Small Acts of Love Yield Great Return

“I prayed: Ok Lord what’s next?”

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.   Acts 9:36-42

When I read Susan’s story, for some reason, I was reminded of this story of Tabitha. I guess it has to do with Susan’s faithfulness in loving her neighbors in a way that most might think is not very significant by the world’s standards. Tabitha’s gifts to the poor widows was like an opening act for the miraculous move of God when He raised her from the dead. In Hebrew, the name Tabitha means beauty and grace and that’s Susan…she is full of beauty and grace. I was most impressed with her story…I am sure you will be too.

Susan Hanson’s Neighborhood (Mobile Home Park)

After living in my condo for 24 years, I was moving to a senior Mobile Home Park. A new season of my life was about to begin.

While living at the condo, the Lord and I became close friends. He pursued me and I pursued Him. I meditated on His word. I learned to listen to the Holy Spirit speak to me through His Word and to hear His still small voice in prayer. I learned to watch and to listen for direction from Him and to obey. Looking back, I can see that His purpose was to mature me and to prepare me to serve Him.

Prior to my move, I felt certain that the Park was going to be a mission field – a place for me to spread the love of God to my neighbors. I gladly accepted the “assignment,” as I like to call it. I had no idea how I was to accomplish the assignment but I knew that God in His timing would show me.

Shortly after moving, I received a confirmation of the assignment. The Lord prompted me to turn on the radio at just the right time to hear Lynn Cory as he was being interviewed about his book “Neighborhood Initiative.” I bought his book and even had a short telephone conversation with him. But I still wasn’t clear as to what the Lord specifically wanted me to do to show His love. I talked with a couple of other Christians in the Park. No one was interested in ministering with me. Hummm… The Lord was not opening doors; He wasn’t giving me direction. I kept praying and seeking the Lord.

About four months later, in early November, I was given the idea of baking mini pumpkin bread muffins for my neighbors. In a little bag, I put a Happy Thanksgiving greeting and a muffin. I hand delivered one to each of the 20 neighbors on my street while introducing myself as their new neighbor. I was well received.

I prayed: Ok Lord what’s next?

I was directed to purchase Christmas cards for the 160 homes in the Park (I found them at a dollar store). At the Lord’s direction, inside on a 3×5 index card was a note that said “Hello. I am a new neighbor. I have some good news!” Then I wrote out John 3:16. I hand delivered one to each of the homes. I was uneasy and fearful. But, I went ahead in obedience to the Lord’s leading and direction. The Lord wanted them to know who I am as their new neighbor. I never received any comments.

That was three years ago.  It turns out that my assignment from the Lord is to give each of the residents a handmade birthday card. In addition, for each of the homes in the park I give a handmade Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and 4th of July card. The task seems overwhelming! But God…. In the past He had proved Himself faithful and He gave me everything that I needed to accomplish what He asked me to do.

This time it was no different. He has been faithful to give me the ideas, the resources and the time to accomplish His work. What is really fun and interesting is to see how the Lord has “gifted” me for the assignment. I am not a craft person nor an artist. Nor am I one to come up with new and different ideas for the cards.  I depend on Him to give me an idea of what the card is to look like and what He wants the message to be. He also directs me where to buy the supplies. On the blank side of a 3×5 index card, I do some artwork that is “whimsical” as a friend has described it. On the lined side, I write a message that the Lord gives me. I pray and wait for His direction.

Here is how one birthday card came about: At the beginning of December, I prayed “Lord I need a birthday card idea, please. The new year is going to be here soon.” A few days later, at about 5:00 a.m. one morning, I heard the word “cheerleader.” Oh, thank you Lord! Later that morning I asked Google for an easy drawing of a cheerleader. There she was–a cheerleader jumping up in the air. I drew a prototype and made a stencil. An added flare is that I made her pom poms out of colored tissue paper that coordinate with the colors in her outfit. I wrote “HIP-HIP HOORAY! It’s _________ birthday!” On the back of the birthday cards is a handwritten blessing “May the Lord bless and keep you; May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you; May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.” (Numbers 6: 24-26). This is the message that I always write out on the back of the birthday cards.

I go through a similar process with the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine, Easter, and 4th of July cards. Most of the time I am uncomfortable passing along “the message” that the Lord gives me for each of the holiday cards. I have to keep reassuring myself that the message is His (not something I made up), and that it is His ministry and His message. He knows what He wants to say to them. He knows what they need to hear. I don’t want to get in His way. I want to be obedient. I find peace in these truths.

The Park residents look forward to receiving the cards. Many have told me that they keep them all. Some of their comments are they “feel love,” my cards “brighten their day,” “puts a smile on their face,” “makes me look to God,” I am “making the world a better place with my kindness,” and “the cards seem to come on a day when I really need encouragement.” One person said that while they were going through a family crisis, they would look at the cards. The cards helped them to get through the crisis. Another person said “thank you for the thoughtful things you do. I don’t have the same belief but I appreciate yours.”

Another person asked with a bit of frustration in their voice, “Why can’t you just go to the store and buy cards?” In other words, “Why do you have to hand make the cards?” I gently shook my head back and forth and said, “They wouldn’t mean as much to them.” Making them by hand speaks volumes. They see that I sacrifice my time, energy, and resources to show them kindness and love, God’s love.

I can’t believe I’m in my fourth year of the assignment! Only possible with God’s help–His leading, direction, and provision. I am so blessed and humbled that He chose me for this assignment. What if I had not pursued an intimate relationship with Him? What if He hadn’t invested time maturing me, making me a vessel He could use. What if I hadn’t been willing to accept the assignment of making cards that show the love of God to my neighbors? Only God knows what eternal impact my card ministry is having. If any of my neighbors want to know more about the God I love and serve, I am ready to talk to them. If they ask for help, I will be there.

A time for reflection:

What I love about the neighboring movement is that it doesn’t matter what age you are. Susan, a senior, is having an incredible impact with her neighbors. She points out something rather profound in her story, her mobile home park is her mission field. Generally, the perspective Christians have when they move into a new home is quite different from the perspective missionaries have when they move to their new country of ministry. When we look for a place to live, we generally look for a place that best suits us. Susan has a completely different perspective. Because most of us moved into our homes without a ministry mind-set, we need to re-inhabit them as missionaries do, as Susan did, with some of the following questions:

  • Why does the Lord want me to live in this place?
  • What is the Lord doing in this neighborhood?
  • How does He want me to join Him?
  • How can I best serve my neighbors?
  • What are the needs of the people who live around me?
  • What are my neighbors going through emotionally and how can I be of help?







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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