Light Your World
By Judy Busic
I grew up in a neighborhood on the near north side of Chicago. There was no air conditioning back then, so we would spend our summer evenings sitting out on the front steps visiting with the neighbors. We not only knew most of the people on our block, we also watched out for one another. I knew if I did something wrong my mother would hear about it from someone! After living in Berwyn, Illinois, for eight years, I was sad to realize that I only knew two of my neighbors well. I missed the kind of neighborhood I grew up in. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors. But how could I love them if I didn’t even know who they were?
Forming a relationship with someone is never easy, but something wonderful can sometimes begin by sharing a simple hello. I used to work at a large office, and at Christmastime I would get a sizeable quantity of the WMBI (the Moody radio station) Christmas music postcards and leave them on my co-workers’ desks. I realized a good way to introduce myself to my neighbors would be to wish them a Merry Christmas and leave a postcard with them as well, in hope they would continue to listen after the holidays. I was surprised at how well my efforts were received! It got me thinking about ways to reach out to my neighbors with the love of Christ. Here are some ideas that have worked with my neighbors – perhaps they’ll be helpful as you reach those in your world.
I suggested getting together regularly to pray for our neighbors with my Christian friend and neighbor, Annette. She agreed, and I offered to go door-to-door to gather prayer requests. Most neighbors were very surprised when I showed up on their doorstep. Some invited me into their homes, but others were very cautious. As I continued to visit, however, even the most hesitant became friendly.
The first time I went around asking for requests, I got vague responses like, “just pray for my family” or “pray for world peace.” The next month people started taking us seriously. We got our first real prayer requests from children: Katherine asked me to pray for Grandma Katie and her stomach problems; Alex asked for prayer for their safe travel to Mexico, and Erica asked that the new kids on the block would be nice to her.
On my second time around, I met one of the husbands and explained why I was there. He thanked me and said things were fine. When his wife asked who was at the door, he told her and she came running. I learned that while they were trying to adopt their foster child, a man claiming to be the father had shown up, wanting the child back. Now the requests were getting serious.
One day, when leaving (my neighbors) Doris and Joe’s house, their daughter Diane was behind me signaling to her mom. Doris asked if I would pray for Diane’s friend, who was being abused. We stood on their front porch and joined hands. With heads bowed and tears flowing, we asked God to protect this little girl. A short time later, the girl was removed from her home and placed in her grandmother’s care. She attends the same school, so she and Diane can continue to see each other.
Sharing Christ at Holidays
Many of my new neighbors are Latino. One year, Annette and I gave them New Testaments for Christmas, providing them in both English and Spanish. The following Easter we gave them the Jesus film. This video, which includes a prayer of salvation at the end, is available through the Lighthouse Project for about $5 each and is available in English and Spanish (see box for purchase information). We attached popcorn and a gift card to the video and invited them to have a movie night on us. One child hugged my knees to thank me and said I was a nice lady.
We realized we’d found a great way to reach people. On Halloween, we delivered goody bags to the kids. They were surprised that we came to them. Heading home after my last stop, I heard someone calling my name. One of the children had goodies for me!
We are able to reach out to our new friends throughout the year, not just on holidays. I share copies of the devotional booklet, Our Daily Bread (which I get free), with them quarterly. It’s available in English and Spanish, and the neighbors really look forward to receiving them.
Crafts and Homemade Gifts
In addition to sharing the Scripture with others, we are able to be witnesses of God’s love to our neighbors by sharing our time and gifts with them. Since I’m into crafts and Annette is an artist, one Christmas we decided to have the ladies in the neighborhood come over to make wreaths. We had fun doing it together, and I had an opportunity to explain to the ladies, using a cross anchored in a gift box, that each of us needs to accept God’s gift to us: His Son. This past Christmas we made personal gifts and gave them to each neighbor with a homemade card and gospel tract enclosed.
Helping Neighbors with Needs
As we get to know our neighbors better, we become more aware of their personal needs. One of the neighbors I have gotten to know well is a shut-in, and I am able to help her by getting her mail for her, and feeding the birds, squirrels, and outdoor cats for her. These are small things for me to do, but they mean a lot to her.
I’m not the only one sharing a helping hand. One neighbor, also a believer, joined me in shoveling snow for someone recovering from surgery. Annette helps out by making extra portions when she cooks so she can take meals to some of the elderly ladies on the block. Another friend of mine gets baked goods from a local bakery and shares some with me so I can give them to the larger families. When a neighbor is sick, we leave a card or note letting them know we care and are praying for them. I recently found door hangers that I can print my own message on (and some Scripture) to let neighbors know I’ve stopped by to see them, and remind them to call if they have a special need for prayer.
Continue Feeding Your Friendships
God knows me well enough to know He couldn’t just tell me to start a neighborhood ministry. He started by having me take one small step, which resulted in the desire to do more. I’ve come a long way in getting to know my neighbors, but I’m already dreaming about how to reach out to them this year. Perhaps I’ll organize a block party so the neighbors can get to know each other. After that I’m hoping the ladies will feel comfortable enough to come to a Bible study in my home.
Amazingly, God uses the talents and gifts He has given us so we can enjoy serving Him. God has not only used my gift of evangelism, but He has brought Annette alongside as well, using her to reach out in her own unique way with her own unique gifts. What a joy it has been to watch her grow in the process. We hope others will in some way see the light of Christ in us and be drawn to Him.
Through the years, I’ve rejoiced with some over answered prayers, and mourned with others over the loss of a family member. But now, when I pray for them, it’s with a concerned heart. I have been so blessed, receiving back far more than I’ve given. I wish I could tell you that neighbors call or visit regularly to ask how they can know Christ. That hasn’t happened yet – but we’re still praying!
We continue to let our light shine by being available to our neighbors. I no longer consider the individuals in my mission field as simply my neighbors, they have become friends. The best part is that when I walk or ride my bike down the block, I can greet my neighbors by name!