Love Your Neighbor & Watch God Move
I co-lead a High School boy's O&A Youth Group with my son and several others. Since we started this past fall, I knew that I wanted to get the boys involved in a service experience that they would be able to really connect with, one that they would be able to invest in over time - not just "one and done".
After weeks of prayer, the Lord put one of my neighbors on my heart. Mary (not her real name) is elderly, she lives alone and has no family. And Mary's yard is a mess. The only problem was I hadn't seen Mary out and about in quite some time. One day, though, I found Mary out by the street, in her walker, trying (and largely failing) to deposit trash into her trash can. I stopped, helped out, and made a new friend. Come to find out that Mary had gotten COVID, had fallen, and has been reliant on a walker ever since.
Over the next few days, I invested in Mary. I helped her move some things around. I helped with odd jobs. But mainly, I listened. What I came to understand was this. Mary DID "need" some help with yard work, etc.
After a week or so, I asked Mary if it would be okay for me to bring the boys over. She was thrilled!
When that first Saturday came, the boys did great. They helped, they listened - and they showed Mary love. That day, we only scratched the surface. We had a blast.
Two weeks later, we returned, with reinforcements. That day three separate ONE&ALL community groups came together to show Mary love. That day, like the first, was not about the "project." Although we were able to finish the front yard cleanup, rebuild her front fence, and help with some back yard cleanup as well, the greater impact was on people.
Yes, Mary "felt the love." But it was amazing to watch the Lord move all over the place. I watched as another neighbor, completely unchurched, worked with us side by side, getting her hands dirty. I observed a drive-by "angel" who showed up at the PERFECT moment and offered to pay Mary for her old scrap fence. I witnessed teenage boys treat an elderly widow with love, respect, and dignity. I witnessed "divine appointments" happen all day long. Perfect situations with the perfect conversations. That day, God's people did their job – they said “Yes.” And the Lord was faithful beyond measure. As He always is.
I firmly believe that the Lord loves nothing more than when His people show up and say, "Okay Lord, here I am, in this place, right now. Use me. Let me be your hands and feet." That’s a prayer that always gets answered.
What would happen if His Church – all of us – lived our lives that way? Every day, in everything we did? "Here I am, Lord, walking into work/school/down the street... What do you want to do around me? What can I be a part of?”
Loving on Mary will never end and we wouldn’t have it any other way! But what she needed, even more, was someone to talk to, someone to love on her. So we did.
-Ray Stradley, Upland Campus Community Lead
What an amazing story of how God opens the doors to allow us to work for His people! If you'd like to experience community and serve like Ray, sign up below.
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Photo's from the clean up day: