Kairos—καιρός There are two words for time in Greek; chronos and kairos. The first identifies chronological time while the latter emphasizes an opportune moment in which to seize. God provides the moment and we are charged with responding to the opportunity.
A City Set On A Hill
“We believe we can change minds about what it means to be a Christian.”
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
A pastor friend of mine once said to me, “The hardest thing I have ever done in ministry is to lead my congregation to love and care for their actual neighbors.” It is so countercultural for the church, because churches are not designed to do this. However, obedience to Jesus is to let our light shine in the context where He has placed us and let His light emanate from our homes to the surrounding darkness. As our light begins to shine from our neighborhoods it has the potential to change whole cities. Observe how the Lord’s light is working its way out from Bob and Sandy’s neighborhood to the city of Fullerton, California.
Bob and Sandy Jensen’s Neighborhood
My wife, Sandy, and I moved to Fullerton, Orange County, California in 1979. When we arrived on our shady, quiet street, we learned that we had been adopted into an active, connected community of neighbors. Since the early 1950s, that tradition of connectedness influenced the character and quality of life on the street. At the center of all those activities were Barbara and Bill Kent, who served as the leaders of our neighborhood.
The Kents helped organize monthly teas for the women, where the activities of the street were discussed and planned, allowing full participation from all of her neighbors. The Kents helped produce Halloween and Christmas parties, as well as a July 4th block party each year. That all-day event included a breakfast buffet and tennis tournament, a themed parade with neighbors living on an adjacent street, children’s games and swimming, and a pot-luck dinner and fireworks in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street. Before each Christmas party Mrs. Kent would present a slide show representing July 4th party photos from the year before, 5 years before, 10 years before, and so on. She took great pride in enlisting her audience’s participation in identifying all of the children in the photos, and she shared stories about the children and their families. In many cases those children, now grown up, were returning to the street to bring their own children to the Richman Knoll July 4th party.
Mrs. Kent also published a street map with neighbors’ first names and phone numbers. She also offered our family access to her swimming pool, which is where our children learned how to swim. If anyone was seen driving at unsafe speeds on our quiet street, it was Barbara who knocked on that family’s door and asked them to drive more carefully. When people moved away, it was the Kents and neighbors on the street who organized send-off parties. Years later when Sandy and I read the The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and David Runyon, we realized that the Kents had practiced the art of neighboring for decades.
Many changes have occurred in the years since the early 1950s, but the vision of the Kents and their early neighbors have continued. After Bill died and Barbara moved into an assisted living facility, Sandy and I, eager to be involved in the lives of those living around us, felt drawn to continue many of these neighborhood activities. We help organize the July 4th events, host Christmas Open Houses, Pumpkin Carving parties, and Ice Cream Socials, and we share these responsibilities with a closely connected network of volunteer neighbors. When new folks move onto to our streets, we welcome them into this culture of connectedness that has lasted nearly 70 years.
During this time of neighborhood involvement Sandy and I became involved in Global and Local Missions through our church. We have asked the Lord for opportunities to honor Him through service to others, and the Lord has abundantly answered that prayer. We’ve met some remarkably inspiring Kingdom workers through the years. Among those people have been Jay Williams, our local outreach pastor who now runs OC United, a non-profit seeking to make a difference in our city, authors like David Runyon and Lynn Cory, activists like Matt Svadja of Fiducia (a neighboring ministry initiative), and other incarnational missionaries whose faith calls them into action in highly imaginative and compassionate ways.
Sandy and I have tried to combine what we learned from the Kents and those people committed to living intentionally in their communities by reading several books on those topics, and participating in Bible Studies, conferences, and workshops focused on neighboring. With the help of Matt Svadja, we also launched neighboring classes at our church. Two of the most important lessons we learned is that our love for our neighbors must be offered without strings attached, and that we need to consistently pray for our neighbors and for opportunities to demonstrate the Gospel in action.
Neighboring and local outreach service came together in the spring of 2019, when our city service day, Love Fullerton, assigned a large team to do weed abatement on an acre of tall weeds and underbrush for a family struggling with health issues and related financial problems. Because that family has struggled since coming to the street, Sandy and I have decided that we are called to love them and pray for them, expecting nothing in return. As we work with City officials, Vector Control, and the Fire Department about conditions on their property, we continually remind ourselves of Jesus’ call to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”
We are all works in progress, and our outreach to our neighbors will continue to evolve. The people on our street know that we are Christians, and it is important to us that we reflect those values in our relationships with them. By making ourselves available to our neighbors and deepening our relationships with them, we believe we can change minds about what it means to be a Christian.
A time for reflection:
Bob and Sandy’s lives were deeply influenced by the Kents. Had they not lived in Barbara and Bill’s neighborhood the trajectory of their lives more than likely would have taken a different course. The lives of those who live in our neighborhood are very precious to God and we have the opportunity to touch their lives in a life-changing way and they ours. How are you being changed by those in your neighborhood and what kind of influence are you having in theirs?
(Bob and Sandy attend the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, where they serve as Missions Coordinators for their adult fellowship class, have served on the Mission Board, and have participated in or led six short term Global Missions Teams. Bob serves as a leader for Love Fullerton, and Sandy serves on the Board of Bless Vietnam Initiative. Sandy is the Communications Director for Far East Broadcasting Company, an international broadcast ministry. Bob is retired from Fullerton College, where he served as a Theatre professor and Dean of Fine Arts during a span of 35 years. They have three children and two grandchildren who live in Southern California.)
DO I HAVE TO LOVE MY NEIGHBOR?
“I’m the neighbor and I’m here to help.”
“Now he had to go through Samaria.” – John 4:4
The story of Jesus meeting the “Woman at the Well” is a favorite, but it begins with an unusual statement, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” This reflected Jewish thinking of the day. I will only go through Samaria if I have to. Samaritans might be our neighbors, but they are to be avoided. It was an “Us vs. Them” mentality. If I have to go through Samaria, I will do it quickly and with minimal contact. In John 4:27, when the disciples find Jesus engaged in a long conversation (the longest conversation recorded in the Gospels) with a woman with strange beliefs and loose morals, they were astonished.
Bill and Anamarie Dwyer
I (Bill) hate to admit it, but for years, like many Christians, I avoided my neighbors. When I say “avoid” I don’t mean I didn’t care about their lives or salvation. I just mean I didn’t stop long enough to engage them. I would wave, I might even chat over the hedge, but I wasn’t intentional about relating to them. We never had long conversations. Instead, I focused on my relationships at church where I was surrounded by people who had common values and beliefs. I enjoyed a great sense of community in my church, but had almost no sense of community in the community where I lived. The neighbors I loved were all Christians and they loved me.
When my wife and I moved to a Northridge, California, the Lord put it on our hearts to be intentional with our neighbors. The first thing we did (actually, she did it), was to have an open house. Anamarie went door-to-door giving out hand-made invitations to our dessert get-together. We were shocked when over thirty people showed up, many with bottles of wine.
Many of our neighbors had never met, even though they had lived here for decades. Some told us they were surprised to see our next-door-neighbor. They thought she was dead! It was a diverse group ethnically, spiritually, and socially. We discovered a number of our neighbors were believers, but we realized, like us, they had little relationship with the people on our street. They were too busy with family and church.
Our little soiree confirmed the Lord’s leading, so we began inviting neighbors to our small group. Not all responded, but several did and one-at-a-time they opened their hearts to Jesus. One precious neighbor, Lola, who gave her life to Christ died a few years ago. We were at her side as she was in hospice at home. Knowing she is with the Lord is just wonderful.
I decided to become more intentional about being available in crisis situations. Our neighborhood had several elderly shut-ins who would frequently fall. Weekly we had the paramedics roll down our street with flashing lights. The local fire captain even whispered to me, “We call your neighborhood, ‘The Legends of the Fall.’” When an emergency vehicle would show up, I noticed that neighbors would gather and stand around trying to figure out what happened. I tried a different approach. I simply walked into the home like I belonged there and would humbly declare, “I’m the neighbor and I’m here to help.” Although the paramedics looked at me like I was a bit strange, my neighbors always appreciated me being there, even if I barely knew them. When serious injuries occurred, I was able to hold hands, give a hug, pray or give a ride to a family member who needed to follow the ambulance to the hospital. People open up in crises and important bonds form as you simply make yourself available.
On one occasion, the fire department, paramedics, police and the coroner descended on our street. A large crowd gathered. People were wondering what had happened. One woman was whispering, “I heard he murdered his wife.” Although I didn’t know the family, I decided I wasn’t just going to stand in the crowd be a spectator to a tragedy. I ducked under the police tape, walked through the front door and pulled my, “I’m the neighbor and I’m here to help.” card. I found a heartbroken husband and father. He had come home with his young son to find his wife had taken her life in their home. I was able to sit with him for quite a while. When I offered prayer, he was very grateful. Many years have passed, but that dad and I are friends. He has come to Christ and so has his son. In fact, his boy was active in our Children’s Ministry for years. Now, a teenager, he recently stopped by my home with a couple of high school buddies and said, “Hey Bill, I want you to meet my buddies. They are Christians, too.” It brought Anamarie and I to tears.
A time for reflection:
When Jesus called us to “Love your neighbor,” he wasn’t giving us an option or suggestion, but a command. That’s why Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” He had to model not ignoring your neighbor. That’s why he had to engage an immoral woman with strange beliefs. She needed Living Water to wash her of her sins and to satisfy her thirst. Our neighbors need that same Living Water and God has planted us in neighborhoods throughout our city so we can share the life of Jesus with others. Take some time to think about and pray about your neighbors. How can you be more intentional with them? If you ask with sincerity, I’m sure the Lord will speak.
When Neighboring Challenges Come from Within
“At that moment, we felt completely betrayed and abandoned.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV)
Maybe you have heard the phrase, “the church is the only organization in the world that shoots her own wounded.” Neighboring is difficult when there are conflicts or challenges from those who do not yet embrace Christ. It can be even more trying when the challenges or conflicts come from those within the body of Christ.
Tom and Cami Anthony’s Neighborhood
What started as a grand desire to reach a neighborhood together turned into the most difficult season of our lives. As a new neighborhood was being built west of the city, we were approached by a family in our church to consider purchasing homes together. The dream was to build in proximity in order to partner in neighboring and reach the families around us. After much prayer, we made the decision to move.
A third family joined the process, and the first six months in the new community brought exciting opportunities and dozens of new relationships. We found families moving into a new community were eager to get to know their new neighbors. Block parties, soup nights, and regular times of connecting in the street in front of our homes ensued. Neighborhood Bible studies started, and people who had never experienced Christian community were drawn to what God was doing. The LORD was definitely moving in the hearts of those around us.
About that time, our family was going through a significant transformation. We had six children under the age of twelve and were about to adopt two more, a niece and nephew, out of the foster care system. While we were not idyllic in how disruptive we thought this transition would be, there was no way to know just how much of a challenge this would create in the life of our family.
Imagine two children pulled from their home by Child Protective Services and placed into foster care for five years – yes, five years – coming to live in another state with a pastor’s family with six children they hardly knew. Needless to say, it was not a smooth transition in those early months. While God was definitely shaping the hearts and lives of all ten people under our roof, we were a messy work in progress. Support groups for us, counseling for all, and therapy for the adopted kids were very helpful. We had support from a variety of different people, and God was in the center of our mess. In exasperation one day, I confessed to a trusted Christian mentor, “These kids make me so angry!” His response penetrated my heart when he said, “They don’t make you angry. They simply reveal what was already there.” During this season, what we felt we needed most was the faithful support of our Christian neighbors. What actually happened was the exact opposite.
Our desire for authentic community had us sharing the struggles, the emotions, and the sinful attitudes being brought to the surface in our lives. Instead of extending prayer, encouragement, and love, we were on the receiving end of accusations, withdrawal, and even threats. It was one of the most difficult times in both of our lives. At that moment, we felt completely betrayed and abandoned.
What we didn’t know was our situation had touched a wounded place deep in the heart of one of our Christian neighbors and also brought other childhood traumas to the surface for a few others. While we started a grand adventure to “reach the neighborhood,” God had other plans for transformation. As things became broken relationally between the Christians on the block, God was still working bringing neighbors to faith and involvement in the church. And He was doing His work of transformation in the hearts of the Christ followers on the street not allowing pain, trauma, childhood experiences, and unseen wounds to go unchecked.
If the story ended there, it might be difficult to want to jump into loving our neighbors and our Christian brothers and sisters. We might be reluctant to love neighbors if there was only pain and sorrow. But our God is a redemptive God. A few years after God called us to another state and another church, we received a letter in the mail. It was a letter of apology. Over several pages, one of our neighbors poured out her heart of conviction, repentance, and desire for relational reconciliation. God did a miraculous work of healing many of the hearts involved. What started as a grand desire to reach people around us who did not know Jesus Christ turned into a redemptive story of forgiveness, healing, transformation, and reconciliation.
A time for reflection:
It is very hard to read what Tom and Cami went through, but their story imparts a very important perspective. Neighboring can be portrayed as this idyllic adventure, especially with believers working together in a neighborhood. Tom has given a realistic picture of what we all need to hear when it comes to loving our neighbors. It’s not a blissful endeavor that is wrapped up with a pretty bow on top. Though the Great Commandment is not a spiritual discipline, in fact, it is the aim of the spiritual disciplines, there is nothing that brings about personal transformation like obedience to loving God and loving neighbor. Have you already begun to love your neighbors and have become disillusioned by a negative encounter with a neighbor? Have you said to yourself, because of this discouraging experience, “I am not doing that again.”? Is it time to reevaluate that decision and talk with some respected friend about what you went through with the hopes of taking baby steps back into loving your neighbors? If you are new to neighboring, are you willing to step into it even though you might encounter difficulty with a neighbor? Take time to make this consideration before stepping out.
(Tom and Cami have been involved in neighboring for over twenty years and have served in a variety of roles on church staffs in Indiana, Texas, and Colorado. They currently live in Colorado Springs and are involved in “transforming lives from the neighborhoods to the nations” at Mountain Springs Church. Tom serves as the Executive Pastor of Ministries and Outreach. They have eight grown children and are expecting their first grandchild in 2019.)
Making Apprentices of Jesus
“Loving my neighbors is more than just doing nice things for them.”
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
In Jesus exists all power and authority. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus, much like a sheriff, deputized His disciples to assume His responsibility, acting on His authority. What responsibility was He passing on to them? They were to extend the invitation into apprenticeship with Jesus. Even as He was returning to heaven, Jesus said to them, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His Spirit would join them, and us, in this work of making disciples.
Jesus instructs His disciples that they are to baptize His new apprentices into the triune God and instruct them to be obedient to everything He commanded. This invitation for making disciples wasn’t for a select few in the church, but for all. Thanks to the obedience of Jesus’ followers, the gospel spread rapidly throughout the known world for three centuries. But when the Church limited this work to leaders, the progress of the Church in spreading the gospel was impeded and the Church itself weakened. Not being obedient to the Lord’s instruction in the Great Commission by His followers, today is one of the greatest omissions of the Church. We have lived vicariously through our leaders rather than being personally obedient to the Lord’s command.
My story is more of a confession than anything else.
Lynn and Jo Cory’s Neighborhood
Jo and I have been involved in loving our neighbors in three different neighborhoods since the 70’s. We have initiated countless activities in our neighborhoods through the years. Our home has always been open to our neighbors and we have seen God work in some amazing ways. However, from time to time God has asked me to do some things that were threatening…at least I thought they were at the time. I have experienced how He has taken me slowly, step by step, to the next thing that He has asked me to do with my neighbors. Each time I dragged my heels until I gave in to His direction and stepped out.
The Lord has made it clear to me that loving my neighbors is more than just doing nice things for them. The Great Commission, making disciples, plays an essential part in neighboring. The Lord put on my heart to start a neighborhood Bible Study. Out of fear, I put off doing what he asked me to do. I thought, “What would neighbors think if I promoted a Bible study in our neighborhood?” I supposed they might distance themselves from me if I did. I continued to grapple with it until one day I received a text from a neighbor that said something like this, “If you ever start a Bible Study, would you invite me?” I knew the Lord was speaking to me through this neighbor and I thought to myself, “How should I go about it?” Finally, I could put it off no longer, so I designed a flyer for our neighbors and this was the basic content of the invitation,
Neighborhood Discovery Bible Study
Lynn and Jo Cory’s Home
This is the first time we have ever done anything like this for our neighbors, so we would love it if you could join us. We already have some neighbors who have accepted our invitation. This group is not associated with any church…just for neighbors who desire to learn about what God says in the Bible. Each of us will have an opportunity to give our input and learn together. We are very excited to invite you. If you would like to bring a dessert item, please do. Oh yes, bring a Bible if you have one or we can supply one.
It’s going to be fun!
Much to my surprise, the Lord began to open the door to different neighbors who wanted to join us. Some I invited personally, some responded to the flyer, and one flagged me down as I was walking through my neighborhood. She pulled me aside and said, “May I talk with you about something? It’s spiritual.” We had never talked about anything spiritual prior to that. We talked at length in front of her house and after our discussion I invited her to our Discovery Bible Study that meets on Monday nights in our home. She asked, “You have a Bible Study on Monday nights right across the street?” And I responded with, “Yes, and we would love it if you would join us.” My fears were dispelled and through the Bible study God has connected us as neighbors in a very special way. These neighbors have become our close friends, not just geographically; we have genuine concern for one another, we share meals together, we help each other. The wonderful thing about a neighborhood Bible study is that everyone is just a short walk away. We are experiencing community much like the early church.
One of my favorite memories is when one of our neighbors in the Bible study stopped me on one of my walks and asked if I did counseling. I said, “Yes.” She responded with, “How much do you charge? I said, “Nothing.” We made arrangements to get together on a Saturday morning when Jo could join us. She shared with us and I pointed out to her that the Lord could take care of her situation if He were in her life. She expressed interest to Jo and me. So, I shared my story with her in how I came to the Lord and how I prayed with a friend and invited the Lord into my life. She said, “I would like someone to do that with me.” I asked her, “Would you like to do that right now?” And she said, “Yes.” She gave her life to the Lord and was baptized in our pool with those in our Bible study sharing in her eventful celebration. She has commented on different occasions how much the Bible Study means to her. She has gone through the book of John, Philippians, and is presently going through the book of Acts with us.
Another member of the Bible Study group reflects on her experience with us this way. “I was eager to deepen my journey toward Christ by studying the Bible in a more organized, structured way. The ideal opportunity came with an invitation from Jo and Lynn, who not only had solid academic knowledge of Scripture but an abiding and deeply personal love for the Lord. I had seen, firsthand and over many years, how they applied His word to their lives and to every relationship. When we began our study, nearly two years ago, I knew I would grow in my knowledge and understanding of the Bible – and I have. What I did not expect was how our time together with our neighbors (some of whom I knew casually, some I’d only met at the Corys’ neighborhood gatherings) would turn us not just toward the Lord but toward each other. Each week, we bring our Bibles and our open hearts, and we continue to learn about the Lord – and each other. We share private struggles and triumphs, we tease and laugh and encourage one another, and we pray together. I’ve been deeply affected. When my teen daughter was in a terrible accident last year, I texted Lynn almost immediately. I found enormous comfort in our group during the first few traumatic weeks and in the months of her subsequent recovery as I was enveloped in love and concern, and lifted by prayer. I’m grateful, too, for whatever encouragement or connection I’m able to offer the others. I’ve come to admire and love their goodness, intellectual rigor and devotion to the Lord, and I so enjoy the sheer variety of personalities and points of view! Recently I have even found the confidence to speak more readily to others about the Lord and the many rewards of my quest to know Him more fully, and that’s another unexpected and wonderful outcome of our Bible study. I continue to look forward to Monday nights at the Cory dining room table as one of my favorite weekly commitments!”
With this new little community of believers in our neighborhood, we now plan events together and share in the opportunity of handing out flyers and working together on BBQs, potlucks, welcoming new neighbors and other neighborhood gatherings.
I have been involved in small group gatherings with believers since the 70’s, but this experience with those in our neighborhood has given us a greater sense of community because of geographic proximity.
A time for reflection:
Though it took me way too long to initiate our neighborhood Bible study, there is another mistake that can be made in starting a neighborhood group…starting too soon. There are those who have jumped right in to starting a bible study with their neighbors and have found that there has been no response or even worse, they have alienated themselves from their neighbors. You should not start a group before you have devoted time in prayer about this endeavor and developed meaningful relationships with those in your neighborhood. Have you ever considered starting a Bible study with your neighbors? Here are a few things to consider before stepping out:
- Have you been praying about starting a Bible study and developing meaningful relationships with your neighbors?
- Has the Lord been prompting you about starting a Bible study?
- If you are starting the group as a couple, make it a team effort.
- Are there other believers in your neighborhood who might like to join you?
- Begin to ask the Lord to show you how He would like you to go about promoting the study. Flyers may be helpful, but give it a personal touch by talking with them about the Bible study when you hand it out to your neighbors.
- When you start a Bible study with your neighbors, you should design it so everyone participates.
- Here are the questions I used for our Neighborhood Discovery Bible Study so everyone could participate.
Discovery Bible Study*
- Start with a short prayer
- What are you thankful for?
- What is stressing or challenging you?
- Is there anything we can do to help relieve the stress? (ex. Prayer, help in some way, etc.)
- Bible Study
- Ask everyone to read a portion of the chapter in the Bible.
- Walk through the text little by little asking them what it means, observation, questions, etc.
- How can we apply this this week?
- Is there anyone who could benefit from what you have learned or want to apply?
- Close with prayer (If you sense that others are ready to pray, ask them if they would like to pray.)
* You will find that it will become more free flowing as you get to know each other better.
Look for People of Peace
“I have been watching your life and I want what you have.”
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’” Luke 10:11:5-11
When Jesus sent out the seventy disciples, He directed them to go into communities and look for those in neighborhoods who would welcome them, literally, into their homes. But in addition to being received, it also means that those in the home would receive the disciple’s teaching. Jesus clarifies this when He tells His disciples, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16).
Understanding what Jesus is saying here is so freeing for us today as we work to spread the gospel. So often we feel the burden is on us to make people like us and to arm-twist them into receiving the message of the gospel, when the exact opposite is true. Jesus puts the responsibility on the recipient to become a seeker of truth.
It is up to the recipients to welcome us. They may be attracted to something in us (Jesus) and desire what we have. Perhaps they have been thinking about spiritual things for some time and will be drawn to you without knowing why. They may say something like, “You have a peace about you,” or, “I like your family. You seem so different.” They might even say, “I like you,” or, “I like being with you.” Whatever it is, they will take a liking to you. These are signs of a welcoming person or a person of peace.
The term “person of peace” implies that the person’s heart has been prepared and is open to Jesus and the gospel. He is someone to whom God has been speaking and preparing for an encounter with one of Jesus’ disciples.
A person who receives God’s peace has had an encounter that prepares him for salvation and discipleship. God’s peace rests on him because God’s favor is with him; as it says in Luke 2:14, “On earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Upon encountering those who have received this anointing, Jesus instructs His disciples, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10:5-6). The following story is a perfect example of a person of peace, one whose heart was prepared by God to receive the life changing gospel.
Lynn and Jo Cory’s Neighborhood (Apartment)
When Jo and I were first married, we lived in an apartment complex. We intentionally got to know our neighbors and looked out for them. It was a friendly environment where everyone knew each other’s names and stopped to talk with one another. Our building had a good mix of older and younger people. One of those neighbors, Don, took a liking to me. I was in my mid-twenties and he was sixty, which I thought was really old. We would talk on many occasions. His wife, Connie, was the life of the apartment building. She was always out by the pool with her year around tan. Connie was loud with a fun sense of humor and was loved by everyone.
One day, I invited Don to church, and much to my surprise, he began to attend regularly. Once, at the back of our little chapel, he said to me, “I have been watching your life and I want what you have.” I was quite surprised that a man of his age would humble himself to a man in his twenties. After a short explanation of the gospel, Don made a commitment to Christ.
Not long after this, Don asked if my pastor and I could come over and pray for Connie, who was Jewish. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the doctors did not give her long to live. She could not even get out of bed on her own. My pastor and I joined Don in the living room of his apartment to pray for Connie. When we finished praying, she came bounding out of her bedroom yelling, “You did this to me! You did this to me!” And then she started doing jumping jacks in front of us. We were amazed! My pastor shared the gospel with her and she invited the Lord into her life.
A week later Connie slipped away into the presence of the Lord. Don asked if I would conduct a small memorial service for her in their apartment. We had a sweet gathering and many of those in the apartment building joined us to celebrate Connie’s life. She had added so much life and laughter to our little community, and her presence was deeply missed.
A time for reflection:
This story of Don and Connie is a beautiful example of how God worked in their lives to prepare their hearts for the message of the gospel. We can’t make these kinds of things happen, but we can join our Father in the work that He is doing in our neighbors’ lives. Jesus sent out His disciples nearly 2,000 years ago to start the spread of the message of the gospel. At the time, there were not that many to carry the gospel forward, as Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Today, His disciples are all over the world with an opportunity carry on this good work in the neighborhoods where He has placed us. It starts with the Lord’s directive to look for people of peace, those who welcome you in your neighborhood. Who in your neighborhood would you consider people of peace? Make a list of these people and begin to pray that the Lord opens a door for you to have a conversation with them about Jesus. Remember, “The one who hears you hears me (Jesus)…” (Luke 10:16a).