After Jesus named his 12 disciples, He immediately gave them a job. “He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives.”
He told them, “Don’t begin by traveling to some far off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.” (Matthew 10, the Message)
Moving into my neighborhood nearly twenty years ago, I was a new mommy and one of the few residents under 70 years old. I was largely intimidated by my neighbors and rarely interacted with many of them. But the birth of my precious daughter had also brought a rebirth of faith into my life, and I leaned heavily on Jesus to lead and guide me in my parenting and through the lonely years of being a stay at home mom. To get back into shape, I ran with Daly Kay every morning in what was then a new-fangled contraption called the “baby jogger.”
Every mailbox has the resident’s name on it. So I began praying for them. Daily. 550 front doors and I bet on my usual route I regularly hit up over 300 of them with prayer.
Years went by. Our family grew. So did our faith. I matured (a bit) and made some friends. More years passed and our family was exponential in size. And still I ran (walked, or waddled) around my hood and prayed for residents. Now I knew some of them, their grandchildren, their challenges. Some prayers were specific, some were just a blanket…”Lord, I pray they KNOW you.” I had no idea if my prayers were actually benefitting anyone, but by faith, I kept sowing.
I’m in no way trying to take credit for what happened, I am just reporting to you what I have been blessed to see happen in my neighborhood over the past two years. I believe it is just a sneak peek at what God has been doing all along, and His great joy was to lead me in prayer so I could rejoice with him at His goodness.
In the last two years I have been part of four Bible studies, with over 80 women total (I think this number is actually quite conservative). One Bible study even saw a few men venture in ;). I have seen pastors and Christian authors be welcomed into forums in our community with hundreds in attendance and even asking serious yet simple questions of faith. Salvation has been preached. Our community’s charitable foundation has been donating larger and larger sums of money to a local urban ministry (Urban Youth Impact). Women in the community have begun tutoring and bringing snacks to the underprivileged youth at the same ministry. REAL RELATIONSHIPS have taken root and many lines of pretense have been erased as many of the women have begun to drop their guard and seek the love and grace found only in Christ and experienced REAL FELLOWSHIP among a sisterhood of believer’s. There has been a community initiative begun to serve those sick and in need of fellowship, care, or even simple meals in times of illness or tragedy. Many women have begun yearly attending a local faith based retreat. Each and every Bible study I see new Bibles being opened straight from the package and the Word is revealed in someone’s life. I am honestly blown away.
These are generalizations, but the specifics of answered prayer, miraculously changed hearts and lives that will soon trickle down and affect their children and grandchildren in exponential ways are too numerous and preciously private to recount each one.
Now, of a truth, I have never healed a sick neighbor, but “a merry heart does good like medicine,” and in that I have brought smiles and cheerfulness with my children by visiting sick neighbors. I have never raised the dead, but I have preached LIFE by how I live and brought the message of an abundant life living by God’s grace to an entire group of people. Just seeing the kids run out on the golf course every evening, we have neighbor’s now coming out to meet us in the cool dusk, enjoying the laughter and sweetness of a family that LOVES Jesus. We even have one ol’ guy who blows his bugle when he sees the kids sprinting down the fairway as his wife and he enjoy their afternoon toddy. God, I love this place! (That is not taking His name in vain, it’s declaring His goodness…invoking it in praise!) Ten years ago, that would have never happened. We would have been yelled off the course.
Folks, I know I have shared some of this with you before, and encouraged you to pray for your neighborhood. My hope today is that by reading this scripture from Matthew 10 in the Message version, you would be inspired afresh to go out into your mission field right outside your front door. You can heal the sick, raise the dead, touch the untouchables and kick out the demons! He has given you this power and asked you to start exactly where you are! So get out there today and see Him change the world directly in front of you!