My family moved to our current house back in October of 2000. We purchased our house with great hopes and expectations that God wanted to use us to reach out to our new neighbors with the love of Christ. We did not know how or when God would use us, but we knew He would.
Move-in day was rather hectic, as is typical of such days. It was just my husband, me, and our six young children moving in things. In the midst of unpacking, it suddenly occurred to me that we had an empty refrigerator and empty cupboards. Knowing there was a small convenience store about two minutes away, I told my husband I was going to drive down the road and pick up something to bring back for lunch. I asked him to watch all the kids.
As I was leaving, our daughter, a toddler who loved to be stuck to me like Velcro, began to cry that she wanted to come. Since I was only going to be gone about 10 minutes, I asked my husband to keep her with him. There was so much confusion going on with the move-in that I thought it would be best for her to stay home during my brief trip.
I returned home about 10 minutes later. My husband informed me that while I was gone, our daughter sat on the front steps crying and screaming for the first few minutes. Then she went to her room, fell asleep on her bed, and had been fast asleep for a few minutes.
I thought, “Well, at least maybe I can make some progress with unpacking now that my Velcro child has been detached.”
My husband told me he needed to go to Home Depot to pick up some supplies for the house, so off he went. A couple minutes after he left, I was inside unpacking when I received a knock on the front door.
I thought to myself, "I wonder if one of our new neighbors is stopping by to say hello!”
I opened the door. My jaw just about fell to the floor when I saw it was a uniformed police officer with his cruiser in our driveway.
I stumbled through, “Hello, how may I help you?”
The officer said, “We received an anonymous phone call that there was a crying and screaming child at your house. I am here to investigate the call.”
I wanted to throw up. I again stumbled through, “Well, yes, apparently there was.” I then told him what my husband shared with me and volunteered to let him come in and see my sleeping daughter.
He politely declined then said, “I see the 'SOLD' sign on your front lawn and the moving truck. Are you just moving in today?”
On the verge of tears I responded, “Yes, we are.”
He shook his head and said, “I sure hope your neighbors don't continue to give you a hard time. This wasn't a very nice welcome to the neighborhood.”
I thanked him for his kindness before he left. When the officer pulled out of the driveway, I began bawling like a baby. I hated our new house, our new neighbors, our new neighborhood, everything. All my hopes and expectations for reaching out to our new neighbors went straight down the toilet. I had a full-blown pity party for myself that lasted for several days.
Finally, I stopped crying long enough to hear God whisper to my spirit. He gently said, “Are you finally done? Now let's get to work on reaching out to your neighbors.”
I asked God how. The first thing He placed on my heart to do was bake some homemade carrot cake for my three closest neighbors and to bring the cake and my children to introduce my family to them. Perhaps our neighbors heard we have a large family and found our size to be intimidating. A warm introduction might help break the ice and show them we are really a friendly family.
After this initial icebreaker, the Lord then placed it on my heart to have an open house and invite our neighbors to come over for a harvest party. We had the party and placed several Christian tracts on the goodies table (a gentle hint at our Christian faith).
The following April the Lord placed it on my heart to host a neighborhood Easter children's party. This event included a more obvious sharing of our Christian faith. A couple neighbors came.
Following those two events, the Lord placed it on my heart to begin a more widespread neighborhood outreach. He gave me the idea of putting together baskets of three items: (1) a jar candle with a handmade tag saying the Bible verse that Jesus is the Light of the world; (2) a bottle of sparkling water with a handmade tag saying the Bible verse that Jesus provides us with Living Water; and (3) a plate of my homemade cinnamon rolls with a handmade tag saying the Bible verse that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Over the course of several weeks, the Lord placed it on my heart for whom to make the gift baskets, when to make them, and to have one or two of my children come along with me to deliver them. The neighbors appeared to enjoy the gifts.
A few years later and during Christmas time, the Lord also placed it on my heart to help my children make a couple gingerbread houses with handmade gift tags. The tags shared the Bible verse that we are to build our house upon the Rock. My daughter delivered them to a couple of our neighbors (one familiar and one new to the neighborhood). Again, the neighbors enjoyed the gifts.
I continue to pray about ways to reach out to our neighbors. Meanwhile, I hope my testimony inspires others to think outside the box when sharing the gospel with neighbors. God is a very creative God and is ready and willing to give us ideas if we are willing to do the legwork.