17 January | St. Albans, England | Karen Holford
Mark and Julie wandered around the tiny, postcard-perfect town in rural England with their two young daughters. There were no other Adventists in the whole town. They’d been sent to be ‘mingling missionaries’, and they wondered where to start.
They decided to look for a home with a large lounge space, where they could invite people to events, and even run seminars. They found the local Estate Agent office and explained what they were looking for. The agent knew just what they needed! As she showed them around the house, she explained that her husband had left her with three young children, and she was struggling as a parent. “If you ever start parenting seminars here, I want to be the first to know!” Anna told them.
Mark and Julie were inspired by the message in Jeremiah 29:7. “Go to Babylon and be a blessing to the people there”. Well, if Anna would be blessed by parenting seminars, other people would enjoy them too?
As soon as Mark and Julie settled their little family in their new home, they baked dozens of cakes, packed them into pretty tins, and took one to each of the neighbours in their small street. Their daughters, Lily and Lucy, stood on each doorstep, smiling, singing and giving out the biscuit tins. After all, who could turn down a gift from a happy child! Julie told the neighbours, “Please enjoy the biscuits and we’ll come back in a week to collect the tins, so that we can use them again!”
The next week they collected the tins. As they chatted, they learned more about their neighbours and offered to help if they were struggling with anything. Julie was a nurse and Mark learned car mechanics when he was going through college. After a couple more weeks they invited a few neighbours at a time to join them for afternoon tea – juice and cakes – in their neat little garden.
Every day they looked for ways to be a blessing in their neighbourhood. They took old Tom Jones to his hospital appointment. They helped Kate to fix her car. And they sat with Mrs Wilson after she had fallen and broken her hip, until the ambulance came. They didn’t forget about Anna, either. Whenever they were in town, they visited her office with a homemade cake, and they stopped by for a chat. Julie found a parenting course, written by Christians, which was ready to use. All she had to do was to show the DVD and facilitate a discussion around the topics. Anna was excited about the course and suggested that they offer it to parents in the local school, where she was also a governor. The school let them have the room for free and advertised the course to all the parents.
Julie was a little nervous on the first day. Would it all go smoothly, would anyone come? Anna had shared the course through several of her social media networks. She knew lots of parents who were struggling. The room quickly filled up. The course was designed to encourage parents to talk together, make friends and share their challenges and their ideas.
Soon Julie and Mark had an expanding group of people to bless. They felt impressed to find ways to bless them as often as they could. So, they invited 2-3 parents at a time to meet them in a local café, so they could get to know more about their lives and their needs. Each need could be opportunity to bless them.
Looking for other ways to make friends and bless people, Julie joined a ladies’ craft group and Mark volunteered to help with a football club for teenagers. Even Lily and Lucy joined in with swimming lessons, and an orchestra for children, so that they could make friends with other children and their families.
The more they looked… the more they found
The more they looked for ways to bless others, the more opportunities came their way. When Anna went into hospital for surgery, she was very relieved that her children could stay with Mark and Julie. The local town asked Mark to sit on their improvement committee, and even gave the couple funding to expand their parenting project and start other community groups.
Mark and Julie befriended people and showed them God’s love. Every evening they prayed for each person on their contact list. Then they waited for people to ask them about God and their faith when they were ready to learn more, because they believed it was important to let the Holy spirit be in charge of the timing and the process.
Eight years later, when they moved away to be mingling missionaries elsewhere, there was a tiny church in that little town, with 40 members. And Mark and Julie are still ‘mingling missionaries’ to this very day.
How to Be a Blessing in Babylon
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7 NIV
- Pray for your local community, asking God to bless it with peace and enable it to flourish.
- Look for the ways He is blessing you so that you can pass on the blessing to others.
- Find out the greatest needs in your community and look for ways to help.
- Ask God to show you where you can be a blessing in your community.
- Make an intentional decision to bless at least one other person in your community, every week, or even every day.
- If you have children, involve them in your ‘blessing’ activities.
- Join local clubs or volunteer groups to widen your sphere of influence and networks.
- Visit your neighbours regularly with seasonal gifts, such as garden produce or baked goods, or homemade cards.
- Welcome people into your home and share your hospitality with them.
- Start small projects that will bless your neighbourhood – campaign for a safer road crossing, pick up rubbish, befriend lonely people, plant a community garden, etc.
- Pray for the people you are blessing and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your interactions.
- Create simple printed cards to share with your neighbours, offering to help them in small ways, and giving them your contact details.
- Discover people’s birthdays and surprise them with a tiny treat.
- Support small local businesses, so that people get to know you. Collaborate with them on ways to bless others.
As we mingle and bless others, we are living examples of God’s love, helping to open their hearts and minds to wonder about Him. When they have a positive picture of God, through us, they will turn to Him at just the right time.
Karen Holford, TED Family Life Director mingles by taking the bus to work. She chats to people at the bus stop and along the journey and listens to their stories.
[Photos: David Neal, TED]