This week our blog is a guest post from The Burgess family who lead Oikos Ministries in Peru
The first neighbourhood we lived in in Lima, Peru was full of professionals, maids and watchmen and no-one but the watchmen were open to having conversations with us. Our first conversation with a neighbour happened the day we were moving out! So when God miraculously paved the way for us to buy a house in a lower-middle-class area in Lima, where the neighbours knew each other, we were really encouraged about what God might do.
Five years ago, we had a team offer to paint people’s exterior walls. Graffiti is a big problem in our community and the walls needed a new start. While we didn’t see people come to Jesus that week, we did begin building a reputation as friendly, community-orientated neighbours. We started building friendships and getting to know those who were living around us, when previously we had been unable to do so.
Five years on and we have seen nearly a dozen neighbours on our street come to know Jesus and begin a relationship of discipleship. Now we know a quarter of our street on a first-name basis, and our church (which currently meets in our house) has contact with the whole street.
So what are three ways we encourage people to engage with the local community?
- Ask people’s names.
This may sound obvious, but it makes a huge difference when you know someone’s name. Even the postman or a regular door-to-door seller – finding out their name is a great start to relationship! Also obvious (but personally very difficult!): remember the names, write them down and use them when you see them. Also take the opportunity to introduce others in the community to one another.
- Pray for people by name.
Write down their name and make a point of praying for them by name. The missional community that meets in our street prays for neighbors by name each week and has seen four of those neighbours make decisions to follow Jesus this year! If appropriate, tell your neighbour you are praying for them and ask them for any prayer requests they may have. When you pray for them, ask the Holy Spirit what he’s already doing in those people’s lives. Ask Him how you can best love your neighbour. Having a God-given strategy will give you confidence to step out in love and will help you expect to see God working!
- Serve without expecting anything in return.
If you want to build relationships of any sort you have to give them time and energy. It is a sacrifice, but it comes with eternal rewards. It is worth it, so make time! It doesn’t need to be huge – it might be ten minutes praying for a neighbour with your housemate at home each week, or five minutes taking a cake or some second-hand toys over for their toddler. Remember that it is your job to love and serve your neighbours, and it is the job of the Holy Spirit to bring them into relationship with Jesus. Expect the Holy Spirit to co-partner with you to bring blessing to your local community!
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9 MSG
Anna and Mark Burgess lead Oikos Ministries in Lima, Peru. They desire to see people discipled and raised up to lead others in the context of family and community. You can read more about them here: www.theburgessfamilyblog.blogspot.com