Neighbor: The How-To Guide
By Malaina Yoder - July 27, 2017
Posted in Partnerships, Stories from NMC
On Sunday, Pastor Dave talked about grit. Grit, he said, is courageously and consistently doing the right things in spite of fatigue, discouragement and obstacles. At NMC, we’re not the only people talking about grit.
“We talk a lot about grit here,” Kory Lantz said. Kory and Alison Lantz started Transformation Ministries as a way to serve the youth in their neighborhood. It takes a considerable amount of grit for some of these kids to survive. Even though it’s only a forty-minute drive from NMC, Transformation Ministries is part of a different cultural experience.
Kory was careful as he told stories about his friends, because he didn’t want to reinforce the stereotypes people have about inner-city kids. With admiration, he told the story of a friend who wakes up at four or five in the morning to get his siblings ready for school. Then he walks to school because the bus doesn’t run to his area. He’s an athlete and works hard to keep his grades up. He’s one of those people who makes others feel better when they’re in his presence. This young man has grit that I couldn’t understand.
Listening to Kory, I was struck by how naturally he had connected to his community. Moving to a new neighborhood is hard, even without a cultural shift. Yet, Kory and Alison have beautiful, meaningful relationships with so many people. Over the course of our conversation, I noticed a few things that their family does well.
Approach people with humility.
It takes a lot of humility to say, “I don’t know.” Kory said many people are unaware of “how much you can learn from those who don’t have much by the world’s standards.” There’s so much we miss because we’re not interacting with people who are different than us—especially those who are underserved and under-resourced. It’s vitally important to learn from people whose knowledge and understanding of the world tends to be lost in favor of voices we consider “successful.” The Lantz family really asks questions and tries to understand the wisdom in how others view the world.
An important, humbling part of ministry is often overlooked: asking for help. Sometimes the best way to love someone else is to ask them for a cup of sugar. Asking for that help is humbling, but we were never called to look like we have everything under control. We’re called to rely on each other when life is out of control.
When Alison and Kory’s family go through hard seasons, their neighbors knock on their door. They’ve got the Lantz’s back. “People in this neighborhood are really family-oriented,” Kory said. “They’re great at rallying around you.
“If you only know people on a shallow level, you can feel pretty good,” Kory said, with some humor. The statement echoes the sentiments of many of our other partners in ministry. These partners are in it for the long haul. The work of transformation goes deep by slow steps. Trust is built with time, and discipleship is a process that is never complete.
“I don’t know how people without a belief in Christ do non-profits,” Kory said. When you go deep with people, it can be discouraging to see how slow the discipleship process is. When Christ is doing the work, things don’t become easier. The results, though, are beautiful when you’ve been faithful and obedient in the process.
“You’re not the savior,” Kory said. “You’re not the one transforming lives.”
The end-of-the year celebration at Transformation Ministries was a blast. The students and their families came to have ice cream and tons of fun. Together, they celebrated the unique kids who participate in Transformation Ministries. They gave out awards such as the Grit award. This one went to a single mom who was 17 years old. Another, the Sharpener award, went to a wonderful young woman who serves to develop those around her. She was moved to tears when she got it; so was her mom.
Sometimes we use another word for celebration: praise. If God—not us—is transforming lives, every celebration points to him. The praise that comes from a party with friends is crucial in encouraging each other. It’s an often-overlooked component of being a neighbor.
Just do it.
Honestly, most of us know how to be neighbors, but it’s not always comfortable. Put yourself out there. Join pick-up basketball games, ask to borrow some eggs. Strike up conversations with people on their front porches.
That’s something that Kory says is different about his South Bend neighborhood: people are often out and about, especially in the summer. All of our neighborhoods have advantages that allow for community.
Your neighborhood is unique. Your neighborhood may have spectacular lawns or gardens that often bring your neighbors outside. Your home may be able to host a neighborhood bar-b-que, or the street in front of your house might be perfect for a block party. All of us have unique opportunities for community. All it takes is a little courage, a dash of grit and a whole lot of prayer.