Doing Good Gradually Opens Doors

“I’ve become a Christian and all of this because of our wonderful neighbors.”

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9,10

When we, in our congregation, started loving our neighbors, these verses were on a sign right outside the door where we would gather to pray before we would go out to care for our neighbors. We were going out weekly to show the love of Jesus, and remarkable things were taking place. However, we were growing weary, but we didn’t give up and the Lord gradually opened the door for people to come into the kingdom. Carmen was one of those people. She experienced the love of Jesus through a couple in our church and her life was forever changed. Here is her story that she wrote soon after she gave her life to Jesus.

Carmen Jackson’s Neighborhood

Deborah Santiago touched me and my momma deeply. We saw Deborah almost every day walking her Rottweiler. Deborah was the neighborhood socialite. My Momma being a very sociable person herself and a Rottweiler parent herself, ran out to talk to Deborah every time she saw her. My Momma, Julia Castro, later introduced me to Deborah and the three of us and Deb’s rotties would stand outside and talk for 15 to 30 minutes about our dogs or anything else that came to mind. Deborah often spoke about her church, the Valley Vineyard, and always invited us to the Sunday Services and to the Women’s Tea. We always said that we would go to one of the Sunday Services, but unfortunately we never did.

Momma and I were quite close and we lived next door to each other. She died suddenly around the time I met Deborah. I was beside myself. I had lost my best friend and was grieving deeply. I reached out to Deborah and I asked her if she could recommend a pastor to speak at my Mom’s funeral and she recommended Pastor Lynn Cory. I called him, we set up a meeting at the church and Pastor Lynn asked me to bring some photos of my Momma…I gathered up two bags worth of photos and I went through each one of them trying to give some history of each picture in between my tears of grief. I talked for hours to Pastor Lynn about my beloved Momma. He was so kind, compassionate and understanding of the pain that I was going through, that by the end of our meeting I felt as though I knew Lynn for 20 plus years. He also mentioned he felt as though he had known my mom for many years….the three of us were no longer strangers and I knew that Lynn was the perfect pastor to eulogize and give my Momma her “Final Blessings.”

This was also the time that I met Neftali Santiago, he offered to do a video of music and pictures of my Momma’s life and although he never met my mom, the way he put her Celebration of Life video together, you would swear that he knew her all his life. It was absolutely beautiful. I remember asking Neftali how much did he think the video was going to cost and Neftali said, “Nothing, it’s free.” I remember thinking who would do something this perfect and time-consuming for free, especially since he did not know my Momma or me.

At this point I had only met three people that belonged to the Valley Vineyard, and they were like angels to me, but I didn’t realize the power of God’s love until I went to the Women’s Tea in April of 2010. I finally went as Deborah Santiago’s guest and I remember Sally O’Connor was the guest speaker and when she sang all I did was cry and I was so touched by her stories and how genuine she was. As a matter of fact, every woman that I met that day was so sweet and caring that I thought there must be something special about this church, and since I was searching for God myself, why not! I started going to church with Deborah and although I was a little uncomfortable at first, because I was used to a Catholic type of service, I found myself feeling great and belonging, reading the Bible, and loving God.

About two months after my Momma died, I was finally baptized by Pastor Lynn and Pastor Bill at age 55. I remember going under the water as my old self and coming up out of the water as a completely different person, like the heavens opened up and the light of God surrounded me. I will never forget that feeling.

I’m a much better and happier person since I’ve become a Christian and all of this because of our wonderful neighbors, Neftali and Deborah Santiago, their love for God and Deborah’s love for her rotties and neighbors.

A time for reflection:

Carmen gave her life to the Lord and never looked back. She joined every class she could, got involved in a small group, and shared her faith at work. One of my favorite things is to watch her worship wholeheartedly on Sunday mornings in our worship services. It all started with Deborah reaching out to Carmen and her mom, and one thing led to another and God opened the door of her heart to Jesus. You can’t make these things happen, but you can take the first step of doing good and seeing what God will do. Is there someone in your neighborhood that the Lord is prompting you to start a conversation with and to do some unexpected kind thing? Look at your neighborhood as a garden…start planting small seeds and see what grows. You will gradually reap a harvest if you don’t give up.


Listen to Bruce Zachary's experience with Neighborhood Initiative.

Listen to Dallas Willard's word to pastors and leaders about Neighborhood Initiative.

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