by Yvonne Roller, Baltimore MD
“What are you going to do about your neighbors, Mom?” our grown son asked after a Baltimore blizzard. Neighbors were shoveling two and three times every day in our row-house neighborhood. Flights were cancelled so David couldn’t return home.
My son’s question prompted me to break out the muffin tins. On my own shoveling breaks, I took muffins up one side of the street to those shoveling in the morning and down the other side in the afternoon. Our Lord is so big. He takes the smallest gesture, even muffins, and grows it. Months later, during the summer, someone from a neighborhood next to ours asked me, “Aren’t you the muffin lady?!”
How the Lord loves neighbors – yours and ours. He has us strategically placed in neighborhoods. When we moved from Chile nine years ago, we knew Jesus was inviting us to live in the I-95 corridor between Washington D.C. and Boston, where one-sixth of the U.S. population lives. What would happen if the Lord would take more of us, missionally, to places so the church could have a stronger presence? Couldn’t that be “missionary work,” too?
We know the Lord desires to bring peace to our neighbors’ lives and homes. We join Him, we pray, and He gives the most miraculous opportunities. Opportunities begin with the smallest gestures: pumping up bike tires for neighborhood children, gardening together with elementary-aged youth, baking cookies for teens shooting hoops in the alley, taking hot loaves of bread to a single mother, repairing a shed for the couple exhausted from dialysis, or cleaning up the alley for a family dealing with life-crushing issues.
Curiously, for me it often flows out of baking. Perhaps there’s something deeply hospitable in sharing food we’ve baked with our own hands. One couple asks for premarital counseling and then the neighborhood “pastor” (David) to marry them after living together for eight years. Another friendship leads to Nahm asking us to visit her dying husband, a Buddhist, in the hospital. Or Patrick, a young man in a gang, commenting shyly that a small gift we gave his family at Easter is kept by his mother’s bed as she’s nursing his father. Could we come and visit? The visit led to a Bible story, then a prayer of confession and invitation to Jesus, baptism, tears and a big bear hug! The question of eternity for his father had weighed heavy on Patrick’s heart. Now he’s studying for the ministry!
Not all neighbors respond. At least on first blush. For instance, I sent a letter to President Obama, our neighbor, inviting his family for a meal. They didn’t accept … yet. Maybe the hour-drive seemed too far away! They sent their regrets. But remember; our Lord is so big, He keeps adding to the smallest gesture.
I have been encouraged by Peter’s exhortation to Christ followers in 1 Peter to live as foreigners here; after all, our primary allegiance is to The King and His Kingdom. Live as foreigners … missionaries. Peter goes on to affirm that we foreigner-missionaries are the living-stones of the temple. The temple is where His Radiant Presence dwells! What neighbor wouldn’t be drawn to our humble gestures of His Radiance? Our son’s question is a good one, “What are you going to do about your neighbors?”