We’ve all heard Jesus’ command to go and make disciples. But Go where? I assumed I’d have to go someplace far and someplace difficult. So I tried all kinds of different opportunities.
I went into Chicago to serve the urban homeless at a soup kitchen. I connected with suburban under-resourced folks at a care center. I tutored kids in a struggling part of the city, an hour’s drive from my home.
Each of these experiences was formative and powerful, yet none were sustainable in the sense that I could integrate them into my daily life. I didn’t want to do “hit and run” disciple-making, I wanted relationship.
Could I follow my Master’s command right where He had placed me?
The reality was that even staying right here still meant “Go.” My heart’s desire was for my world to get bigger but how reasonable was that for a white suburban guy? Still, I prayed anyway for a chance to engage with people of different ethnic backgrounds, different colors, different beliefs.
Around the same time, my wife, Danielle, joined a new women’s group in the area and met a woman who worked for World Relief, a refugee placement agency. And God pulled off a global intersection for us!
That was in 2005 and the long and short of it is, ever since then, Danielle and I have been involved with an amazing number of people from all over the world, who live right in our own back yard. Literally our neighbors! And that close physical proximity has allowed us to develop and deepen relationships, especially with a group of older boys, over time.
Through tutoring, outings and adventures, fun and deep sorrow, we have cultivated friendship naturally and earned the mutual trust to speak openly to each other about being Muslim and being a follower of Christ; about God, our faith, and our questions. In the context of relationship, we’ve engaged in spiritual conversations without hostility, learning to love and understand each other better.
I knew this journey would be a long-term investment. Discipleship works that way. And these older boys are now young men. But the relational capital invested has begun to take root in their hearts as they are slowly discovering Isa al Masih—Arabic for Jesus the Messiah—as God’s Spirit has revealed truth about Himself to them.
In response to one of the Christmas services we attended together, one of guys wrote a poem entitled “Love and Praise the Lord” about what he experienced. Here are a few lines he shared with Danielle and me:
All the poetry ever written
Every verse and every line
All the love songs in the world
Every melody and rhyme,
If they were combined,
They would still be unable to express,
What I want to define
When I try to describe my love for you.
My wife and I are experiencing the joy of discipleship and seeing God’s power and truth revealed to a group of young men. It’s a long walk in the same direction—but it’s a walk of joy and one worth every step.
What about you? Want to take a walk of joy?
Get to know your neighbor.
Q Place National Field Director