It was fall 2019. We had no idea what lay ahead in a few short months. When 2020 hit, we all were trying to process COVID. The lockdowns, masks, quarantines, and school closures all seemed to create an atmosphere of fear in our communities, families and workplaces. In His sovereignty, God divinely brought four ladies together to do a Bible study on Advent. Following the Spirit’s prompting to begin a weekly Zoom based Bible study, Amy, Lee, Susie and Cindy had no idea what a source of encouragement this would be for the difficult days that lay ahead.
Who could have imagined what beauty God would eventually create out of a simple step of obedience? I started a women’s neighborhood Bible study in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. Two questions swirled in my head: Who would come to an in-person Bible study? Am I qualified to be a leader?
I couldn’t believe it when our offer was accepted on a property that felt like God’s sweet gift to me to make my dreams come true. But a move meant a lot of change that left my stomach a little knotty. We were leaving behind a neighborhood (and cul-de-sac) where our daughters could play with other kids, plus all the neighbors we had invested in. But I felt hopeful about our new neighbors based on my observations of their properties: large vegetable gardens, a pool with a slide, fruit trees and beautiful flowering plants. Surely these were my people.
With sleepy eyes and coffee in hand, I logged onto the zoom call. It was March 11th at 6:00 am, and I had the incredible opportunity to connect with pastors and leaders from a closed country in south Asia. One pastor and his wife had invited a group of women to their home whose bright, colored dresses were matched only by their bright, eager smiles! This group of joyful believers were eager to receive encouragement towards reaching others for Christ.
To grow up with and observe a mom who is consistently in God’s Word is a gift I cherish! I’ve witnessed her take time in the mornings to pull away in the quiet and dedicate time to prayer and reading Scripture. Not only was it for herself, but it was to posture herself in a way that allowed her to help other women in our neighborhood study His Word.
The neighborhood invitation stated that the Christmas nativity would begin at 5pm.
“Mary” did not want to wear a costume, so her unicorn sweater sufficed.
Two “wise men” were sent home for behavioral issues.
“The star” ran back and forth into the house.
Narrator: “This is Mary, a girl of Galilee.
Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with a group of women at a local church to discuss loving our neighbors by inviting them to study God’s Word.
We introduced ourselves, and I quickly realized among those present were prayer warriors, veteran Bible study leaders and many who had a heart for their neighbors but weren’t sure where to begin.
I’ll never forget January of 2012. Visiting my brother Alan on the family farm during lambing season was a highlight of my Easter experience. Those moments created a desire to know the Lord – His life, death, and resurrection – in a new way.
The lambing season brought 12 new little lambs to his flock. The newborn lambs lurched and stumbled as they learned to walk, yet they were precious and beautiful from the beginning. I watched my brother and father carefully tend each one, providing their needs and protecting them. The ewe moms stayed close, attentive, and observant. Within a few days the newborns were dancing and playing in the field. One lamb seemed especially appealing to me because I noticed he had no defects and was perfect in every way. Witnessing this firsthand changed my view of Jesus; it was pivotal.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” I Peter 1: 18, 19. That spring it seemed I was reading Peter’s words as he wrote them, the ink barely dry on the page.
It was a message from heaven she would never forget. After moving, Donna longed to start a Bible study in her Leesburg, Florida neighborhood. She had taught one for 20 years at her former church, so she rallied three friends and they began praying. One day while she was in Goodwill, a stranger approached her with a smile. “I have a message for you,” he said. “God is pleased with you and will soon answer your prayers!” As he turned to leave, he called over his shoulder, “By the way, my name is Gabriel.”
Donna was overwhelmed. But that was just the beginning. The very next day as she and her husband drove by a service station, she noticed a small sign announcing a neighborhood Bible study on Mondays from 10-11:30 am. “That’s what I want to do!” she exclaimed in surprise. “It’s even the right time!” Her husband John shrugged and said with a grin, “Well, you were looking for a sign. . .”
Donna hurried back to her computer and typed in some key words. When Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO popped up, she combed through the website and signed up for training. During this time, she and her three friends continued prayer-walking her neighborhood. On the NBS2GO website, Donna downloaded some invitations to send out, and many responded. A new LIGHT Bible study was launched. For four months 13-15 women gathered at her house in Scottish Highlands, a mega neighborhood of 620 homes. A woman from each of its five subdivisions attends her study. Donna is thrilled that two women are already planning to start their own Bible studies.
To the woman who teaches me how to be a good neighbor.
A Tribute to Jane
Its engine straining, our moving van crawled up the steep driveway at 2810 Forrestridge Drive eleven years ago this month. With a toddler and some relatives in tow to help unload the truck, we moved into our new home. Shade trees, a “mommy” desk and lots of built-in storage were on my list of things to thank God for as I noticed how much He cares about the details. I never imagined how He would give me more than I could ever have asked for --and many of those blessings came from the house catty-cornered from me across the street.
Advent is an incredible season of time in the Christian calendar. We invite you to take part in the ADVENT 2GO Bible study or the ADVENT 2GO Bible plan available on YouVersion. These studies include four stories from Matthew and Luke. We learn of God’s divine plan for the birth of Jesus Christ and experience what it was like to be present at these events. The question-and-answer format can be used for family devotions, group discussion, and self-study. Invite a neighbor, friend, or family member to this Bible study and look expectantly to what God will teach you together. He will draw you closer to one another as you study God’s Word.
I don’t know what was more intimidating, the ice sculpture or the perfectly-dressed ladies. Both of these greeted me as I walked into the church. This particular morning was the introduction to women’s Bible studies. I would pick up the Bible study book, meet others who were also interested, and hear from a speaker. As I walked into the church, I wanted to run the other way. I had just returned from several years of living internationally with a very simple lifestyle. My grid for evaluating any situation was a little different to say the least. Just the size of the foyer completely overwhelmed me. I came into church by myself. Alone. I quickly realized that everyone else came in with a friend. I didn’t know where to go, wasn’t sure I wanted to be there, and definitely didn’t want to experience this situation again. My one thought was, “Why does Bible study have to feel so uncomfortable.”
Have you ever had an experience like this? You know, the kind where your heart is racing, you break out into a sweat, and you feel so confused because in trying to do something right, it suddenly feels very isolating. But moments like these can forge new paths in our lives. My question that lingered was, How many other women feel this way? Could we do it differently?
Motivated by that experience, I wanted to try a new approach. Beginning a Bible study in my neighborhood seemed daunting yet intriguing to me. But I knew that someone reaching out to me and asking me to come seemed very kind and soft. The invitation from a voice rather than an announcement felt caring and compassionate. Could this be what the Lord wanted me to do?
At NBS2GO, we regularly encourage one another to be still before the Lord and listen. Why spin our wheels coming up with what we should do rather than join God where He’s already at work? We encourage one another to “just knit the next row”!
Have you ever had one of those really awkward moments where words shared with you just hang in the air?
You want to respond positively, but somehow you can’t think of anything to say. This took place with Elidia during a Bible study she hosted. She was excited to begin a Bible study with a neighbor God had put on her heart. And then this happened...
“The only reason I’m coming to your Bible study is because I want to be a good neighbor,” her new neighbor said awkwardly as she looked down at her notebook. Elidia swallowed hard. Oh no, she doesn’t want to come, she feels obligated to come. What good am I really doing? Lord, am I doing this right? She whispered a prayer of faith and decided to move forward. “What did this passage show you about Jesus?” Elidia asked, resuming the Bible study conversation. But inside she felt confused. Why is my neighbor so resistant? she wondered to herself. Well, at least she keeps coming. . .
On a cool Florida evening, while taking our puppy outside before bed, I greeted our neighbor Andreas walking his pup. Our dogs pulled towards each other like magnets, and we were soon engaged in a late-night chat in our front yard.
I had just finished watching an episode of “The Chosen” and I wanted to tell him about it, but I chickened out. It’s after ten, I reasoned; this can’t possibly be a good time for a deep conversation with a neighbor. I’m tired. He’s probably not interested in spiritual things. I assumed. Deep down, I knew I was making excuses. We finished our talk and I headed to bed.
The next day, I couldn't stop thinking I had missed an opportunity. What did I have to lose? He knows I'm a Christian. So I prayed, confessing my unwillingness to talk about Christ, and asked for boldness and another opportunity to connect with Andreas.
“The one feature I know I need is a fenced-in backyard,” I told my realtor as we began looking for my new townhome. I thought it would surely increase my home office productivity if I could open the door, let Snickers the dog outside, and keep on working. I prayed and even visualized Snickers running around in that fenced-in backyard as I checked off item after item on my action list.
After an exhaustive real estate search, I settled on a townhome in a lovely, small community that had every feature I needed...except the fenced-in backyard. Little did I know that God had a bigger and better plan. As Snickers and I headed out of the door four times a day, I began meeting and getting to know my neighbors. Brief conversations quickly turned into learning each other’s names. Longer conversations soon turned into sharing laughs and hearing about each other’s lives and families.
It was a balmy June evening as several neighbors and myself gathered in a front lawn for our weekly Neighborhood Bible study. Since COVID 19, we have sought creative ways to gather together in socially distanced ways, creating an atmosphere of safety and comfort for everyone.
As we shared insights from that week’s scripture passage, we could not help notice the brown and white, bounding ball of canine energy dashing about from yard to yard.
If you are like me, it seems like time creeps through the winter months leading up to spring. Then suddenly Good Friday arrives, we go to church on Easter and Monday begins the week again. This monumental event of my faith comes with little awareness or forethought. Somehow I feel I have missed out on a season of anticipation. What if you and I don’t “do Easter” that way this year? What if we spend time purposely preparing our hearts and minds for this incredible celebration? The LENT study is meant to do exactly that.