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Albritton: The strangers who became family

Albritton: The strangers who became family

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Albritton: The strangers who became family

Walter Albritton

It was a strange request from our son Matt. “Dad, our friends Alfred and Muumbe Kalembo from Zambia have no place to go for Christmas. Would you and Mom like to invite them to spend Christmas week with you at the Cabin?”

He was calling from Asbury Seminary in Kentucky where he and Alfred were third-year students. “And, by the way,” Matt added, “They have five children and the youngest are 2-year-old twin girls.”

After getting the green light from Dean, I said, “Yes, son, we would love to have your friends spend Christmas with us.” A few minutes later, Dean and I were gasping for breath. What had invited perfect strangers with five children to spend a week with us in a cabin that had only three beds! And we did not even know if they could speak English!

It never occurred to us that we were obeying the biblical instruction found in Hebrews 13:1-3. This is how J.B. Phillips translates it: “Never let your brotherly love fail, nor refuse to extend your hospitality to strangers — sometimes men have entertained angels unawares. Think constantly of those in prison as if you were prisoners at their side. Think too of all who suffer as if you shared their pain.”

Had I read the passage back then, I would have laughed at the idea that we were extending hospitality to angels. To us, Matt’s friends were simply a poor family from Africa that had no place to go for Christmas, and Dean and I were meeting their need.

Our apprehension turned to joy as we shared that week with the Kalembo family. Their gracious presence was like a sweet fragrance in our home.

They loved Jesus. They loved life. They loved us. Within days, it seemed like we had known Alfred and Muumbe all our lives. Before the week was over, we had decided to “adopt” each other. We were more than brothers and sisters in Christ; we were family! And for 20 years now, the “ties that bind” have only grown stronger.

When we shared Christmas with them 20 years ago, we had no idea that “poor boy” born in a remote African village would return home and become a leadership giant in his country. Not only did he become a bishop, he served two terms as president of the Council of Churches of Zambia. He was called upon to preach the eulogy at the funeral of the president of Zambia.

Alfred and Muumbe are celebrating the publishing of his autobiography, “BREAKING BARRIERS,” now available from Amazon. He calls it his journey with Jesus, how a village boy rose to the heights of leadership in his nation.

Are Alfred and Muumbe angels? I don’t know. I do know that they are authentic servants of Christ. And without a doubt, one of the wisest decisions Dean and I ever made was to open our home to extend hospitality to strangers!

Walter Albritton is a Methodist minister and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him at

Walter Albritton is a Methodist minister and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him at


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