Neighbors Anonymous: Moving Into Community

This past year has been one in which Iris and I have been able to sit in the homes and walk the neighborhoods of people who are living out the Gospel with their neighbors. There are so many great stories that must be told!
 
The challenge is that often these stories need to remain unpublished because to write about them and share them in cyberspace could undo the very growth of the Gospel that we desire. That’s how I came up with the idea of “Neighbors Anonymous.”
 
I’ve asked several practitioners of our Calling to tell stories from their neighborhood, but I’ve asked them to keep the names and even the exact locations a bit hidden. They are real stories. The names have been changed to protect the movement.
 
Iris and I recently visited the author of our first “Neighbors Anonymous” blog and his wife. Their home is welcoming. They have put their patio, barbecue, and fire pit in the front yard and surrounded it with small bistro tables. In front of their home is an attractive “Little Library” that is full of books that are there for the taking. The street in front of their home has a mural that the neighborhood cooperated on together. Down the block is a community garden in which they participate. They are all in. They have many stories. This is one of them.
 
Al Engler
Nav Neighbors Mission Director


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There is a skilled nursing facility nestled in the neighborhood near where we live. It’s a small business that holds just over 40 beds and is the kind of place that is easy to miss. While there have been several interactions with the home over the years, our most recent involvement is an exciting prospect for our community. The most recent work began by listening when a youth in the neighborhood expressed a desire to hear stories and get to know elderly people.
 
Over the last few years, we’ve noticed that time, prayer, and listening can be fleeting as projects and interactions in the community start pressing in on already-busy schedules. We’re becoming accustomed to being present here, with a prayerful posture, in Christ; it’s in that posture that we’re listening for the work God is doing in and through people. When the youth indicated a desire to visit and hear stories from our most experienced community members, we saw this as an opportunity to bring people together for ongoing games and conversations.
 
We are a part of a small faith community that gathers on the weekend and meets in different homes throughout the week. We share common rhythms of life and ministry together on a regular basis and are collectively postured to make Jesus known here. Our faith community was all on board with spending regular time gathering at the retirement home.

With their support, the youth who initially expressed the desire to visit with older people and I approached the retirement home. The administrator was excited to see a group of volunteers wanting to spend time with the residents. Many of the people there have few, if any, visitors. When the administrator asked where we were from, we said “We’re from the neighborhood.” He looked puzzled. Explaining ourselves a little more we said, we live near here and we want to be better neighbors.
 
We know a few other followers of Jesus who live nearby and many more neighbors from a lot of different faith backgrounds or no spiritual background at all. I approached several of my neighbors individually and said to them, “My faith community is going to start spending some time at the nursing home. This is just one way that we are expressing ourselves as people who follow Jesus.”
 
“We want to make this something that the entire community does together,” I continued. “Would you like to come with us and other neighbors and play games and visit with the residents of the retirement home?” It didn’t take long to hear each person I asked answer with a resounding “Yes! That sounds great!”
 
It’s going to take some time and energy to keep this community game and conversation night going, no doubt. Our first night happened a couple weeks ago. My family, our faith community, kids from broken neighborhood homes, and other neighbors who are not sure who Jesus is yet all came together. It’s here, in this place, that Jesus is being made known—not just in deed but also in power as we partner with God to see His plan become a reality right here in the neighborhood! 

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