We’re celebrating long-time (in)courage contributor Jen Schmidt as she prepares to release her first book, the next to sit on the (in)courage bookshelf of publications! So today, we’re giving you a glimpse inside Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation. Enjoy!
As I think back on where my legacy of hospitality started, my memories surround our childhood doorway.
I can’t really describe it in great detail. That’s how little its appearance even mattered. But I do remember its purpose. It housed both a storm door and a screen door. The heavy door kept out the brutal Wisconsin winter, while the other door contained a large screen for those rare days when we captured the magic of spring and summer. My favorite days growing up? The ones when that screen door announced action.
I’d hear it again. Slam. Slam.
“In or out?” my mom’s voice echoed through the house. “Please stop slamming the door.” To me, though, that slam was never one of annoyance. Its recurring sound breathed life. It meant things were happening.
Dropping their mud-covered bikes on our grass, kids stormed through the door hoping my brothers could play. Slam.
A neighbor lady popped her head in, asking for an extra egg. Slam.
A missionary family, spending the week with us while home on furlough, returned from an errand or a nearby speaking engagement. Slam.
But more than anything, I remember hearing the sound of that door on Sunday nights. Slam. Slam. Slam.
Long before Field of Dreams popularized the phrase, my parents had already personified the message of, “If you build it, they will come.” With a genuine love for others, and inspired by an outsized vision for impacting their community, they defied the indoor space limitations of our fifteen-hundred-square-foot house and poured a concrete pad in the backyard. Thus began an informal volleyball league, meeting every Sunday night. Friends, kids, and strangers alike gathered from all over. Simple snacks lined the table, complete with stacks of coolers filled with cold drinks. Smoky aromas from a charcoal grill wafted through the air. Laughter mingled with the casual delights of shared conversation, punctuated by roars of cheering and applause for points scored and exceptional plays. High-fives all around.
Slam. Slam. Slam. Slam. Slam.
There was never anything fancy about it. “Come Sunday night, bring your favorite beverage, a little something to eat, and let’s have fun playing together.” But I’m telling you, a whole lot more than volleyball took place on those incredibly memorable evenings of my childhood. What started out as a loosely connected community came together around a game, only to turn into friendships that lingered into lasting relationships. Life after life. Story after story.
I was there. I saw it. I heard it. My parents — an ordinary couple — made a deliberate decision, intent on getting to know the people around them from more than a polite distance. I didn’t even realize they were modeling anything special. They were simply living the natural outflow of their faith, putting a smiling face on their heart of welcome. But the aroma it created drew others in. And it wasn’t just the aroma of Wisconsin brats roasting on an open fire. It was so much more.
It changed the dynamic. It changed people’s lives. Because hospitality has the power to change a generation.
I know I’m issuing a bold declaration with these words—“change a generation”—but I don’t offer it lightly. I genuinely believe we can change a generation with something as simple as an invitation.
And I say, why not yours? I’ve sure seen it change mine.
The stories you’re about to read, the ideas you’re about to glean— none of them started with me. But from my front-row seat, observing what started with my parents, I’ve witnessed three generations of families continuing to extend these simple invitations. And as a result of God working through such heart-to-heart interactions, I’ve seen friendships formed, relationships restored, outsiders welcomed, and the gospel come to life. Together these experiences excite me as some of my favorite, most memorable chapters, with many other chapters yet to be written, still in process. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out—it’s a cliff-hanger, so to speak—but it’s sure to be amazing. Rich in faith, in goodness, in fun, and in deep, deep meaning.
And nothing would mean more to me than for you to come along . . . to write your own ending while I’m here writing mine.
Life is always better with another. So, can we walk this road of welcome together? Begin where we are? And just start? I’m asking you to accept the invitation because this message matters. It’s transformative. It’s the start of a legacy. It can reshape things to come.
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