertaining people who are mentally challenged, don’t worry.  As you know, they are people just like everyone else.  If they are treated like honored guests, they will treat your home with respect, just like everyone else.

In the Scriptures, there is a lot of written about entertaining and being able to accommodate people in our homes.  We’ve lost some of that in our hustle/bustle world.  Don’t miss out.  God has enriched our family and home with folks who have blessed us much more than we blessed them. 

My guests will be arriving soon.  I have some stuff that needs to be thrown into a spare room and a couple of doors that need to closed.