I knew I had found the right place when I saw the cross-shaped emblem above the door. Tammy greeted me with a warm smile and the promise of coffee freshly brewing in the kitchen. I complimented the colorful streaks in her hair, wondering if the touring musicians she constantly served were having an effect on her sense of personal style.
Rich and Tammy have been hosting traveling bands and musicians, both secular and Christian, in their home as volunteers with RYFO, a CRM team working to eliminate the divide between the Church and the musician community. We sat down together in their living room on couches that all convert into beds. The coffee table where Tammy put the coffee tray (complete with heavy cream—“the good stuff” according to Rich) had drawers filled with bedding for their guests. For the last two years Rich and Tammy have averaged 2-5 stays a month in their home—offering bands “a place to eat, a place to sleep, a place to bathe, and a place to do their laundry”—which often means staying up late to greet the band after midnight, and heading out in the morning for their day jobs with instructions to the band to lock up on their way out. This kind of radical hospitality takes a lot of trust, energy, and patience, but I could tell from our conversation that these two wouldn’t have it any other way.
“So,” I asked, “how did you get connected to RYFO?”
“I had gotten a calling to support music,” Tammy started. “God just said, ‘Support the music,’ and I kept my ears open as to what he meant by that. I realized that God had given so many gifts to artists, to share in so many different ways.” She and Rich started connecting with bands in practical ways at shows, and eventually they ran into the director of RYFO. “RYFO just stuck in my heart,” she said. “It took us about a year to decide to host.”
“Was it a hard decision to make?” I asked, knowing this kind of hospitality took some real sacrifice on their parts—they both worked full-time in the medical field and still had one kid at home.
“No,” she replied. “I kept hoping this would happen. You know it’s something that God’s made you to do when you kinda sit back and say, ‘Wait. That’s a ministry? We can really do that?’ We have friends who moved to Cambodia, and when we’d ask them why they would do that, they would say, ‘Why not?’ And that’s how we feel. Why not? This is just something that we’re excited to do.”
“This is the mission field coming to our front door,” Rich told me. “They’re going to come here and they’re going to be served.” Far from glamorous, Rich and Tammy explained to me that the life of a traveling musician is very wearing. “It’s such a grind,” Rich said. “They’re traveling around the country in a half-broken down van, doing their laundry in a laundromat. And fame is hard on people. Thousands are calling your name, and you can feel so alone.” In contrast, a RYFO home is a place where musicians can let their guard down and just be regular people. “I think it’s refreshing to them when they come in here and you’re gracious, you’re sharing the love of Christ through what he’s blessed you with, and not asking the questions that most fans do—just talking about the football game last night. To them, it’s kind of like coming home. ‘Mom’ is cooking for them, and I’ll help them with mechanical stuff on the car once in awhile.”
“When you’re first stepping into having strangers in your home, you wonder what God has planned for it,” Tammy admitted. “But when you see the way things unfold—the need, the ways hearts are affected, that you’re not just letting bands crash, but that they see the love you’re extending to them for what it is—you want to give it more.”
“With the second stay we ever had, the guy wasn’t a believer, and it was such a neat encounter. This young man was about my son’s age, and he was conflicted with his belief. He was so, so quiet when he came in. He thought he was coming to a punk house—which is just a trash house where people do drugs and crash. When he came in and saw the beds all made up with pillows and comforters, and when I showed him the food and how he could make himself breakfast, he was totally blown away. As I was about to go to bed (it was past midnight), all of a sudden he opened up, saying how incredible it was that a Christian would open their heart to somebody like him. It was hard to realize that he sees Christians as selective in who they would be open to help. We just stood there talking for about two hours. He led the conversation to Jesus and the Bible, and shared his thoughts on it. I listened and confirmed the truths, and told him my opinion in a gentle way. To have him open that discussion was just incredible. And after that I said, ‘OK God, I get it. This is what you want.’”
“The secular guys are kinda blown away by the hospitality,” Rich added. “They ask why we’re doing this, if this comes out of our pockets, what we want from them. The Christian bands kinda know this is what Christians do. But the secular ones are like, ‘What’s up with this?’”
“We’re sharing the gospel with the kids that don’t know Christ yet,” Tammy said, “just by extending hospitality, patience, and kindness in a place where they might not expect it.”
Tammy has a special playlist that Rich calls her “pray-list” containing one song from each band they’ve hosted. Listening through her list helps her pray specifically for each musician. She’ll often ask a band what track they suggest she use, which breaks the ice and opens doors to deeper conversations.
I’d heard a lot from Rich and Tammy about the way hospitality was impacting the musician community. But I wanted to hear the other side. “How has this ministry impacted you?” I asked.
“There are lots of things written in the Bible that I’ve heard over and over, like 'Everything you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to me.'” Tammy began. “At midnight making beds or cleaning up, getting laundry done or something, I know I’m doing it unto the Lord. And this is putting all of that understanding [about scripture] into action.”
“This is making me more impactive in my faith,” said Rich. “We’re praying a lot, Bring here who needs to be here—let it be a place of peace and rest for them. And let us be willing to bring them into our home, that God’s blessed us with. Doing this has made us better together. It’s strengthened our marriage and our faith.
Tammy agreed. “With doing ministry together instead of separately, you can’t help but grow together in your faith. It strengthens your marriage because you’re both heading together towards the same goal of ministering to the same people.”
“I’ve become much more open minded to so many different souls and hearts,” Tammy reflected. “A person may be tough, tattooed, or whatever, on the outside, but now I have more insight of the depths of someone and their needs, and a broader understanding of God’s love and his grace. Now I’m confident in knowing that I can be a channel of God’s love, without any more effort than being willing and asking for God’s help.”
After a proper tour of Rich and Tammy’s home, complete with bins of towels, first-aid supplies, snack drawers, and snapshots of bands on the kitchen walls, I left feeling inspired. What kind of couple is willing to minister in such a way to strangers, on top of regular jobs, sharing their time and space with people who are often overlooked by the Church community? People who were ready to make their lives totally available to Jesus. I felt like I’d experienced a small taste of what RYFO’s director, Simeon, had shared with me earlier:
What bands that don’t know Jesus experience is “Wow, this is not the Christianity that I understood or knew!” It’s sacrificial, generous, flexible hospitality. There is a different environment and spirit that they experience there. Hospitality is a spiritual gift that lives in them. It’s something that opens up conversations. They’re not gonna preach at you; they’re gonna love you and embrace you and treat you like family.
It was powerful.
RYFO is actively seeking new host homes for their hospitality network. There are nearly 900 bands registered with RYFO and currently only about 60 host homes in the US. When I asked what advice Rich and Tammy would have for prospective hosts, Rich responded, “I think it’s like any other ministry. If your heart’s in it—where God guides, God provides. For us, it’s been such a blessing!”
WAYS TO RESPOND
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Megan Beehler joined CRM in 2014, and serves as a writer on the Communications Team. She loves sharing space with so many people who embody the love of Jesus around CRM, and is always up for adventures involving mountains, giant trees, or other cultures.