If you’ve been in a strong Bible believing and preaching church, then you have for sure heard a sermon on going out into the world to preach the gospel. We immediately think of missionaries. We may even think of a mission trip to a foreign land. I have heard of some churches who actually do mission trips right in their own country. We can probably take a look at our own city or town and I have a feeling we can find an area of town that we could easily say is a mission field. I find it interesting that we always leave that for someone else, possibly even the government to take care of that area of town and the people in it. It’s possible we know of a mission that permanently serves that area and we may sign up to go serve once in a while or donate money to the mission so they can continue their much needed work.
What do you think of when you read that verse?
I learned an important lesson many years ago when my Jim and I were serving in full time ministry. Jim had just graduated from seminary and we had been serving in a church for several years while he went to school and worked as associate pastor and youth pastor. We had a three year old little girl and expecting a little boy just any day when Jim got a call from a church that wanted him to be their new pastor in a small west Texas town about 8 hours away. We were a bit scared and excited at the same time. We had been ready to go set the world on fire for a couple of years. Not literally, we were just ready for something fresh and new and to do all we could to reach as many people as we could for Christ. After all, that is what God had called him to do and why we left everything we had in the first place so he could get his education at a seminary. Jim was ready to preach and lead a church and I was ready to follow wherever the Lord would lead us.
We moved into the church parsonage which was across town from the church. After we got moved in, we began meeting our neighbors. I can still remember each one of them. I often wonder where they all are now. The house across from us to the left was an elderly couple. Very nice, quiet and stayed to themselves. I remember sitting in their living room a few times visiting with them. The house across the street to the right was a single guy who worked all day, had a hot rod car that he worked on in the afternoon and evening and it was so loud it would wake my kids up from their naps and since I had a 3 year old and a 6 day old when we moved in, he wasn’t my favorite person, but I tried. The house right next door to us on the left was a couple with a little boy a bit older than our 3 year old. They were nice and cordial. A vacant lot was on our left. The house right across the street is the one I want to focus on. They were a young family with two cute little boys. The husband worked all day and she was home during the day and so very busy with those boys. They partied most weekends. They were also Mexican. A fun memory is she always yelled at her boys and called them Mijo. I can still hear her say it in my mind and it makes me smile. Oh, I also learned the art of burying a goat and cooking it underground. They did this on a regular basis along with a big game of volleyball with a million people in their front yard each weekend.
We got to know these neighbors and they were very kind and friendly and especially my new friend right across the street. We would walk together early in the mornings. I invited her to church several times and they declined each time. One time she shared with me that the pastor and wife that lived in the parsonage before us were not friendly at all and had done some things that weren’t very kind. I was embarrassed about that and I apologized for them. Long story short, I had the honor of leading her to Christ. She started coming to church and became our nursery leader and I felt so safe leaving my newborn and 3 year old with her in the nursery. I forgot to mention; this was a very small church and I had the pleasure of being nursery worker, sunday school teacher, children’s choir director, secretary and women’s ministry director. I’m smiling as I write all of this as so many memories. Some happy memories and some really crazy I would have never dreamed memories. I could write a book on that time we served there.
Okay, back to my whole reason of sharing this.
Remember how the pastor before us had treated this family so bad? Well, the ironic thing on it all is that the reason this little church needed a pastor was that previous pastor left to go serve as a missionary in……are you ready? Mexico! I know! That’s what I thought! He had a family directly across the street that more than likely were just like the people he said he was called to go serve in another country. He didn’t give this family the time of day and when he did it wasn’t in a good way. I have always remembered this story since then in the way of our mission field is right out our front door. If I can’t be a witness and care about someone that lives next to me and then I go to another land to share the gospel, I’m not worth a plug nickel….as my mom used to say. If I teach my kids to not care about their neighbor but, yet I send them off to another country for a “mission trip,” what is that all about? I meet young people like that all the time. They could care less about their testimony to others right here and treat others as if they don’t matter, but yet, they get all sorts of accolades because they went on a trip to Mexico or another country. Which, I think it is awesome to go serve at a mission, etc….but, I would think a test would be in the way you care about those right outside your door and in the school building or workplace. Witnessing to family, friends and neighbors has been listed as one of the hardest things to do. I think it’s because they know us better than strangers do. Something to think about. If you are like me…..we have some work to do.
Part 2 will be about reaching our neighbors. Yes, I’m still a work in progress. Please don’t think I’m Miss Neighbor aware of the world….I am still learning and growing in that area. I have failed many times as we have lived in a lot of places. New neighbors move in and out and I have missed many opportunities. It’s work, isn’t it? But, won’t it be fun to try to encourage one another to reach out in our neighborhood?
Until next time,