My family moved to our current home back in October of 2000. We purchased our home with great hopes and expectations that God wanted to use us to reach out to our new neighbors, even though we didn't know a single one of them. We didn't know how or when we would be used, but we knew we would be used.
The very first day we moved in, move-in day was rather hectic, as they usually are. It was just my husband and me and our six young children moving things in. 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 at the time and 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 just 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 our daughter had sat on the front steps crying and screaming for the first few minutes, then went in her room and fell asleep on her bed. She had been fast asleep for several minutes.
I thought, “Well, at least maybe I can make some progress with unpacking now that my Velcro has been removed.”
My husband told me he needed to go to Home Depot to pick up some things for the house, and 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, “Oh, 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, “Wow. 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. Needless to say, 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, when I stopped crying long enough to hear God's still, small voice, I heard Him say, “Are you finally done? Now let's get to work on reaching out to your neighbors.”
I asked God how. The first thing He laid 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 had heard we have a large family and were intimidated by our size. A warm introduction might help break the ice and show them we are really a friendly family.
After this initial ice-breaker, the Lord then laid it on my heart to have an open house and invite our neighbors to come over for a harvest party (remember, we moved in during October). We had the party and laid out several Christian tracts on the goodies table (a gentle hint at our Christian faith).
The following April, the Lord laid it on my heart to host a neighborhood Easter children's party at our house the day before Easter. This event included a more obvious sharing of our Christian faith. A couple neighbors came.
Following those two events, the Lord laid 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 is the 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 laid it on my heart for whom to make the gift baskets and when to make them and have my children come along with me to deliver them. They were always very well received by our neighbors.
Several years ago during Christmas time, the Lord then laid it on my heart to have my children make a couple gingerbread houses with a handmade gift tag saying the Bible verse that we are to build our house upon the Rock. I then had my daughter, who by this time was older and ready to learn the art of neighborhood outreach, deliver them herself to a couple of our neighbors (one familiar and one new to the neighborhood). Again, the gifts were very well received.
I continue to pray about ways to reach out to our neighbors.
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.