Your neighborhood, alive

Returning from work in Africa can be a little unnerving. In some ways, it’s the same, because a great deal of missionary work is not nearly as sexy as it sounds. I was still running after kids, still buying groceries, still feeding the dog. Everything had about three extra steps, but they were not usually heroic steps. (Filter water so family does not acquire intestinal parasites. Check.)

Still, I confess to having some genuine identity issues upon reentry (if you can count “reentry” lasting at least six months). I’m reinventing what it looks like to be a missionary sent to to….Colorado.

I believe what God’s been saying to me is something along the lines of Everyday faithfulness matters, Janel. Living and loving intentionally matters. In all these small, loving acts we’re each performing–collectively slathered over our world and creating more loving acts–I envision the lyrics of TobyMac’s song: Love will fall to the earth like a crashing wave.

Living “sent” by God…makes my eyes come alive. There are opportunities everywhere to love on people and show Jesus. In fact, there are far more opportunities than there are people to take them.

Remember the retinal scans from movies? (Y’know–think Mission: Impossible.) Everyone’s eye, everyone’s perspective, is different. Jesus even describes our eyes as the “lamps” of the bodies. In my mind, I picture the lamps He would have used: what lights up depends on where you swing or set your lamp.

What I’m saying is this: This month on the blog, we’re perceiving how the Holy Spirit is moving in our neighborhoods. And that outworking is as unique as a fingerprint. We each recognize different gaps where we can enter in and be Jesus’ hands to someone. We each possess different strengths, expressions of God’s character for the good works He prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). For each one of us, it looks different to “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).

Sometimes I’ve wondered, Why is no one stepping in there? And perhaps the answer is, Maybe no one sees the need like you do.

Allow me to share some real-life examples. (I’ve changed their names.)

  • Jim and Sue brought their next-door neighbor and her two toddlers (one disabled) into their home for five months to remove them from a destructive home situation.
  • When Matt and Carly’s daughter brought home a friend from school from an abusive home, they regularly welcomed her into their own family’s activities. They taught her life skills and coached her through her home situation. Now, as an adult, she spends holidays and family vacations with them.
  • Terrell and Carrie got involved in politics so that they could affect the laws and culture around them.
  • Judy, a pastor’s wife, also serves on the local school board. She’s the chairperson now.
  • Mark and Suzanne hold block parties to build relationships with neighbors.
  • Bill and Rita allowed neighborhood kids to play at their home regularly. Some members of the neighborhood (accurately, it turns out) suspected the kids’ father to be a drug dealer–but Bill and Rita didn’t think they could pass up the opportunity to love on those kids.
  • James and Kitty prayerfully chose to sacrifice some of the peace of their home to become foster parents.
  • Jerry and Sydney serve as active mentors at an inner-city school.
  • Terry’s kids shovel elderly neighbors’ walks in the winter for free.
  • Francesca’s neighbor didn’t know how to bake, but wanted to learn. Francesca welcomed her over regularly–and they cooked up some great conversation, too.
  • Shirley watches neighborhood kids so their parents can take a date night to strengthen their marriages.
  • Traci regularly meets with other moms from the elementary school so they can pray for the students, teachers, and administration.
  • Virginia sets at least three hours aside from her job out of her home so she can have coffee with women who need some encouragement.

Paul writes,

there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

How is God longing to make our neighborhoods come alive? And how will we respond?

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2 thoughts on “Your neighborhood, alive”

  1. Thank you for opening my eyes to my “neighborhood!” I personally thought neighbors were pretty much gone…. good neighbors were from my childhood only. I never thought about the fact that GOD brought me to my new home – FOR the neighbors! It gives me purpose beyond my normal thinking! Thank you!

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