“My only regret is that I did not spend more time with him…”

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20 and 21)

Through the years, I have heard those in the Church say to me something like this, “My neighbors are so difficult. Nothing could ever happen in our neighborhood!” I listen quietly when this happens and try not to offer trite solutions when people say how impossible it would be to show this kind of love to their neighbors. I commit to pray for them and those in their neighborhood. Why? Only God can make a difference in their perspective and in the lives of their neighbors. Only God can create opportunities that turn things around in a neighborhood. Yes, we can do unconditional acts of kindness that may help with difficult neighbors, but it’s God who changes hearts and knows the hidden keys to unlock relationships. David is a dear friend of mine. The first time I talked with him about reaching out to his neighbors he responded to me with, “That will never happen in my neighborhood.” I had a feeling this “neighborhood thing” wasn’t for him. However, I was quite surprised, to say the least, when one Thursday morning at one of our weekly pastors’ prayer gatherings, David shared this story.

David Cuff’s Neighborhood

I met my neighbor Tom ten years ago right after I moved in next door to him. He told me he had been an alcoholic for more than forty years and had been sober for the last two months.

A few weeks later I was taking out my trash early in the morning and noticed many undercover law enforcement vehicles in front of my house. They all got out of their vehicles at once and before I knew what was happening, they had Tom in handcuffs on his front lawn. It turns out they were serving a warrant for one of Tom’s prior roommates. But when they asked me what I knew about Tom I remember saying he was a nice neighbor and a sober alcoholic.

Over the years we had a friendly and casual relationship. Over the next ten years Alcoholics Anonymous became his life. Our church reached out to him by helping with his house projects, and I mowed and edged his lawns often. I shared the gospel with him many times, and he was always respectively positive but never had time to pray with me or come to church.

Then Tom was diagnosed with liver cancer. I remember the first day he told me about it, because he said it was his own fault for drinking for over forty years and he didn’t blame anyone. We prayed . . . and after his surgery it seemed he was going to make it. He came over more often and our relationship took a more personal and sensitive turn. Then his liver cancer returned and the doctor gave him two months to live. I remember making a point to spend more time with him when he told me. We invited Tom and his girlfriend of twenty years over for dinner and a swim. My family really made a special time for them. We went swimming and had dinner and dessert. Jim loved to go to the movies, so I took him to see The Avengers.

I remember the feeling I had before taking him to the movies was one of pressure to share the gospel again, but also just wanting to show him a great time. My wife said that he would probably bring it up, and before my car left the driveway he did. We had a great time and Jim said he was ready to meet Jesus. . . . Two weeks later he died. My only regret is that I did not spend more time with him over the last ten years.

(The video of David sharing this story is on YouTube via http://neighborhood

A time for reflection:

I like to believe that God can do this kind of thing in every neighborhood, even if it seems impossible. Our tendency is to think nothing will change, but as we see in Tom’s case, a dramatic change in life can change a person’s perspective. Of course, prayer is essential and then it starts with showing them we care by investing some time with them and showing them God’s love. Dave’s closing statement, “My only regret is that I did not spend more time with him over the last ten years,” is a very riveting statement. What is your response to that statement as it relates to your own neighbors? Do you view your neighborhood as David did? If yes, do you believe God can do the impossible in the lives of your neighbors? If yes, how could He use you to bring that kind of change?

(David Cuff grew up in the San Fernando Valley located in Los Angeles County. After a successful career as a computer network engineer in Orange County, he moved back to the neighborhood he grew up in and started a Local Church where he served faithfully for 20 years. He now serves as the president of Local View LLC, a digital marketing company assisting small and medium-sized businesses. He has been married for 35 years and has three grown children and three grandchildren. David still loves his neighbors…)

A footnote: David has been a significant help to Neighborhood Initiative through the years. He was with me at the inception of this ministry. We prayed together for NI for nearly a decade. I am indebted to him for his personal support and the great investment he has made to this good work.)


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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