Not long ago, in the midst of the divisive election, came an invitation from an unknown neighbor to meet at the park and pray for our country.
Jay (the name has been changed) was right where he said he would be–sitting at the picnic table wearing a bright orange shirt. While my kids played on the playground, I hesitantly approached Jay, wondering how long it would be before someone else arrived.
I sat at the picnic table and introduced myself. The conversation began slowly but intensified quickly as we recognized immediately just how much we have in common. I’ve long been a believer that sitting around a table brings you down to the same level and allows you to more easily see things from the other person’s perspective. Here are some things I learned about Jay last night:
HE’S A FAMILY MAN. Happily married with two grown kids–a daughter and a son–and three grandchildren, he’s lived in our neighborhood for over a decade.
HE’S A RELIGIOUS MAN. As a pastor of a local congregation, he works tirelessly to reach out to the community. Seeing the language barrier of many families in his area–the older generation speaking only Spanish, the younger generation speaking only English–he has his sermons translated into Spanish as he is speaking in English so that families can attend church together–each person hearing the sermon in their preferred language. As I listened, I was in awe at his ability to see a need in the community and find a way to fill it, and I made a point to tell him so.
HE LOVES HIS NEIGHBORS. “You can’t claim to love God and not love your neighbors,” he said with a smile. “I would love to seek opportunities to serve and assist others in our neighborhood, gather together a group of willing neighbors, and get to work. More neighbor involvement would mean less need for more police force.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And I couldn’t agree more.
HE HAS HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. He is full of faith and not fear. Rather than being glued to the television watching the election results, he was out in his neighborhood trying to make a difference. I gathered my children around and we listened as he read Psalms 145 and prayed a beautiful prayer, praying for the welfare of the members of our neighborhood and seeking opportunities to serve.
When he finished, I threw out a suggestion, “The weather is beautiful right now. What are your thoughts on having another meetup in the near future? I know there are others who wanted to attend tonight but were unable to make it.”
“Maybe a potluck next week?” he asked.
“Sounds great!” I replied.
“And weekly meetups after that?” he suggested.
“Absolutely!” I said with a smile.
Despite being the only visible persons at the picnic table, Jay and I weren’t the only ones in attendance that night. Someone once said that “God is at work in our neighborhoods. We just need to follow His lead.” God IS at work in our neighborhoods. Last night I saw Him at work in mine.
How might you deepen the community in your neighborhood?
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