A Lesson in Hospitality From My Visit to First Zion Baptist Church

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My wife and I like to go on vacation and explore different parts of Canada and the USA. One particular vacation led us to a lovely vacation rental spot in South Carolina which interestingly enough we found in the back of The Banner in 2006.

It was April 2007 and we were staying in Bluffton, SC, with two other couples who we would often vacation together as families when our children were smaller. This time however, our children were not with us.

On the Saturday evening, we asked the question, “Hey, where are we going to church tomorrow?” It would have been easy to not go, but our upbringing taught us that we don’t do that. Even on vacation, if you don’t have the CRC yearbook with you, you find a church to attend that closely resembles your theological and doctrinal stances.

We opened up the local phone book and started scrolling through the list of churches and hoped one would catch our eyes.

One did. It was called the First Zion Baptist Church.

Sunday morning came and we arrived at the First Zion Baptist church of Bluffton. As we were welcomed into this little church with a big heart, it was immediately clear that we were visitors in a strange land.

Our wives didn’t wear incredible hats and white gloves.

The men, old and young, were like an intergenerational stew, who scooped out hospitality like it was serving a starving community.

The music, oh the music danced over us like a warm blanket.

The pastor, a large man who when he preached, his black skin glistened with drops of sweat as he rhythmically shared the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The hours passed us by in what seemed like only a few moments.

We watched as the little children left the building to play outside after the service and in turning to leave, this people, these mighty children of God in this little church poured out their Christian love to us.

We weren’t sure if this was “Evangelism Sunday” but one thing was clear, we felt a little like the token white people in a place that was so new to us, but it felt like we were home.

People would speak to us, walk with us as we left the building. They invited us, people who were so different from them to a community lunch. The glory of a crucified and resurrected Christ just poured out of their beings as if to say, “we can help it. It is who we are!”

My wife and I will never forget one comment shared with us as we walked outside. This wonderfully dressed lady, pulled us aside and said, “Thank you for coming.” Her comment was sincere, inspired and when she realized we were finally leaving, she shared one lasting word for us the consider, “This may be your first time here, but from this day forward, you are always a member.”

Yes. It felt like home.

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I love their concept of membership! Great example of hospitality – thanks for sharing! ~Stanley

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