Ministry to “neighbors” is worldwide. But it starts in our own homes and neighborhoods.

“Who’s Jesus?”

The question stunned us. Wasn’t this America? Didn’t everyone know about Jesus? But two of the 13 children who attended our neighborhood kids’ Christmas party asked that when they saw our large “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” banner.

Late last summer we felt God quietly tell us “Put as much as you can into your neighborhood kids.”

In our 6 years here, we’d watched the neighborhood steadily fill up with kids – more every year. No question, there was room for a “love your (young) neighbors” ministry. But how to start?

God took care of it. When school started, two nearby mothers had to leave for work before their kids left for school. They asked if their kids — Katie* (a 6-year-old girl) and Keith* (a 9-year-old boy) — could stay with us till bus time, and if we’d meet the bus in the afternoon. We happily agreed.

Our kids, Yvette (30) and Bill (29), took the lead. They hugged and loved the kids, played games with them, fixed them pancakes for breakfast, and brownies for afternoon snacks. They took pictures and gave them small photo albums. We introduced them to Christian music. We talk openly about the Bible and God’s love for them; and we answer their questions as simply as we know how to.

Katie promptly began bringing a friend – the saddest little girl we’d ever met. It was such a triumph to finally see her smile!

Word spread. More kids began coming for breakfast. On one boy’s birthday, Yvette told him she’d have a brownie for him if he came to the house after school. He did – with seven friends! Yvette quoted from a book she’d read: “If you feed them, they will come!”

Whenever any of the kids eat with us, we invite them to say grace – and for some of these kids, it’s the first introduction to prayer they’ve ever had. One night, over mac & cheese, Cheryl* (who’s 4) said grace for the first time. Her prayer was short and sweet: “Jesus thank you for eating.”  So what if it wasn’t long, or eloquent – we thought it was beautiful! And somehow, I don’t think that Jesus cared that it didn’t entirely make sense – He knew what she meant.

We invited the kids to stay for our evening devotions. Katie stays often. She loves to make up dances for the praise songs, and she not only learned to pray, but soon wanted to LEAD.

One night, shortly before Thanksgiving, Keith joined us – and he prayed for a puppy. About a week later, he got Lucky. Lucky was one of seven tiny, two-week-old puppies who were put into a rucksack, and abandoned. Just left out in a blizzard to die. Two of them were already dead, when they were found; and it wasn’t certain at first, whether or not Lucky would survive. Hence, his name.

Early in December, Keith brought Lucky to the house to show him off, and we reminded him about his prayer for a puppy. He looked startled for a second. Then surprise and wonder lit his face as realization dawned. He jumped up, all excited, and said, “That’s right, I did! And I prayed for a puppy after that, too. My prayer was answered!”  Then he bounced up onto the futon, looked across at Yvette, and said, “So, now I know that God is real, huh!”  That tiny little puppy paved the way. Because of him, Keith is begining to believe not only in God, but also in the power of prayer.

As he walked to the bus one morning, we heard him sing “Our God is an awesome God” at the top of his lungs.

One day, Bill and Yvette taught Katie the chorus “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.”
She got excited!  “Bill, let’s go sing that to everyone!”
Bill, by nature very outgoing, was suddenly stricken shy. “But, Katie, I don’t know any of those people!”
Katie responded “It’ll be okay, Billl, you’ll see. Let’s go!”
And they did. They knocked on door after door.
Katie told everyone who answered, “We have a song for you.” And the neighborhood was serenaded with “Jesus loves me.”

Nor was our “ministry” only to the kids. Late one midwinter day, with the temperature hovering near zero, the power went out. And stayed out. We had candles, and could light the gas stove. But what about others? Bill and Yvette went to see. They brought back a neighbor in her 80’s and her handicapped daughter, who’d had neither lights nor heat. They stayed with us till the power was back on.

Jesus said that loving our neighbors was “like unto” loving God (see Mark 12:28-31). These two commandments form the basis for all the others. Loving our neighbors can take many forms.

What are some of the ways you’ve found to “love and help” in your own neighborhood?
What results have you seen?

*Names of children changed to protect their identity.

~                    ~                    ~                    ~

Pete Ahlstrom is a retired library manager and aerospace/defense master planner, with a BA from Northwest Bible College (now Northwest University) and an MA from the University of Denver. He is working on a book about the Biblical meaning of “Loving Our Neighbors,” featuring over 3,000 Bible verses. Pete and his family have been a constant source of encouragement to me since almost the start of this blog – I’m thankful for the kindness and friendship they have shown to me. Head over to their website over at Sparkle of Nature for some great Christian resources and to check out Pete’s book, “Activating the Forgotten Commandment“!

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Posted on March 15, 2011, in "Guest Post" March and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. smiling for the Ahlstrom family!

    • Thanks, Morgan. We didn’t even guess what a life-changing experience it would be (for us or the kids).

      • It always amazes me the glimpses God shows us AFTER the fact. You can’t help but smile and go, “Yeah, I know God, you’ve got this down.” 🙂

        • That’s so true! And it’s been fun, fulfilling, and frustrating – all 3.

          Frustrating, like when some of the kids resolutely ignore what you tell them, like “Wash your hands WITH SOAP after you use the bathroom.”

          Fun, like the other night when 3 of the kids were playing “hide and seek” with Bill and Yvette. One of the kids hid in the cabinet where the fire extinguisher was (it had lost its safety pin years ago). He knocked it over, sat on top of it – and, you guessed it, set it off! He and the cabinet were totally covered with white powder. LONG cleanup, and we didn’t stop laughing till long after it was over!

          Fulfilling, as when we went to “Katie’s” birthday party last weekend. We stepped in the door. Katie saw us, hollered “Yvette!”, ran to hug her, grabbed her hand, dragged her into the living room where all her little first grade friends were waiting, and introduced her: “This is Yvette. She knows a lot about God.”

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