When we went to China in 1997, we were welcomed to our apartment twice.
The Foreign Affairs Department gave us our first welcome. They expressed sincere gratitude that we had come to China to teach and took us out to a lavish dinner. Then they gave us the keys to both doors (remind me to tell you sometime about the outer/inner door system) and walked us through the apartment. A small refrigerator stood in the entry hall. The dining room was equipped with table and chairs and 150 chopsticks, the living room had couches, a working phone, and a coffee table, and both bedrooms had beds, desks, and bureaus. And 10-15 thick comforters. The electricity and water were both already on.
Welcome to China! Call us if you need anything.
Wow. Where to begin, with this new life of ours?
Later, the other American family that was also housed in our apartment building came home and found that we had arrived. They came knocking.
Introductions, questions answered, we brought you this box of survival goods. Clean drinking water, crackers, bananas, peanut butter, toilet paper. The essentials of life.
The family across the hall walked with us in those early days of being in China. They taught us how to "do" shopping, eating out, etc. They invited us to come from our cold apartment and visit their warm, friendly apartment--how we valued those invitations! And the value wasn't because they were infrequent, either ... it was just amazing to get to walk life with them, enjoy their kids, play plenty of card games. They apologized that they didn't have a sparkling-clean house to invite us into, and sometimes they closed the locking door to indicate that it was a day for family-only and we shouldn't knock, but the point is that they invited us to do life together.
Welcome to a hard life. Let's walk together.
And that's discipleship.