Though our humble suburban home doesn’t boast of the best landscaping or the greenest grass, it does give us a unique, birds-eye view to all the comings and goings of our neighbors. As they walk their dogs, take coolers or paddle boards down to the lake and drive to and from work, we see their lives unfold before us day-by-day. Likewise, they see our family on display since our house is the corner lot to the main entrance of our neighborhood.
If you live in the suburbs like we do, you may have neighbors like ours: those that keep to themselves completely, those that do odd things and those that help chase the puppy down or buy lemonade from the kids.
Who are your neighbors? Do you consider them close friends or are they more like strangers that you smile at from a distance? Have you ever prayed for your neighbors? Or asked God to shine through your home as you live in the neighborhood?
My husband and I give thanks to God for our current next door neighbors. A knock on the door from her always brings a joyful, kind smile and sometimes homemade cinnamon rolls – just because! Her husband is always ready to teach our son how to drill a hole for ice fishing or to fix a bike. They are the type of people that have dropped everything to serve us and even mowed our lawn before we had the chance to meet them. We can’t imagine our life without those two! They are the kind of neighbors that are easy to love and make us excited to spend time with them.
Throughout our married life, we haven’t always had neighbors like this amazing couple. Ministry opportunities in different states have brought us to homes in the bustling inner city, acreages with farm animals and quaint townhomes nestled in quiet suburbs. We have had neighbors that have stolen from us, neighbors that have ridiculed us and plenty of neighbors that we never even met. Yet in each of the places we’ve lived, there has been a repeated temptation – smile at our neighbors but keep them at a distance whenever possible.
Can you relate? It’s easy to unwind and disengage from sharing your life. Intentionally opening up and taking time to love those around us doesn’t always come naturally, in fact, Romans 5:5 says that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” I often think of the phrase that we see on the walls of our church, Love, Live and Serve like Jesus. How did Jesus treat his neighbors? He certainly made time for them! And he made efforts to love them no matter who they were or where they came from. He taught us that to be a neighbor is to go so far as to care for those we may not especially be drawn to in the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.
Following his example has challenged our family to be intentional in praying for our neighbors, whether they were the type that stole from us or blessed us. There have been all kinds of neighbors that have been hard to love and a few that have been easy to love. Through all of these moves, our kids are now used to us taking time to pray for our neighbors and asking God to give us Gospel opportunities with them whenever they arise.
Truthfully, that usually means conversations at inconvenient times, and sharing belongings that have value to us when our neighbor has a need. As we’ve challenged our kids to do this alongside us, we have longed for our kids to have opportunities to share their faith too, no matter what age they are.
Recently, we were heading out the door running late and a neighbor stopped at the end of the driveway to chat. Perfect timing – not really. This specific neighbor has a young daughter that enjoys playing with ours and has shared with us that she has a lot of questions about faith practices and has researched a lot of other religions.
As the small talk began and the girls giggled away, one of our young daughters suddenly ran into the house to get her Bible. She told us later that in her heart she felt an irresistible desire to go get it and then began searching through it for a few of her favorite Bible verses to write on a piece of paper to give to the neighbor girl.
When the young gal saw our daughter intently looking through the book, she asked my daughter, “What is that book?” My daughter answered, ”It’s my Bible and I read it to learn about Jesus.” The mom quickly jumped in and said that her daughter has been asking repeatedly to go to church for the past several months but she didn’t know where to take her.
Our girls excitedly told them about how much they love going to Friendship Church and the neighbor mentioned that coincidentally her mom, the little girl’s grandma, had tried to take her daughter to Friendship one time, but had gotten lost and never made it there.
Later on in the conversation, we found out that the little girl had an upcoming birthday, but because of COVID, they would not be celebrating with anyone. As we left for church that weekend, we grabbed a Bible from the Family Ministry library and stopped to pray with a fellow staff member for this little girl and for her desire to go to church.
Through no small coincidence, our girls had attended a birthday party earlier that week and had accidentally left the gift at home. At the time, we were a block away from the party and I knew that we only had time to buy a new gift. In a moment of frustration I thought, how do you leave the present at home on the way to the party?
As it turns out, the Lord was working through our girls’ forgetfulness to provide us with a gift “at the ready” for this little girl that wanted to know more about Jesus. So, as a family, along with our Labrador puppy, all nine of us ran down to her house that Sunday evening to sing Happy Birthday on her doorstep and to deliver her a BIble and a gift, along with an invitation to come to an upcoming Family Ministry event at Friendship.
As I reflected on that day, I remembered how it crossed our minds to give an excuse that we didn’t have time to chat, but I am so grateful that the Lord prompted us to slow down and take time for them. It would have been so easy to rush the conversation, but visiting without an urgency gave time for the Holy Spirit to speak to our child to prompt her to bring her Bible outside and spark the conversation about church.
Only the Lord could have orchestrated all of those details to come together! There is no doubt that God is involved in the details of our lives and that His care for us is very specific.
Loving our neighbors isn’t always easy, even getting to know them requires effort. As you consider your neighbors and who God has placed all around you, will you take a minute to pray for them? Pray that Jesus would give you a love for them that would compel you to go out of your way when it’s not convenient. After all, you probably do have someone in your neighborhood just waiting to learn about Jesus!
This August 13, Friendship Church is hosting an event, Neighborhood Night in the Lot, at the Shakopee Campus starting at 6:30pm. This event is a great opportunity to connect with people in the community and to share the Gospel with them as you pick up cotton candy or a snow cone. There will also be food available for purchase, as well as tons of free bouncy houses and activities for the whole family. Postcards are available at the Welcome Center for you to share with friends or neighbors.
Would you consider going on a prayer walk around your neighborhood? Will you ask God to show you ways that you can love and serve your neighbors?
As you consider doing these things, my prayer for you is that you would be filled with boldness and compassion from the Holy Spirit as you consider how you can share the hope that you have found in Jesus Christ with the people God has placed all around you today.