June 22, 2023
It can take a long time for someone to realize the truth of Jesus—but if we pay attention and cherish the relationships we build with neighbors, we can notice the miracle of each “baby step” along the way.
My husband and I didn’t have the capacity to come alongside a neighbor in need, so I asked another neighbor who was coming out of her own struggles and watched God work.
Katie* had just separated from her husband and was feeling lonely, isolated and empty—she had too much “blank space” in her calendar. I had been connecting with her, listening, and being present. We went on walks through our Edmonton, Alberta, neighborhood, and I started inviting her to community initiatives and neighborhood activities that she had previously shown no interest in. She showed up! Her participation lifted her spirits and opened her eyes to all the people around her, including “the neighbor in need.”
Shabu* was an 80-year-old recent widow whose 50-year-old son with Down Syndrome had also just moved to a group home because Shabu could no longer care for him. Like Katie, Shabu was lonely—especially during our long cold winters when she didn’t feel comfortable going out. Her daughter, who lives in the United States, emailed me and asked if I could help her find a “social service” to assist her mother.
“No,” I said. “That’s what neighbors are for!”
Throughout the Go Local process, we spend a lot of time reflecting on how God is at work in and through our neighbors. We wonder, pray, and reflect on how God might be asking to join us in sharing Christ’s love. In today’s world, it can take a long time for someone to realize the truth of Jesus—but if we pay attention and cherish the relationships we build with neighbors, we can notice the miracle of each “baby step” along the way.
I asked Katie if she would be willing to connect with Shabu on a regular basis. She thought it was a great idea! They both need company, and Shabu also needed assistance with getting to various appointments, gardening, and occasionally basic housekeeping and yard work.
Katie started stopping in for tea with Shabu. Then Shabu started inviting Katie to concerts and a free weekly art class. Katie planted sweet peas, other flowers, and herbs in Shabu’s garden. A mutually enriching relationship started to develop, for which both are very thankful. While my husband and I still spend time with and talk with both of them, they are now there for one another—it’s not up to us!
I’ve had the opportunity to talk with them both about love of neighbor, about Jesus who not only taught this posture and practice but lived it and, about how the goodness, generosity and care they are experiencing is a sign of the God of love at work.
Shabu’s daughter emailed me. Somehow, thousands of miles away, God was also at work. She explained that after reading our neighborhood newsletter, she had “been moved to Google” my name and started reading some of my articles. She wrote (shared with permission):
I had an "aha!" moment when I realized my parents and brother have been happily hanging out at block parties and BBQs at your home. They even shared with me that Karen is a pastor, and you have become someone they respect and like a lot—all this despite the fact that both my mom and dad had negative experiences with Christians when they were fairly young.
Long story short, both my parents raised my brother and me to avoid all organized religions and to distrust anyone who claimed to be a minister or priest from God. They were extremely skeptical and resistant to talk of religion or spirituality. (The televangelist scandals in the 80s didn't help with this.)
I now realize that thanks to your prayers (and the prayers of Christians who live right next door to me), my spiritual labyrinth brought me on a 20-year journey through yoga, Zen Buddhist practices, Vipassana meditation, a year-long project on silence, and finally to entering the Church.
…I think the experience of converting from atheism to Christian might be difficult to understand for Christians who were raised in Christian families.
… Anyway, I'm just writing to thank you both for your discipleship, for gently and slowly showing my family the love of our Lord, and for embodying the incarnate God who walks among us daily.
My mother has started to text me asking me to "pray for,” which was a huge surprise, since our family NEVER spoke of prayer growing up.
…Each of these baby steps is a miracle!
The process of people coming to faith in Christ can often take a long time. May you too discover that we’re on holy ground right in our neighborhoods and see that each of these “baby steps” is a miracle!
*Names changed for privacy
Written by Karen Wilk, Resonate Global Mission’s Go Local Catalyzer