After moving to a new city, our family lived temporarily in a drafty, dilapidated tenement house. When police tape appeared across one neighbors door and loud domestic quarrels from another apartment disturbed our sleep, I cried out, “God, what in the world am I doing in this place!”
My vision for ministry was focused on going “into all the world,” (see Matthew 28:19). But God showed me that “the world” included my new neighborhood. “Start where you are,” He seemed to tell me.
Our entire family decided to find ways to meet the 20 neighbors in our building. We learned names by reading labels on mailboxes, and began praying for individuals. When one family had a new baby, I bought them some baby formula. On other occasions, we dropped by with baby food.
We also reached out during holidays. At Thanksgiving, we passed out tracts tailored to specific neighbors. At Christmas, the children delivered candy canes and bookmarks telling the story of Jesus. On Valentine’s Day, we secretly delivered cards signed “Love, God.” One day, God prompted us to give Bibles to each neighbor. Before moving, we went door to door to give neighbors good-bye gifts of McDonald’s gift certificates, and told them about our relationship with Jesus. Most listened with genuine curiosity.
You can start to reach your neighbors, too. Here are some ideas for getting started.
- Begin with one block, floor, or apartment.
- Pray each night for your neighbors.
- Take your family on a weekly prayer walk through your neighborhood. As you walk, you’ll get to meet and chat with neighbors.
- Involve your children in delivering goodies.
- Ask God to open your eyes to ways to serve your neighbors, such as cooking for someone who is ill. Small acts can have a deep impact.
- Remember that the goal is relationship. Your neighbors are people worth knowing, not merely projects. Draw people out. Ask about their families, hobbies, and jobs. Invite them into your home. Be the type of person they would want to be around. In time, they may want to spend time with your Savior, too.
Published in the July/August 1999 issue of Discipleship Journal.