When Neighbors Notice

August marked the beginning of Vacation Bible Study (VBS) on the street where my teammate Alison and I live. This year, we experimented with VBS to see if there was interest in starting art classes here. Our teammates, who live nearby, have been doing art classes with their kids for a number of years. Their art classes integrate Bible stories so kids have a safe space to create, play, learn more about God and form relationships of trust with other neighborhood adults committed to their long-term flourishing.

The art classes are a huge hit with the kids in my teammates’ building. As I began to form relationships with neighbors and a new group of “kiddos,” the team realized we could start art classes with the kids on our street too!   There was only one problem: Where to do it?

Unlike my teammates’ apartment complex, there was not a big, open space available where a large group could easily gather. The only place was across the street on a long patch of grass that hugs the backside of the police station. Neighbors often use this space for gatherings, parties and play as it is safe and conveniently close. We didn’t know how things would turn out gathering in a public space, but decided to give it a go.

As we progressed, our space “problem” became one of the biggest blessings. Being outside, neighbors and passers-by could observe what we were doing with the kids. Parents chose to watch and linger in lawn chairs on the grass (just out of the splash zone of our water games).

And then came the comments and questions:

“It’s so beautiful what you’re doing with the kids. Were you sharing the Word of God?”

“Watching you outside reminded me of when my boys were younger… they used to have time in the park like that, too. I loved it so much as they were growing up. Thank you for doing that for the kids now.”

“I came home from work and thought, ‘What kinds of shenanigans are happening over there?’ It was so much fun to watch the kids playing and having a good time. It’s really cool to see what you guys are doing.”

Having neighbors notice this work was amazing. It even sparked some long conversations with people who had always had questions about faith and now felt comfortable to ask.

Hope tangibly saturated the air. Ripples of excitement and joy spread throughout the community as neighbors volunteered and even brought homemade food so we would all have something to eat.

Our community came closer together in those few days and it was an absolute blessing. Our street was filled with art, love and joy, in a public testimony to the beauty of God’s kingdom. Kids are already excitedly asking about when art classes will start again. I can’t wait to see what happens this fall and how God will continue to work in beautiful, surprising and unexpected ways on our street, in our hearts and in our lives.

 

Annie Aeshbacher is a BelPres missionary serving the marginalized neighborhoods of Los Angeles through InnerCHANGE.  InnerCHANGE is a Christian ministry that works among the poor around the world.

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