This is the first time I have ever been made to feel welcome by an American in this country.
In a world that often feels divided and uncertain, stories of hope and love can bring us back to a place of connection and compassion. One such story comes from our recent experience with Bonita and her family, who found welcome and radical hospitality in a group of strangers.
Bonita, her daughter, and her infant granddaughter arrived in Atlanta, desperate to see their loved one facing deportation via Stewart Detention Center. They had no plan, attorney, or funds – just a fierce love for the baby’s father and a determination to do whatever it took to stay together. Sadly, their plea for mercy fell on deaf ears at the Atlanta field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This harsh treatment left them feeling alone and reminded them of how unwelcome they were in a country they had called home for ten years.
However, the arrival of three seminarians from Candler School of Theology provided a beacon of hope. The students came not as passive learners but as active participants in offering hospitality to Bonita and her family. Together, they shared a meal at a restaurant with cuisine from Bonita’s homeland, and the seminarians listened with open hearts to the family’s stories.
Despite language barriers, the seminarians embraced the intimacy of the communion table, speaking broken Spanish and engaging fully in the experience. Their unreserved affection and solidarity moved Bonita deeply, and she declared that this was the first time she had ever been made to feel welcome by an American in this country.
The experience highlights the power of radical hospitality, which is not about being saviors but creating a space of solidarity and compassion. When we feel powerless before unjust structures, hospitality reminds us that love knows no borders. It calls us to recognize the humanity in others and to work towards a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible.
Ultimately, the story of Bonita and her family reminds us that hospitality is not just a theoretical concept or a nice idea – it’s a transformative practice that can change hearts. It invites us to step outside our comfort zones and embrace the so-called other, build bridges across divides, and create a more just and compassionate world.
Bonita said, “This is the first time I have ever been made to feel welcome by an American in this country.” Let us commit to creating more moments like this, where love crosses borders and hospitality transforms lives.