Miss Janey Bilderback was an eighty-year-old retired missionary from Africa. She gave her life away on the mission field and never married. This dear woman entered my life in junior high at the Southern Baptist Church I attended in West Palm Beach, Florida. Now looking back, you would think if you had served most of your life in rural Africa, that you might get a free pass for time well served when the youth pastor was recruiting Sunday School teachers. But she showed up week in and week out and opened the Bible with a bunch of insecure, clueless junior high girls. Miss Janey extended hospitality by opening our time with Dunkin Doughnut holes to get us talking. She saw past our small, awkward appearance and held up a vision of a big God who she believed could do abundantly more than we could ask or think. When we graduated from junior high school, she gave each girl in our class an embordered linen handkerchief. Even after we moved on to high school, she would write us notes and check in on us. I held onto that handkerchief long after Miss Janey went to be with the Lord. I asked the florist to include this priceless gift in the middle of my wedding bouquet. Miss Janey’s intergenerational friendship impacted me more than I could have ever imagined.

The Hospitality of the Gospel

A definition our family likes to use for hospitality is “to make space.” Of course, you make space at a table for a guest to dine by setting another place setting. But the hospitality of the gospel makes space in a myriad of different and costly ways. We can make space in a conversation to listen to the questions underneath the questions. Creating margin in our calendar to be able to have space to respond to the need of people in our life extends grace and hospitality. We are often stretched when we make space in our lives for different kinds of people who may struggle in different stages of their faith journey. Miss Janey made space for young women who had nothing to offer and each Sunday morning at 10 a.m., we rehearsed the content of the gospel in the context of community over doughnut holes.

Hospitality also means welcoming strangers with the love of Christ. Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we were once aliens and strangers, but the gospel brings us near to the heart of Christ. We are now adopted into His family, and we belong to Him and each other. Jesus’ welcome of the gospel was costly. It cost Him His life on the cross. Hospitality is a gospel imperative that does not come naturally. It is a Spirit-empowered act that we are commanded to regularly practice. Miss Janey embodied the welcome of the gospel. She made space for a girl like me who was sixty-eight years younger than her.

Made for More!

I didn’t know it then, but Miss Janey reframed my thinking about the discipleship of women. Those days of sitting in that classroom gave me a holistic glimpse of the joy of inter-generational friendships among women. Over the years, I have seen the lasting fruit of cultivating the type of Titus Two culture among women, which strengthens the whole church. The beauty and the blessing of these kinds of eternal connections still take my breath away. I want to steward that eternal deposit that Miss Janey made in my life with you. That’s why we are inviting women in third grade and up to gather with us in eight cities for Made for More Conferences. We hope these events will be just the beginning of the conversation across the generations about how God’s Word provides foundational truths to stand on when the world offers shifting sands. Regardless of age, we all seek the answers to our heart’s most profound questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who am I? Who or What is shaping my life? We will gather around the ideas of creation design, gospel identity, and the joy of inter-generational friendships.

Would you join us in praying that this might be the beginning of reframing women’s discipleship from womb to tomb in our churches? We are excited about sharing the truth that women are made for more purpose, value, mission, hope, and belonging that the world could ever offer!

Registration for Made for More is now open for Birmingham, San Diego, Colorado Springs, Naples, Annapolis, Charlotte, Dallas, and Chicago. Click here to learn more.

Karen Hodge

Karen Hodge serves as the Coordinator for PCA Women’s Ministry, where she seeks to connect women and churches to one another and to sound resources. She is also having the time of her life serving alongside her husband, pastor and best friend Chris, at Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, CO. They have two adult children, Anna Grace Botka and Haddon Hodge. She is the host of the enCourage podcast and along with Susan Hunt, authored Transformed: Life-taker to Life-giver, Life-giving Leadership, and Breathe: The Life-giving Oxygen of the Lord’s Prayer.