Twenty years ago, with a newborn and toddler in tow, Sandy Johnson moved into her current neighborhood and discovered an idyllic community setup.
There was a voluntary neighborhood association that published a newsletter and planned events like Easter egg hunts, parades, and play groups. As Sandy’s children grew older, though, families moved away, life got busy, and the association and involvement waned.
Then, about six years ago, Sandy and a handful of other neighbors decided to help make her neighborhood buzz with community once again. She took on the newsletter and Easter egg hunt herself and helped with block parties, picnics, and more. So, when the HCBC Women’s Christmas on the Block opportunity came around, Sandy was definitely interested, but also intimidated. “I’m not an outgoing extrovert and the thought of inviting and entertaining a group of women I barely knew was scary,” Sandy recalls.
But, the nudge to host wouldn’t let up, and Sandy decided to reach out to other HCBC women living in the neighborhood. “Sure enough, they were feeling the same way: they thought it was a great idea, but they were daunted by the thought of doing it alone,” she says.
Nevertheless, the group of ladies met and settled on hosting a progressive dinner: one home for appetizers and wine, and another for dinner and dessert. Even though Sandy felt her house was on the small side, she agreed to serve as stop number one. “I had to give all my insecurities over to God and trust Him to work in spite of my shortcomings,” Sandy says.
“The night of the event we prayed, asking the Holy Spirit to be present and Jesus to be our unseen guest of honor. If He’s there, it’s a party, regardless of who else shows up.”
With a team and a plan in place, the group stepped out in faith and invited the entire neighborhood. They included information in the newsletter, put it on the neighborhood Facebook page, and walked door-to-door to personally invite women. An online signup simplified the food planning, too. They also prayed regularly and often, and asked others to do so, as well.
On the big day, about 40 women showed up, many of whom Sandy had never met. Everyone enjoyed appetizers, wine and non-alcoholic beverages both inside and in the backyard of Sandy’s home. Then, at house number two, delicious soups and salads, cookies and cake, were served by the neighborhood’s HCBC husbands and sons.
After eating, women stayed, talked and laughed for a long time. There were many requests to make it an annual neighborhood tradition.
“Looking back, I think prayer and faith in God’s ability, not our own, were the keys to making this event successful,” says Sandy. “The night of the event we prayed, asking the Holy Spirit to be present and Jesus to be our unseen guest of honor. If He’s there, it’s a party, regardless of who else shows up.”
After seeing how God worked through the Christmas event, it was easy to trust Him and start a Love Where You Live group. She again banded together with others in her neighborhood and five groups were launched on different nights of the week.
Sandy will be the first to share that these positive outcomes were only possible because of her dependency on God, and her willingness to reach out and ask others to help. But, because of that willingness, a new sense of community is growing in her neighborhood. What will you do next time you feel the nudge to neighbor?