Surprised By Kindness

“What you are doing is working…Don’t stop.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22, 23

Acts of kindness touch hearts deeply. Once when I was washing car windshields in front of an El Pollo Loco I asked a woman if it would be okay to wash her windshield. I assured her I would do it for free and that there were no strings attached. She was visibly surprised by the request and she apprehensively accepted. As I was washing away, I sensed that someone inside El Pollo Loco was staring at me. I turned around to see the woman who had accepted was looking at me in amazement. She motioned for me to come inside. When I went in she said, “No one in this world would do what you are doing!” Much to my surprise, I responded, “I know, but I am not of this world.” This is the beauty of the Spirit of God coursing through our lives…you get involved in doing things that are otherworldly that touch people’s lives profoundly. Note what happened in Neftali and Deborah’s neighborhood when a group of believers worked together to show the kindness of God with their neighbors.

Neftali and Deborah Santiago’s Neighborhood 

One day a team from our church joined Neftali and Deborah Santiago in their neighborhood for some extensive projects. The team trimmed two large mulberry trees that were hanging over the home of one of their new neighbors, hauled away large discarded items, washed cars, and built a fence. The neighbors were greatly impacted. The man whose trees were trimmed said that he couldn’t afford to have them trimmed because all his savings went into buying a home in this neighborhood. He went on to say, “They never treated me this way where I used to live.” He and his wife were incredibly grateful. Later, his wife told me that she’d shared the story at her job in a family-run business and everyone was surprised by this act of kindness.

One of my favorite stories from the Santiago’s neighborhood came a Sunday following one of our workdays there. An elderly woman named Joanne showed up at one of our church services and sat next to me in the front row just after the service started. She asked if she could tell everyone about her experience with what we were doing in the Santiago neighborhood. At first I was somewhat reticent, not knowing what to expect, but I threw caution to the wind and introduced Joanne as the Santiago’s neighbor.

She seemed very comfortable in front of everyone; her comments were moving and humorous. Joanne told the church how meaningful our visits to her home had been to her. She had experienced a family tragedy the year before and had been processing the grief with a counselor. The counselor had encouraged her to go to church around the time we showed up at her door. “What you are doing is working,” Joanne said. “Don’t stop.”

Joanne’s words that morning were an incredible encouragement to all of us. The Lord was pleased because the neighbors were experiencing His love through us. Doors were being opened for the gospel through genuine love and concern for people.

A time for reflection:

Joanne’s timely word came more than ten years ago, because she experienced the kindness of the Lord through His people. The Apostle Paul points out in Romans 2:4 that the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance. People in this story were surprised by the unconditional love of believers and they were moved by our no-strings-attached acts of kindness. Have you considered putting together a team to help some needy person on your street? Is the Spirit encouraging you to do some otherworldly act of kindness with someone in your neighborhood? Who might that be and what is the Lord asking you to do?


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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