One of my favorite Bible passages is Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in.” A friend of mine followed Matthew’s words but would have read: “Ich bin Gast gewesen, und ihr habt mich beherbergt.”
My friend was very kind to me when I was a young newlywed living in Ybbs an der Donau, Austria. Rural Austria forty years ago is like a foreign planet compared the St. Louis Metro East of today. There was a big housing shortage, and we foreigners were lucky to have rooms in a house built in 1548 next to a moat that went to the Danube River. We had no bath, shower, refrigerator, television, or telephone. No one had heard of home computers or the internet yet. It took a week for a letter to travel between Austria and the USA. I paid to rent books from the library that was open 4 hours each week, and all the books were in German… Some people were nice; others were not. We had “Amis Go Home!” shouted at us, and once firecrackers were thrown at me in broad daylight.
My friend took me under her mothering wing and made a huge difference to my life that year. She invited us for meals, holidays and little trips. She taught me to bake special Austrian cookies, let us do laundry at her house, and her mother tried to teach me to darn my socks. When her daughter got married, we were invited to the wedding. The last time I visited in Austria she cried because she was afraid she’d never see me again. She died recently, and I cried when her daughter sent me the news. My friend taught me a lot in spite of our differences in age, native language, and culture. Liselotte Oberleitner did her best as she saw it, was devoted to her family and friends, took joy in every day, and followed the teachings of Jesus. “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Danke, Frau Oberleitner.