Adults

Howdy, Neighbor!

Thermometer shows warmer temperatures. How’s the thermostat on your hospitality? Would your neighbors say you are prone to hibernate or do they see you now and then? To share Christ with others, we have to get out there! How can we form relationships with our neighbors to better witness to them? Here are a few ideas:

*Emerge from the den. Do a little something in the yard. Take more walks. Lollygag, doddle, and take your time. Smile, wave, strike up a conversation asking questions with more than one-word answers. Ask how someone is doing and wait for the response. Be purposeful about interacting, not just accomplishing your task.

*Offer help. Using the information you’ve learned from conversation, make a plan to take action. Rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor, run errands for someone recuperating from illness, welcome a newcomer with a treat. . . are all good ideas to share love in tangible ways.

Open Up: The Risk of Rejection Is Worth the Reward

My uncle is a local radio disc jockey. He’s one of the sweetest guys I know and truly cares about the people in his life. However, one of my family’s favorite pastimes is to watch him in a public setting. He has go-to nicknames for each gender so it seems like he knows who people are even if they’ve never met. The thing about my uncle is that he’s really great and everyone likes him but not everyone actually knows him.

When it comes to building the kind of relationship needed to invest in others, people have to know you. That’s a scary thought, often with this main concern: “What if they don’t like me?” But the risk is worth the reward.

In this case, the risk is being liked and the reward is a gospel-centered, kingdom-changing relationship. See? The risk is worth it. Now, if this sounds like a devotional for a middle-school girl, I apologize. But honestly, most of us (myself included) are still afraid of the rejection that comes with opening ourselves up to the point where we earn the right to share the gospel.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Holly Procita

The scent of buttery popcorn filled the community center as neighbors gathered for a movie night. Southwinds Church in Calgary, Alberta, partnered with the local community association to host the event. Holly Procita, community outreach coordinator for the church, and other church members served popcorn and juice to the 200 people who attended.

“It was the largest event of its type at the community center!” said Procita, who also serves with the North American Mission Board. “Pray that we can continue to provide opportunities for our neighbors to encounter our church family in fun and exciting ways.”

She recently helped train church planters in how to organize and host sports camps. She has hosted similar camps, and now she is helping church planters in Calgary and Edmonton use camps to reach their communities.

“I have learned a lot in the past 5 years and am really enjoying sharing what I’ve learned with these men and women who are reaching other parts of our city with the gospel,” she said.

Storytime: Tell Your Story

Almost everyone loves to eavesdrop on the characters of Lady Mary in Downton Abbey and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. The drama, the characters, the intrigue, the costumes . . . the story! So what’s your story?

Everyone has one. You may think your story is boring or embarrassing but definitely not epic. However, your life’s journey may be the catalyst to encourage someone to find God’s purpose and plan for his or her life.

As a theatre major in college, I had to play many characters on stage. More than memorizing lines, I used a character analysis sheet with questions like the ones below to delve into the character to find out what made her who she was. Not every question could be answered, but with close study of the script, I could find many inferences and facts that would help me understand what made this character “tick.”

Proving My Faith Genuine

Fear consumed me.

I spoke to my dad on the phone, sharing with him that I’d be enduring surgery early the next morning—exploratory surgery to discover the cause of my infertility. His humor sliced through my fear. “Put on your bravery button,” he said.

Bravery? I felt everything but brave.

After hanging up the phone, I buckled over, crying, my hands covering my face. Only in my mid-20s, I’d never faced surgery. Would I survive this? Would I wake up? I trembled.

I’d grown up in church and accepted Christ at an early age, but suddenly a question loomed over me—“Do you really believe?” I’d never had my faith put to the test. Life had been so easy. But I had to answer that question, for myself.

The lyrics of every song I had learned in that precious hymnal flooded my mind and soul:

  • “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”
  • “Leaning, leaning, Leaning on the everlasting arms.”

Yes, Lord, I believe.

Connecting Stories

Stories are powerful. They connect us in deep ways. In our relationships, we may agree or disagree on many things but our shared experiences often are the glue that keeps us together. And in the middle of our very real stories, God is working. He is working in amazing ways. What God is doing in and through us is more than we can imagine, more than we realize even now. Many stories are still unfolding. What about you? What’s your story? How might God be working in and through you, beyond what you can see?

I recently talked with a new friend who is Vietnamese. God has worked in her life to bring her to a new place of service. She has been asked to be a leader in a fellowship of Vietnamese churches. She is leading women to be on mission for God. She never dreamed she would be doing what she is doing now. God guided her one step at a time. At each point, He gave her just what she needed, just at the right time.

The Campus Calls

Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, Sarah Martinez had a close-up view of what full-time ministry looks like. Yet she never thought that would be her calling until Christian Challenge recruited her to work at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, as a collegiate missionary.

At first, Martinez felt unworthy and ill equipped for the task God was calling her to do. However, she soon learned the wisdom of Hebrews 13:20–21 (NIV): “Now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing his will.”

The mission and vision of Christian Challenge is to evangelize, disciple, and develop leaders. It shares the gospel and walks with students, equipping them to lead ministry and plug into local churches to utilize the talents and gifts God has given them. Martinez had no training in these areas, but God knew exactly what she needed. The hardest part came when she learned she would have to raise her own support. Her family and friends did not support her quitting her job to go into full-time ministry.

Mie’s Hope for Japan

Mie was born and grew up in Osaka, Japan; attended the University of Findlay in Ohio; and then returned home. She got a full-time job that moved her to Kobe, where she met Mark Busby, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary. They married in 2001 and in 2003, she became the first Japanese citizen to be appointed to Japan by the IMB.

One way Mie helps Mark lead the IMB team in Tokyo is by helping the other missionaries understand the life and culture of the Japanese people. Since Mie is Japanese, it’s natural for her to talk with the Japanese women and that’s where her ministry focuses. For the past 10 years, God has used her to minister to women who have children the age of her 2 children—John and Michelle. The work moves slowly; only recently did one of the women ask Mie to pray to Jesus for her family. Once when she tried to talk to a close friend about Jesus, she cut Mie out of her life and never spoke to her again.

Making Bible Stories Come Alive

The girls and I walked into the small, empty chapel. “Let’s sit up front,” I said. I led the way, and we took our seats. I smiled, taking in my surroundings—my teenage daughters were with me at a women’s retreat. I’d just signed them up, without their permission, and they hadn’t given me any flack over it.

Through the stories of David and Goliath and the prodigal son, the speaker shared about leaving an abusive relationship and going home. Her parents had moved to Texas, and she didn’t even know their city or address. After driving through several states and passing the Texas border, she stopped and made a phone call.

The Original Storyteller

As an English major, my life is inundated with stories. From the beginning to the end of each semester, I can read anything from historical nonfiction, such as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, to English Victorian gothic fiction, such as Wuthering Heights. In many ways, I’ve always understood that our lives are rooted in the stories we know and tell. Stories shape who we are and how we relate to others.

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