As I reflect on the last ten years we’ve served families, I can’t help but think back to the moment I decided I would take a huge step of faith and start Hospitality House of Tulsa.  It was in that exact moment I began to realize that this calling was something God had been preparing in my life for a long time.

My first experience with medical crisis came when I was 17 years old, hearing the devastating words that my mother had advanced breast cancer.  Over the following 15 months, my parents would travel two hours to an Oklahoma City hospital for inpatient chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  They would be away from home five to seven days every six weeks or so.  With three teenagers at home, this could have been a disaster for me and my siblings, except for the incredible support we received from our home community in Sayre, Oklahoma.  Our community expressed love and support through meals, help with laundry, transportation, prayers, homework oversight and other things teenagers need.  You name it, they thought of the perfect way to express support in a medical crisis.

Sadly, my mother did not survive her cancer diagnosis, and at the young age of 52, she passed away in January 1985.  I was 19 years old.  That following year was extremely difficult – I still needed my mother.  On the one year anniversary of her death, I found myself in the depths of grief and pain.  I had only one direction to turn, and that was my faith in Christ.  That day, when I was only 20 years old, as my grief overtook me, through tears I choked out this prayer to God:

“God, I know you love me.

Toni and Her Mom, 1984

Toni and Her Mom, Mary Pat Park, 1984

But I don’t understand why this happened.

We still needed mom.

But I know Your word says

You work out all things for Your glory and for our good.*

So, for whatever purpose You had in mind

That things had to work out this way,

For that purpose, I’m saying yes.”

I prayed that prayer at 20 years old, and at 40 years old I said yes to starting Hospitality House of Tulsa.  This journey has been long, painful, rewarding, exciting, purposeful, and full of faith.  What amazes me every day is how so many people stepped up to help start Hospitality House based on the vision God shared with me.  What started with the pain of my family’s medical tragedy has now been worked out for the good of so many.

How many?  During this tenth year of service, we will have served over 10,000 people who faced a medical crisis away from home.  That’s a lot of good, but that’s also a lot of glory to God.  What will the next ten years bring for this mission?  Keep an eye out with us, because the excitement has already started.  God is opening another chapter in our practice of hospitality.

Still practicing,

Toni Signature 2

* “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV