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Books  >>  Religion

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Strangers at My Door

Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove Strangers At My Door A True Story Of Finding Jesus In Unexpected Guest
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Biographical note:

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a popular speaker and well-known peace and social-justice activist. With Shane Claiborne he founded the New Monastic movement, which emphasizes an intentional life of prayer, seeking consensus, and engagement in the world. Jonathan and his wife, Leah, founded Rutba House, a Christian community that welcomes visitors, guests, neighbors, and strangers. In addition, he serves as an associate pastor at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. The author of more than a dozen books, his writings include <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">The Awakening of Hope and <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">The New Monasticism.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

Preface
Judgment Day

The house is cold at midnight, so I put on slippers before going downstairs. Everyone else has gone to bed, including my son, whose asthma was complicated tonight by a cold. I tiptoe across the hardwood floor, careful not to wake anyone, and take a drinking glass from the cabinet. But before I turn on the faucet, I hear the shuffle of feet at the door.

Knock, knock.

Whoever is standing outside, I know, can read the words of Jesus engraved on our door knocker: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The visitor who is knocking probably has heard the story about how my wife, Leah, and I were part of a peacemaker delegation in 2003. We visited Iraq at the time of America’s intensive bombing campaign. On a desolate desert road, our friends were nearly killed when their driver lost control after hitting a chunk of shrapnel in the road. But some locals picked them up and took them to the doctor in a town called Rutba.

“Three days ago,” the doctor said, “your country bombed our hospital. But we will take care of you.”

Literally by accident, we lived a modern-day Good Samaritan story. The Good Iraqi—the Good Muslim—showed us what God’s love looks like. When we heard Jesus say, “Go and do likewise” at the end of that gospel story, we knew it was an invitation to practice the love we had received. So we named this place Rutba House. We put a knocker by the front door that bears Jesus’s statement about being a welcomed Stranger. We invited folks who were homeless to consider this their home.

For a decade now, they have. They have come here after fleeing abusive partners, and they’ve come straight from
prison—sometimes for a night, sometimes for life. They’ve shown up scared by the trauma of war abroad and haunted by the horrors of violence in homes that fell apart. They’ve been drug dealers who wanted a fresh start, lifelong addicts who needed a place to die, kids whose families had come undone, street workers who wanted to sit down and eat a sandwich. They’ve brought with them a universe that’s every bit as broken as that bombed-out highway in the Iraqi desert.

They come here with pressing needs, and they have taught me hope. I believe in the miracle of Rutba, and not just because I lived it in the desert of Iraq. I’ve seen the miracle repeated time and again, right here in my home. A knock comes at our door, and we are saved.

“This being human is a guest house,” wrote the Sufi poet Rumi. We are, each of us, a hospitality house of sorts. We go about our daily lives on busy streets, often strapped to a piece of steel moving at forty miles per hour. But even if it’s through a car window with the doors locked, our eyes connect with the stranger who stands on the corner of Fourth and Main, holding a cardboard sign. Whether we invite him to or not, this stranger comes knocking, asking to be heard, begging to be seen. So, what to do?

Be smart, our instincts tell us. Your spare change will not helPraise for Strangers at My Door

Strangers at My Door is not only an invitation into the life of a hospitality house; it’s an invitation into real Christianity. By that I mean the radical inclusivity of Jesus that embraces and fights for the ones mainstream society shuns and abhors and terminates without batting an eye. It is, in short, an invitation for each of us to open our lives to the stranger and become more fully human.”
—Sister Helen Prejan, author of Dead Man Walking

“We Franciscans are always happy and impressed when other folks discover what we were supposed to be known for! The Franciscan ‘charism’ never dies and always re-emerges in fresh form—because it is the very ‘marrow of the Gospel’. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is teaching you how to live that Gospel in our time, and in such fresh and alive ways.”
—Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., academic dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation, Center for Action and Contemplation

“Fifty years ago, when the Civil Rights movement came to Mississippi, I saw the wisdom of the approach that says, ‘Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them.’ Those young people did what Jesus had done, and black folks from the South were able to change America and say, ‘We've done it ourselves.’ Jonathan and his friends at Rutba House have joined that same quiet revolution, and they are not alone. They give me hope that America may yet be born again.”
—John M. Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association

“With elegant prose honed by brutal honesty, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove provides a theological account of what it means to welcome the stranger—strangers who often turn out to lack any gratitude. Wilson-Hartgrove’s narrative gives one hope as he refuses to be defeated by ungratefulness.”
—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University


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