Monday, May 12, 2014

Here I am. Send me.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

While I wrote my last update less than two weeks ago, as a new month begins I thought it would be good to write you again. But instead of focusing on the latest aspects of my internship, I thought it would be best to change things up and let you know about my efforts to reach out to my neighbors.

As mentioned previously, I have a growing conviction that I have not been the neighbor that God has called me to be. Those living close to me are largely strangersI don't even know most of their names. So then, how can I obey my Savior when He called me to love my neighbor?

In wrestling with this question, I have determined to develop relationships with my neighbors. With my daughters' help, I have been preparing cookies and brownies for my neighbors. Then I invite one or two of my children to go with me so that we can meet and get to know who lives around us.  After doing this for a few weeks, here are some initial reflections that I wanted to share:

First, it is not easy. I don't know about you, but I am not naturally excited about knocking on someone's door. I am more of an introvert, content to stay at home with my wife and children. And I feel as if our culture views homes as a retreat from the world, which would make my neighbors automatically suspicious of my coming to their door. It would be much easier to leave them alone. After all, I am so busy and they may view my visit as an intrusion. But none of my excuses and rationalizations change God's command for me to love my neighbor. This must start by working to begin relationships with them.

Second, it has been a blessing. So far, I have not run into a single neighbor who has pointed a gun at me or asked me to get off of their property. Never have I felt unwelcome. While these have been my (irrational) fears, most of the time I have found a genuine openness. Furthermore, I have enjoyed learning more about their lives. The more I get to know them, the more I want to get to know them, and to reach out to them in love. Should this be surprising? I am encouraged with meeting my neighbors so far and look forward to meeting many more in the weeks and months ahead.

Third, God is at work. Last weekend, my family walked to our neighborhood library. On the way, I was quietly prayer walking through our neighborhood. At the same time, I admit that I wasn't expecting to do anything more than return books and check out more. But my youngest daughter wound up playing with another girl in the children's area (she makes friends so easily!). I noticed that this girl's father was sitting down close by, and while I was wrestling with going up to him and starting a conversation, he came over to me and introduced himself. This led to a delightful fifteen to twenty minute opportunity, and I am hoping to see him again soon. But this meeting was just one small reminder of God providing me with opportunities to reach out in love to my neighbors.

Fourth, my neighbors need the gospel of Jesus Christ. These efforts are not merely to get to know my neighbors better. And I must not be content with simply learning more about those who live around me. Their only hope is Christ, and I have been given the wonderful responsibility to share this good news with them. So please pray for me, my family, and our community group. May we continue growing in grace as we love our neighbors enough to reach them with the gospel!