Navigators Neighbors, Oregon
It is easy to live in a neighborhood and not know the people around us, but when we reach out intentionally, we find people craving connection and human interaction in our often isolated and lonely culture. There are many ways for ordinary people, in ordinary places, to help make disciples where they live, worship, work, and play.
John and Steff Winder (Navigators Neighbors) and their sons are living intentionally in their community to build relationships in their ordinary, day-to-day lives.
They started by making a map of their street, drawing in every house on the block. Then as they met neighbors, they put names on the houses and noted relevant information. That gave them the opportunity to follow-up in conversation with neighbors.
Simple actions such as stepping out onto the sidewalk to chat when they see someone going to the mailbox can foster relationships. They create community by opening their home—by making a pot of soup and inviting people to bring their own bowl and come over for dinner. The neighbors enjoy these gatherings and are always asking when the next one is happening.
Going to the farmers’ market every week is another example of intentional living. It’s a natural gathering place for their community. Steff shares, “We started introducing ourselves to the people we were buying fruits, vegetables, and cheese from every week, and learning their names. Over time we were getting to know vendors, beyond just names. I got to know the cheese vendor after talking to him every week. He asked if I could fill in for him running the booth every now and then. This gave me more facetime with people at the market and has naturally led to open doors, communication, and friendship.
“I also got to know the market coordinator at the farmers’ market. One day when I saw her, she looked downcast, and I asked her what was going on. She shared that her mother had just died. I gave her a hug, she cried on my shoulder, and that vulnerability took our relationship to a deeper level. It gave me a reason to follow up with her.”
“We can take friendships and conversations from a surface level to much deeper when a crisis comes,” John observes. “And crisis does come for everyone in this life. If we are in a position of friendship, then we have more opportunity to enter into someone’s pain.”
The vulnerability goes both ways. Neighbors reached out to Steff when her grandmother died, and she accepted their offers of help. She also felt free to talk to her neighbors about how her grandmother had the hope of Jesus, which tempered her grief. Since then, five more families on their block have been touched by deaths, and the Winders have been able to offer true friendship and care for those going through hard seasons.
In addition to living intentionally in their own sphere of influence, John and Steff have been coaching families in their church community.
One family had been complaining about an apartment complex that was going up in their neighborhood. They were searching for a chunk of land they could buy outside of town and build their house away from unwanted neighbors. The Winders began talking to them about seeing where they are as being placed by God to love the people around them. A few weeks ago, during a time of prayer, this family prayed for all the families that are now moving into the apartment complex. They prayed that God would give them opportunities to welcome these people into the neighborhood.
How ordinary! Yet this ordinary thinking—sharing God’s love—can be overlooked in the daily challenges of life if we are not intentional about connecting with those God has placed around us. And we don’t want to miss the very opportunity God has given us to share His extraordinary love through everyday interactions.
How can you intentionally connect with your neighbors and those you work, play, live, and worship with? Pray for those in your own sphere of influence, and for Navigators across the country and around the world as they point people to Jesus through ordinary relationships.