From the Chicago Suburbs to Penang, We Sought to Love Our Neighbors

Whether hospitality means house parties or intimate gatherings, God’s charge is the same.

It’s so nice to finally meet my neighbors. I haven’t met any neighbors in the past 10 years I’ve been living here.”

I vividly remember the radiant smile on my middle-aged neighbor’s face as she told me this. It was at our third neighborhood house party, and she was excited. Twenty neighbors filled our house snacking on finger foods, chatting, and listening to me play Rachmaninoff on the piano.

We had moved to the quiet suburb of Park Ridge seven months earlier, away from the bustling streets of downtown Chicago that we were used to. Initially the idea of hosting big parties never crossed my mind, but in the mostly white, affluent neighborhood we found something missing: community.

Thus began a six-year journey of knocking on doors, meeting neighbors, and entering into their lives. Yet just as we were building strong friendships, COVID-19 hit and we ended up moving more than 9,000 miles away to Penang, Malaysia. With lockdowns, tighter security in our apartment, and a smaller living space, we had to change the way we interacted with our neighbors. Instead of big parties, we ministered to the individuals who entered our home. Instead of a largely homogenous demographic, we broke bread with people of all different religions, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels.

God taught us through this journey that we can be missional no matter where we live in the world, whether it’s on a short-term mission trip to Haiti, in a Chicago suburb, or on a Malaysian island. As mission strategist Alan Hirsch writes in The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating Apostolic Movements, “as God sent the Son into the world, so we are at core a sent or simply a missionary people.”

Getting to know the neighbors

One year …

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