My mother Jane, me, Silvana and my mother-in-law Sally in Zagreb
Have you ever been completely overwhelmed by how someone made you feel welcome and loved? I recently returned from a trip where those feelings ran strong.
June 13-31, I visited a former exchange student Silvana Milic, who stayed with me and my family in 1995. From the moment my mother, mother-in-law, and I met Silvana and her family at the airport in Zagreb, Croatia, we were enveloped in warm and welcoming hospitality.
We are told to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13, NIV), to make fondness for guests a part of our lifestyle. In that way, others can know that Jesus always welcomes and embraces them. Since the Milic family raises hospitality to an art form, I thought I might share some of my experiences with them, and what the Lord taught me in the process.
Silvana and her sister Zvijezdanka greeted me, my mother, and my mother-in-law with big hugs and kisses once we landed in Zagreb. They took care of packing our luggage in the car and making sure we were comfortably seated for the ride to Silvana’s apartment. They chatted the entire way, expressing how happy they were that we were going to visit with them for a while.
Once we arrived at Silvana’s place, we found her mother Veronika waiting for us at the door. She embraced me firmly and kissed me on my right cheek, left cheek, and right cheek again, smiling broadly and uttering “bok,” which is the Croatian word for “hello, welcome, we are glad you’re here.” I could tell that’s what it meant because of the brightness in her eyes and the way her mouth turned up in a pleasant smile every time she said it. Silvana’s mother does not speak English, but she speaks the language of love loudly and clearly.
Throughout the trip, Silvana and her family continued to show great affection toward me and my family. We knew we were loved, accepted, and welcome with them. Jesus does the same. He loves us always and constantly stands with open arms, ready to receive us. He tells us we are “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, KJV) and that He loves us and wants us to abide in His love (John 15:9). He reveals the depth of his love for us in that He laid down his life for us (John 10:17-18; 15;13). It was His greatest expression of affection for us.
Veronika, Sally, and my mom
Whenever we were in town, Silvana and her family cooked for us and prepared delicious, beautiful meals. They spread tablecloths and brought out special family dishes for serving the food. Every meal included homemade soup, salad, main courses, and dessert with coffee. We lingered for a long time around the table, talking, laughing, and sharing our hearts. The Milics created an atmosphere where everyone could feel welcome and a part of the family. As we travelled around Croatia, I noticed an abundance of outdoor cafes where friends and family could enjoy the same type of pleasant fellowship.
Sally, me, and my mom enjoying a wonderful meal made by the Milics
Silvana, Zvijezdanka, and Veronika preparing a meal for us
Jesus extended fellowship to those he met. He told Zaccheus to come down from the tree because He was going to dine with him that evening. He invited each of His disciples to fellowship with the words, “Come, follow Me.” He broke bread with the multitudes, and He gathered the children up into His lap. He still extends fellowship today, saying, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NASB). One day, those who are His will gather with Him at a sweet banquet table in heaven, where the fellowship will never end (Revelation 19:9).
Silvana works as vice president of finance at a mutual funds company. She serves on the board of directors for the corporation. She also teaches accounting at a college in Zagreb, and she is working on her PhD in economics. She is a busy young woman, to say the least. Yet, she did not hesitate to allow her schedule and life style to be interrupted for 19 days by visitors. In fact, she encouraged our visit and planned many opportunities for us to see and experience her country as well as parts of Italy. She gave up her bed for me and my mother and slept on the pullout couch with my mother-in-law. She included me and my family in her life and her family’s life for two and a half weeks.
Zvijezdanka, Veronika, and Silvana Milic
Jesus welcomes all who would come to Him. He spoke with Nicodemus at night. He stopped to heal the lepers and blind. He let the little children climb all over Him. He spoke with the woman at the well. He had plans. He had responsibilities. But He saw every change in His schedule as a divine appointment, where others could know Him better and love Him more. I certainly came to know Jesus better and to love Him more through my time with the Milic family. Through them, I got to experience even more the affection, fellowship, and embrace of Jesus.
Question: With whom can you practice hospitality? Would you allow the Lord to help you in doing so? Comment at the link below.
Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com