We never planned to live in Lawrenceburg, and certainly not to really stay. But once we moved in, God just showed us that this was the corner of His kingdom He wanted us to learn to love and live in.
We never planned to live in Lawrenceburg, and certainly not to really stay. But once we moved in, God just showed us that this was the corner of His kingdom He wanted us to learn to love and live in. There’s a whole story of how people wouldn’t come off their porches or talk to each other when we first moved in. That’s slowly been changing. There’s also the story of how it all started by serving our neighborhood and downtown Lawrenceburg by scooping poop. For real. It’s not glamorous, but it’s funny, and it’s a good story about seeing a need and meeting a need and how God used it. We called it “Bring Your Shovel for poop.”
The most important thing here for us is that we speak about our neighbors with dignity and honor. We can walk up and down our street and tell you names and tidbits of stories of neighbors. Justin’s worked on about every house on our block; we’ve been in and out of every house on our block; and we love and care about these neighbors and want to make sure that any part of their story we tell is something they’d be comfortable with. I personally love Story; I think by telling stories it recognizes that everyone has one worth telling.
For the Nopperts that meant that we listened for what God was saying to us about the role we are to play in His kingdom right here. We came up with a simple mission for our family: To be a Light and a Help to our Neighbors. Even our kids can do that! It keeps us focused, gives us language to use with our kids as we connect in our community, and means we’re being obedient to what God has told us to be about. Being a “light” might look like encouraging a lonely neighbor, turning conversations from complaining to reflecting with gratitude, restoring dignity to people and honoring those we speak to and about. Being a “help” is all about using what we have to meet needs around us. All of us have something to offer, even our 4-year-old, so we try to be generous with our time and skills and physical health to just offer tangible help whenever we can.
We also spent a full year meeting with a community of believers and casting vision for the specific mission to “Be a good neighbor.” We focused on the story of the Good Samaritan and what it revealed about who a neighbor is and what our role is. Our pitch went like this: Everyone seems to know what Christians are AGAINST; but does anyone know what we are FOR?” So we called it “BAN.” Be a Neighbor.
Sustainability is crucial. For us, this means we consider what we’re getting in to. How much can we take on? Where do we need help? How often can we host people or events without stressing ourselves and our family out? We try to think about things with a balance of “What’s the need we can meet right now?” and “Is this a one-time thing, for a season, or is it a marathon?” For long-term investments, we use a couple of keys: Collaboration and Predictable Patterns.
Collaboration is like Teamwork. Everyone has a role. We depend on a community of friends to pitch in when it comes to block parties. We’ve done it alone, but it’s way better when we have a team. It’s so great when you can partner with friends that will help set-up, clean-up, and even know their way around your kitchen!
Predictable Patterns are also important. In our relationships and schedule, we work to make space for people. Love God and love people. That’s pretty much it. There’s always going to be the “spontaneous” and “organic” things that happen- Someone has a flat tire... We stop over with some leftovers… A neighbor drops in to talk. But then there’s the longer term stuff that happens, and this is more “organized” and “structured.” We host 3 block parties a year, and they always fall on the same days each year, which happen to coincide with other events in our city that draw people outside. For a season, we guarded one night a week just to have space to invite someone for dinner. We just “plan” for connections and relationships to happen. That way, when you do have some time with someone, it’s not like you have to spend 8 hours with them all at once because you’re not sure when it will ever happen again!
Service is really an approach that we just try to follow Jesus on. He served, even as He led and influenced. We just try to keep it simple- Serve, and see what God wants to do. And everyone and all ages can do this. This also means we try to hold things loosely. It doesn’t mean we’re always flexible; it doesn’t mean we never say “no.” That’s a recipe for disaster. But we do consider the things we have to be tools to be used. Consider these words: Passion – Problem - Possessions: What God-given passions do we have? What problems do we see in the world around us? What do we possess that could combine with our passion to make a difference in that problem? Sometimes this is simple: We care about people; my neighbor is lonely; I possess plenty of hugs to pass out from time to time. Sometimes it requires a bit more from us: We care about safe housing for people; there are numerous problems of leaking roofs, flooded basements, no heat in the house for winter; Justin possesses a knowledge base and skill set that can literally solve some of these problems. Sometimes, just taking an inventory of what we have can remind us of all the problems we can so easily solve that may seem insurmountable to a neighbor.
And on a good day, we’re not afraid to mess up. Sometimes we just gotta try stuff, and be okay that we may need to ask forgiveness, or that we’ll need God’s grace too as we figure out how to be a light and a help to our neighbors.