Neighboring in Action
RaeAnne Stees had a “neighboring” plan that led to a successful neighborhood picnic.
By Kelly Fedeli
For eight years, RaeAnne Stees lived in her neighborhood in Middletown not really knowing her neighbors. She knew only a couple by name. A nurse with a busy schedule, RaeAnne simply wanted to be left alone. She kept to herself and avoided engaging her neighbors because, as she put it, “I really didn’t want to get involved.”
RaeAnne described herself as the kind of person who looks out the window before leaving the house to ensure she didn’t have to talk with anyone. She always felt guilty about her feelings, but never tried to change.
During his first sermon in the Art of Neighboring series, Pastor George Davis posed the critical question, “What if Jesus really meant to ‘love your neighbor’?” When she heard those words, RaeAnne felt strongly convicted. Over the course of the next several weeks she took a series of meaningful steps to connect with the people who lived all around her.
Week 1: The Wheels Begin to Turn
RaeAnne took the magnet given at church and was able to write down the names of the neighbors who lived beside her and across the street. Those were all she knew.
Week 2: Peach Cobblers for New Neighbors
The second week she baked fresh peach cobblers for two of her neighbors and spent time visiting with them. One of these neighbors was a complete stranger to RaeAnne, the other household she knew, but rarely talked with them.
Week 3: Planning the Neighborhood Picnic
Feeling very motivated in the third week, RaeAnne decided to plan a picnic. She bought invitations and hand-delivered them to nine homes on her block. “I was so out of my comfort zone as I knocked on strangers’ doors and invited them to my house,” she shared. “When I got home I frantically wrote down the names of everyone I had just met, and then I prayed that they would show up!” During this process, RaeAnne learned that one of her neighbors, who had lived there 17 years, knew absolutely no one in the neighborhood.
Week 4: Interim Prayer
During the week leading up to the picnic, RaeAnne prayed for several different things. First, she prayed that people would come. After receiving some surprised and strange looks while delivering the invitations, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Second, she prayed for good conversations during the picnic. Finally, after learning the forecast for the day of the event, she prayed that it would not rain.
Week 5: The Picnic
On the day of the picnic each of RaeAnne’s prayers were miraculously answered. Seventeen people attended, the conversations were fabulous and it didn’t rain. God is good. “Everyone was so nice and I learned so many things about the people I’ve lived around for eight years, including that many of my neighbors are Christians,” RaeAnne said. Two of her neighbors who had lived side-by-side for decades saw one other for the first time in 10 years. Many people suggested having another picnic.
Reflecting on the past month, RaeAnne said she feels closer to her neighbors and not as isolated. Her experience has caused her to re-evaluate the importance of relationships. “The Holy Spirit worked through me,” she said. “I feel very happy about the past month and am looking forward to opportunities that will open more doors between me and my neighbors. I know now that I am put here to reflect the love and compassion of Jesus.”