By: Heather Stevenson
It all started with a small multi-generational summer Sunday School class and a lesson on “Who is My Neighbor?”at Fries Memorial Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. Our lesson focused on Ephesians 2:14; 4:1–6 and Luke 10:25–37.
We had good conversation responding to the question about our neighbors.
When we think of neighbors, most of us described neighbors are those who live next door, down the street and even around the corner. After discussing the Parable of the Good Samaritan, our idea of neighborhood was stretched. We talked about how Jesus teaches us that everyone is our neighbor, not just the people who live near us or are like us. We expanded our list of are. The list grew and grew. We added people who live in other places around the world and on other continents. We noted that strangers were our neighbors. We even added that those whom we have been taught not to like are our neighbors, and homeless folks are our neighbors.
Everyone in the group had been involved in caring for their neighborhood as they know it in some sort of way. Our church reaches out to children in a special place with an annual Christmas party and, during the summer, we invite the children to our vacation Bible school. Others in the group have been involved in mission camps, scouting projects or school projects, such as collecting food.
We all agreed that God wants us to reach out and become more caring towards others. We talked about how hard it is to reach out towards those who are different from us. We listed the reasons why we often resist helping people who are different.
After several creative hands-on group projects, I provided materials for the children and adults to make some bag lunches. That was not too hard. We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We added some chips, cookies, fresh fruit and a cold bottle of water. I challenged families to grab a bag or two to take with them. On the way home they were to find a homeless neighbor and offer them lunch. My daughter and I would take any bags leftover and do the same. We ended up with three bags.
My daughter, EmmaGrace, and I drove home that day from church looking for some of the folks we sometimes see on street corners holding signs that indicate they are in need or hungry. One man held a sign that read “Hobo, gotta eat.” Each time we pulled up to a person, EmmaGrace would roll the window down and offer one of the folks a bag lunch. Our hospitality was very well received and we were thanked again and again and were offered God’s blessings for sharing this simple meal with them. EmmaGrace really had no hesitation about rolling down the car window, exchanging greetings and offering food to these people that we now call our neighbors. I, on the other hand, had to really stretch myself to get outside my box and reach out and expose myself to these neighbors in need.
Well, it did not stop there. EmmaGrace wanted to continue this project so we loaded up on things to create bagged lunches for our new neighbors we met throughout the summer. EmmaGrace’s enthusiasm for this project spilled over to a friend of hers and before we knew it she and her mom were dropping off a bag breakfast to a man and his dog on a regular basis on the way to school. At Christmas time we baked several loaves of banana bread and handed those out.
A year later, we are still making lunches and dropping them off to our neighbors that we see on street corners throughout the neighborhood. Some folks we recognize and others are new faces for us. The enthusiasm my daughter shares for this project has helped me see we have no excuses not to reach out to our neighbors. Being a neighbor is not just a matter of who we are but it is a matter of how we act towards others in need.
Heather Stevenson: Heather is the center of the action at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries. She will likely greet you when you visit, answer the phone when you call, and generally prove to know everything there is to know about the goings-on at the Board! Heather has a background in Christian Education, serving Advent and Clemmons Moravian churches in the past. She’s been with the Board of Cooperative Ministries (and previously with the Board of Christian Education) for nearly eight years. Heather and her daughter, EmmaGrace, are members of Fries Memorial Moravian Church and live in Winston-Salem. Together they enjoy the mountains, volunteering with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and of course making bag lunches for their neighbors