One of the first steps to taking the Great Commandment literally of Making Disciples is to move from stranger to acquaintance in your relationships with those who live nearest to you. Are you ready to “Know Your Neighbors?” During the Ice Storm in January of 2021, many folks from East White Oak cared for their neighbors in extraordinary ways. From clearing downed branches, coordinating home repairs, providing meals and shelter; many were prepared in advance to care for their immediate neighbors. This is the heart of the Art of Neighboring: Making Disciples by first serving those around our homes. See this neighboring story below by Chuck Blystone and how one man vowed to always be prepared and know his neighbors before tragedy strikes.
January 27, 2021 | by Chuck Blystone
Our church’s focus on neighboring has reminded me of an experience I had in Joplin, MO., just a few weeks after the May 2011 tornado.
My daughter and I went to Joplin to help that city rebound from the twister, which killed 161 people and blazed a path of destruction nearly a mile wide.
The scale of the disaster was immense. It destroyed 7,000 houses and caused $2.8 billion in damage. People we talked to said the damage was so severe and complete that they had a hard time identifying their own street as they surveyed the aftermath.
We served through a Joplin church that nearly overnight set up a food bank and turned a church building into housing for volunteers. One of our assignments was to go door-to-door through neighborhoods left partially intact and ask residents how our volunteers could help them – picking up debris, fixing things, cutting down damaged trees, even bulldozing ruined homes. At each house we asked the residents if we could pray for them.
Not one person said no.
At one point we visited a man working on his home. In the course of our conversation, he pointed to his neighbor’s yard, where nothing was left of the house except a concrete foundation. A man who lived in that house was swept away and died in the storm. The man I spoke with did not know the name of his neighbor. Fighting back tears, he determinedly said, “That will never happen again.”
Those words have stuck with me through the years. We cannot go backwards to redo the things we wish we had done, to do the things we should have done. We can only go forward to be the people Christ calls us to be. That’s what makes the Art of Neighboring initiative so meaningful. It’s a toolkit for action to keep us from being in the haunting position of knowing we were on the sidelines while our neighbors died, whether physically or spiritually.