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Being a Neighbor

What if Jesus is intentional when he puts us in the path of another?

By Bill Hall, National Director, Canada

It all started when my son, Liam, was signing up for Beavers (the program preceding Cub Scouts). We’d only been in our community a few weeks when we decided to get Liam involved in the scouting movement, as his older sister had been involved with Girl Guides since she was five.

While standing in line to fill out the application, Joan, the Beaver leader, asked, “Would you like to help as a leader?” I said I was willing to give it a go, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the past 25 years we have developed a relationship with Joan’s family. Her husband, Jeff, was a Cub Scout leader, and I transitioned to serving that age group when my son moved up the ranks of the Scout movement.

We’ve seen their children grow up at the same pace as our two children and have spent many a New Year’s Eve at Joan and Jeff’s country home. They even came to our church for one of our harvest supper outreach events.

But when it comes to an invitation to church, Joan told me early on that she is “spiritual” but not a Christian.

But that is not the point of my story.

I’m a firm believer that Jesus puts us into the paths of people for a reason. And you never know what that means.

I find it interesting that when Jesus sends out the 72 to be his messengers about the presence of the Kingdom of God, he makes this statement: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10: 2-3 NIV).

I’ve often prayed that God would provide workers for the harvest, without realizing he was talking to me. We are the ones who are to love our neighbor as Jesus has loved us and loves them (Luke 10:27).

Back to Joan and Jeff. One day I received a panicked phone call from Joan mentioning that Jeff was in a crisis, and she didn’t know how to help him. She asked if I could come over to their house. I dropped everything and rushed over.

When I sat down with Jeff, he told me he had just returned from the South Pacific after spending two weeks there. He related how that past summer he had met a foreign doctor who was on a contract in the community and was an ardent sailor. Jeff invited him to join his local sailing club and their relationship grew over the summer. When it was time for the doctor to go back to the South Pacific, he invited Jeff to visit and go sailing on his sailboat.

Jeff decided to take him up on the invitation and visited him in January during the worst of our Canadian winter. His visit was exciting, filled with days on the doctor’s sailboat and experiencing village life on the island where the doctor lived. He stayed at his friend’s home and got to know the doctor’s wife.

One day, the doctor suggested they go snorkeling in the coral lagoon that surrounded the island. So they traveled down to the beach and snorkeled, while the doctor’s wife sat on the beach reading her book.

Snorkeling was a wonderful experience in the warm and calm clear waters of the lagoon. Then the doctor asked if Jeff was up for a little excitement. He urged Jeff to join him in swimming outside of the coral reef. But as soon as they were out in the open waters of the Pacific, they hit strong currents that flowed past the protective coral reef. Jeff said it took all his ability to keep afloat and not to be overcome with panic.

Jeff was about to suggest they return to the safety of the lagoon when the doctor disappeared. Jeff tried to find him, but feared for his own life and barely made it back to the lagoon.

Once he made it to the beach, he told the doctor’s wife what had happened, and she raised the alarm with the local authorities. Her friends arrived and started to scour the beach of the lagoon, and the US Coast Guard sent a rescue ship and helicopter to search the open ocean. (The search went on for a couple of days, but his friend’s body was never found).

For the next several days, while waiting for his scheduled flight to return home, Jeff tried to offer his support to the grieving widow, as she and her friends dealt with her husband’s death. But he felt so inadequate.

This is the background to what I faced that day. Jeff was clearly in crisis as he relived the trauma of those previous weeks.

What did I do? Mostly I listened and along the way I acknowledged his trauma and offered words of encouragement. The best love I could give to my neighbor was to simply be there with him and listen.

Looking back at that conversation, I can’t help but be honored that our relationship was such that he allowed me into his personal space in that moment of time. That day I was able to show love for my neighbor in a way I would never have imagined. This is just one example of how God invites us to join him in sharing his love and life with others. I’m sure you have a similar story.

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