The story that is about to be told helped my family understand the value of loving your neighbours. If this happened to us five years earlier, this may not have been possible:
As the spring turned into summer we watched our daughter adjust her wedding plans from 200 guests to 10 guests. We had front row seats as the drama unfolded, much like most weddings that were planned in the first half of 2020. Thankfully, we had planned the celebration to take place in our yard, as it helped us include our neighbours, but also gave us a sense of how far we have come in taking our neighbourhood seriously.
As we drew closer to the wedding date of June 6, we soon came to realize the limitations of a large celebration with family, friends, and food. The normal expectation of relatives and church family showing up were deleted from the program. And when all that you count on is taken from you, rethinking, reimagining, and renewing seem to be all that is left on the agenda. Since we have intentionally been "loving our neighbours" for the past several years, we took our agenda, and went to work.
Our neighbourhood is situated on a lake that is a ten-minute walk from the wedding venue. So we asked one neighbour to pick up our BBQ and coolers and deliver them to the lake where the bridal party would have dinner following the rehearsal (I know we could have done that ourselves, but that would be missing the point).
Next, we asked another neighbour with a pontoon boat if he would pick the bridal party up for a sunset cruise. It was the start to something redemptive for the wedding celebration. The bugs were terrible on the lakeshore, and it rained on our sunset cruise, but it was still very much a memory maker for the bride and groom. And our neighbours were delighted to be part of this all.
For the wedding day, we asked another neighbour, who has a horse and buggy, to pick up the bride and groom after the ceremony and give them a ride around the neighbourhood. We did not tell the bride, nor the groom, but we did ask all our neighbours to stand out on the road and wave and cheer their names.
The weekend was beautiful! And it was a good indication of how far our family had come in regards to loving and caring for our neighbours. In the past years, we have had deaths and baptisms, divorces and marriages, people moving in and people moving out. We even re-roofed one neighbour’s home as a neighbourhood. These "events" built on each other because of our willingness to simply be present.
I have heard people say that they don’t have those kind of resources in their neighbourhood. And some excuse themselves because they are introverted, or shy, or new, or old. Our neighbourhood loving started with being present—and then some gardening, and then some coffee, and it rolled on from there. No magic, just intentionality…with what we did have. Our love for our neighbour is not motivated by any returns from our investment, nor by crime prevention. It is motivated by the mission our Lord invites us on when he says: “love your neighbour.”
Rick Abma is a local mission leader with Resonate Global Mission in Lacombe, Alberta, and pastor at Neighbourhood Life.