Kelly Carr

Welcoming the Stranger

Kelly Carr
Welcoming the Stranger

by Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros

“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” (Matthew 25:35).

Jesus of Nazareth showed up at my home in San Antonio, Texas on April 23, 1988.

In his left hand Jesus carried a rope the color of cigars—reminiscent of the ones my grandfather liked to smoke whilst he sat in his sand-colored recliner, watching Pedro Infante movies. The frayed end of the rope was wrapped around Jesus’ wrist like a lifeless snake, wound tight. The other end was loosely wrapped around his young donkey’s neck. His right hand held a modest canteen. His powder blue robe barely covered his open-toed sandals.

Looking at him was like gazing into Bethlehem; his skin was colored like mine, his eyes were the color of aventurine stones, not quite jade. 

OPen door

When the Franciscan whom I thought was Jesus knocked on our door, I was 9 years old and he was not a day over 40. He had trekked up the small hill that led to our side door without losing his breath. The evening sky covered our two-acre yard in deep blues, castilleja reds, and faded charcoal. A canopy of stars wouldn’t appear for another few hours. Navigating the yard at nighttime was not easy, especially if you encountered a copperhead or a Texas bull nettle. He had made it to the side door without having been bit or pricked. That was the first miracle.

This was the first time I saw
faith in action.

Upon opening the door to this stranger, my grandparents asked him a few questions before inviting him into the house. Their questions were inaudible to me, as I was asked to stand away from the door. I could see Jesus, but I couldn’t reach him.

This was the first time I saw faith in action. He spent the night in an extra bedroom, and upon waking I found my grandma had invited our entire family to come feast with this young Franciscan.

His stories of travel were majestic storytelling. His path would take him from California to Mexico City and back again. I no longer remember his name or the reason for his journey, only that he was to complete the whole pilgrimage by foot because God had asked him to.

Sometimes we answer God’s call on our lives
and never look back.

I watched him speak softly and smile downward, never meeting the gaze of my grandmother’s eyes, and I heard him lead prayer for the entire kitchen table. We looked like the wooden-framed painting which hung from doorway where Jesus gathered for a meal with His disciples.

I don’t remember speaking. I only remember that I was enamored with his pilgrimage. Sometimes we answer God’s call on our lives and never look back.

biblical hospitality

He and his donkey stayed a few days before he went on his way. When he descended the hill, something out of Bless Me, Ultima, the cactus nopales bent toward him, their tuna fruits bowed in adoration. My grandmother gawked, “What if we fed and clothed Jesus!?”

For the rest of my life I would come to know biblical hospitality as opening our door to a stranger. This was his second miracle.

What we had to gain by letting him in far outweighed what we had to lose. This jar-half-full mentality is often dangerous but can be a radical catalyst for freeing our spirit to welcome healing, forgiveness, and simply learning from one another. An opportunity to share our home, our table, and stories of where God brings us and takes us is an open door to the healing miracle that is Kingdom come. On earth as it is in Heaven.

posted on April 16, 2018


Meet the Author:

Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros is a Tejana poet, freelance writer, and speaker. Her work focuses on faith and Latinidad and can be found in On Being, The Acentos Review, Rock & Sling, and many more. She has forthcoming publications in The Rumpus, Bird's Thumb, Latina Outsiders: Remaking Latina Identity, and others. She keeps a regular blog at



Photo by Jonny Swales on Unsplash