We were locked outside. It was 103 degrees. The electricity was out. We had no food. We had no water.
My two older sisters and I had just been granted the coveted privilege of being on our own for a couple of hours after school. Unfortunately, on that sweltering late spring day in the desert of south-eastern Washington, we tromped down from the bus stop to find the electric garage-opener useless. We had no key.
After shinnying up the porch posts to try every window, my oldest sister confirmed it: there was no viable point of entry.
Six inches of vinyl was all that separated us from an air-conditioned oasis of Country Time lemonade. Our parents would not be home for hours. What were we to do?
Our sweaty, driveway consultation was hardly necessary. The solution was obvious: the neighbors.
Despite living “out in the country,” we had a half dozen or so neighbors within a mile radius of our home who we (shamelessly and relentlessly) frequented.
We had no reason to panic. We knew that at the end of a quarter mile hike lay open doors and warm cookies.
In one week Clark, Hannah, and I will be getting on a plane and leaving some lovely neighbors behind. We will miss Chris and Emily, childhood sweethearts who met in our neighborhood forty years ago. And David, who brings Hannah fresh eggs from his chickens and who has countless times ushered us into his backyard botanical gardens.
However, this past weekend I was convicted.
We arrived home from CIT training in North Carolina at 1:00 AM on the Saturday of our neighborhood’s annual garage sale. Later that morning–drawn by the racks of baby clothes–my sister-in-law and I crossed our street. Within 60 seconds Emma had introduced herself, “Hello! I’m Emma, I’ll be moving into Val’s house in a month.”
And just like that Emma, who does not yet even live in the neighborhood, knows my neighbor better than I do.
Despite also having a young daughter and living a literal stone’s throw away, I had never met my neighbor.
“Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asked Jesus. Jesus’s answer: Anyone and everyone to whom you have the opportunity to show mercy. (Luke 10)
In our final days in Kentucky, Emma has shown me there’s still much work to be done in my heart!
In one week we will have dozens of new physical neighbors, and thousands of those to whom we can decide to show mercy. My prayer is that we would be able to lay aside our selfish, individualism for teachable humility as we learn to serve our Kenyan brothers and sisters.
Do you know your neighbors? Do the thirsty, vagrant kids know that your door is always open?
Jesus’s call to “Go, make disciples of all nations” includes the multitudes in our back yard, at work, at school. Wherever God has placed you, there are those who need His mercy.
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 [The lawyer] said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” “
*Written by Val Sleeth