Adopt-a-Street Testimony

 
 
Initiating

 

      I have recently been inclined to “adopt” the street my family and I call our own. Our Pastor has been sharing a vision for regional transformation with us (his congregation and other Pastor friends of his) for quite some time, but especially since Jan. 1, 2012. On that day he gave a sermon to share the plan that the Lord had impressed on his heart, a plan to “Adopt-A-Street” for prayer.

      I was very excited to hear about this plan, but did nothing to bring it into my home. I prayed about my involvement, yet left that prayer “at-the-altar” and went on with my life. My excitement wasn’t enough to move me. I needed God to move me.

       

     My Pastor began to remind us of the vision, and also encouraged us to listen to the Jan 1st message again. This was the push that I needed from the Lord. I started to listen to this message once a week, then twice, and really started to catch the vision. I had to hear the Lord, so I drove home in silence some days thinking about the vision and how I could implement it in my neighborhood. I would sit and look at the map on my computer, zooming in on my neighborhood and becoming moved with compassion for my neighbors (many of which are under extreme religious bondage). My heart started to race with anticipation as I would recite in my mind conversations that could take place after asking how I could pray for one of my neighbors. What opportunities this could bring!! Would this make it possible to share the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ to my neighbors? Will this bring unity between us, and create a like-mindedness that isn’t there right now? So many of these thoughts were (and are even now) crossing my mind. I needed to take the initiative, and present my desire to my wife.
 

     On my way home one day, I called my wife and told her what the Lord was doing in my heart. I then told her that I felt we needed to sign up for the Adopt-A-Street initiative. She responded quickly with a “Yes, I agree”. She even had immediate ideas to share, as if she had been contemplating these things in her heart as well!!

        

     That evening we signed up and prayed that the Lord would use us to pray for our neighbors. (I also called my Pastor to ask him to forgive me for not doing this sooner. It took me 7 months to act in obedience to what the Lord was presenting to us through my Pastor. That was unacceptable in my heart.) We shared the vision with our children and encouraged them to start praying for the children on our street. They have been faithful to do this since then!
 

           

 
Engaging

        

     I went on a walk with my three boys one day after work. After signing up to pray for my street, I felt that this would be a good way to pray for my neighbors. I was taking down the addresses of the houses as I walked by and praying for them (having grown up in that neighborhood, I know many of the people that live on my street), and my sons were picking up trash as we walked. I went about ¾ miles from my house before I turned around to come home, and then I looked at the paper I had been writing the addresses on. I was almost overwhelmed with how many people there were in this little section of road, not even 1/3 of the amount I had signed up to pray for! This created a feeling of inadequacy immediately.
 

     After this my prayer focus started to shift. “Lord, raise up people to help”, and “I need your guidance, Father”, were (and are) frequent prayers of mine as I thought about this project. There are more than fifty properties on the section of road I signed up for, and I struggle to remember to pray for my family on a daily basis. I knew that this was too much for my family and me to accomplish.

           

     After this it seems as though the Lord responded immediately to my prayers. I felt as though God was telling me to engage other Christians on my street with this mission. So I shared this with my wife, and she agreed right away. My prayers started to be focused on the Christians on our street.

        

     We pulled into a gas station one day in town, right as all this was taking place. When I got out I realized that a Christian neighbor of mine was walking towards me (a particularly busy day at the pumps, didn’t stop him from coming over to give me a hug and a greeting!). After saying our “hellos” I felt as though I needed to share a little bit of the mission with him. I gave him a very brief overview, and he responded with this, “I saw you pulling in and something told me to wait for you, I couldn’t just leave.” I asked him for his phone number and he was glad to give it to me. We both were very excited, hugged again, and went our ways.

        

      A little over a month and a half went by before we talked. I never once made even the effort to call him. Isn’t that sad! If I was God, I would’ve disqualified me for failing to follow through, but He is relentless in carrying out His plans. I was in my barn working on my lawn mower one evening, when a vehicle pulled in. It was my neighbor! He said that his wife and he were excited about the mission we had talked about at the gas station. I felt embarrassed for not having called him, but he told me not to worry about it. He proceeded to invite my family over to their house for dinner, and a chance to really lay out the plan for this vision. I accepted, needless to say!! We went over to their house, ate together, had great conversations, I shared the vision, we sang together, and finally prayed to end the evening. They agreed to help in the effort to reach out to our neighbors with love, through prayer!!

        

     The Lord is so good to us!! As you can see, He orchestrates these things in such a way that not even the most brilliant of minds could think up. We sometimes will not get involved in things because we think that we aren’t adequate enough for the job. I need to tell you something, we are inadequate. God is in charge though! He picks up the slack!! In Him all things are possible. He works through imperfect people to carry out His ultimate purposes! All He requires of us is a willing heart to step out in faith and try! Even though I “dropped the ball”, by not calling Jack, God never once yelled at me. He never once told my co-workers that I was incapable to carry out his plan. He never demoted me, dropped my pay rate, fired me, or assigned someone else to the job. My God believes in me, and will use me to cover His neighborhood (lest I forget that it is His) with my prayers. This is so encouraging to me, and it motivates me to taking on this challenge.

 

 
Ongoing Process

        

     I have found that a normal trip to the local store has taken on so much more meaning. On the way there I pray for the houses that I pass on my street. While I’m there, I find myself noticing who is around me and if they are my neighbors. I feel as though I am on a constant mission to engage my prayer life into the people around me.

        

      I was checking out at the grocery store one day, when a family came in. I went to school with the girl, so I knew her name. They stopped, and we ended up getting into a conversation. Her husband and I were talking, when I felt as though I needed to ask them how I could pray for them. This caught them off guard, I could tell by the blank looks on their faces. He responded by shaking his head “no”, and she didn’t know what to say. Feeling like I made the situation awkward, I shared with them that I had recently “adopted” our street for prayer. I just expressed my desire to cover our neighborhood with love through prayer and then I saw the atmosphere change. She said, “You know what, pray for our health, and our son is starting school soon so please pray for him too.” I agreed to do this, and also encouraged a time when we could get together and visit.   I was walking through the same store one day, when I saw another neighbor of mine. He has a business on our street, so I also recognized him. I greeted him, and proceeded into a conversation. After a bit I asked him if there was any way I could pray for him. His eyes lit up and he responded with not one but many ways to pray not only him but his family as well!!

        

      At this same store I saw another neighbor, the business owner mentioned above is his father-in-law. I said hello and he responded with sort of a short “hey”. Noticing that he wasn’t really looking like he would be interested in a conversation I just decided to leave it at that. I went out and started to walk over to my car, and I heard him behind me say, “How are you neighbor?” This is the power of God!! I turned around and responded with the only word I could think of, “Blessed!” We started to talk and I led the conversation to the adopt-a-street vision. I shared that we signed up then asked him if I could pray for him. He answered with this, “Pray for the economy and for jobs to come back to this area.” What an unselfish prayer request. I don’t know if he knows Christ as his Savior but I know that he has a heart for the people around him! This is so encouraging!!

        

     One evening I saw the father of one of my very good High School friends. I had spent a lot of time at their house growing up so I was very comfortable approaching him. I went over to him as he was finishing pumping gas into his truck. He called out my name as I drew closer to him, with an enthusiastic smile. We entertained each other with some usual vernacular but then I asked again how he was doing. He put his head down and said, “I am really trying to quit smoking and the doctor tells me my health is starting to go down-hill fast.” I asked him if I could pray about that for him to which he responded with a chuckle, “You can pray all you want for me, Lord knows I need it.” Can you believe that? He took the words right out of my mouth!! I responded by sharing the vision of covering our street with prayer and proceeded to ask for some specifics. He ended up confiding in me how he feels about “the Man upstairs”, saying that his brother and dad are preachers but he was the “black-sheep” of the family. I told him that he doesn’t need to feel that way because God loves him just as much as them. I told him that Jesus’ blood was shed for him and he can know Him personally too. He responded by saying, “I don’t think that you need to be in a church to be religious. All that matters is that you have faith in Him (pointing upwards)”. I assured him that I would pray for him as he announced his need to leave. I am praying for him to really experience the love of God through a supernatural experience. God is still doing these signs and wonders, dreams, healings all around the world, WHY NOT AT MY NEIGHBORS HOUSE!! I believe that He desires to show up in some very unusual ways! Please come quickly Lord.

        

     One evening I decided to take my boys on a walk to help my oldest son raise money for a fundraiser he was doing. I figured that he could sell candy bars while I was praying and taking down information. The first house we visited was a neighbor I had never met. She was tending her livestock when we walked up her drive. Walking over towards us she recognized my son (her daughter went to school with him) and said hello to him. When he asked her for support she went into her house and got some money. She hung her head a little as she gave him the money and said she wishes that she could do more but, “I’m going through a divorce right now, and things are really hard for me.” This led me to ask if I could pray for her and the family, to which she responded with a “yes” and she had a few other requests!

        

     A couple houses later an elderly Amish couple,(a preacher) that I knew had been struggling bought a few candy bars. I sat down with them and just started to ask how things were going for them. They both expressed some frustrations they were having with his work situation. I did not share the complete vision with them but I did thank them for sharing this with me. I told them that I would be praying for them and they responded with very grateful tones. We mutually said that it would be nice to visit with each other some time! 

        

      My Grandpa died in August and while I was at the calling hours (I have an Amish up-bringing, so this was an Amish funeral setting) walking out to leave I saw a lady sitting in her van. I recognized her right away as the lady that waved fanatically as my boys and I walked by her house one evening. I shook hands with some of my Amish neighbors that had shown up to see my Grandpa (a Bishop, a Deacon, and a lay-man) so I new that some of my neighbors were there. I walked over and interrupted her reading. I greeted her by saying, “Hi neighbor.”, and she looked up with a confused look. After I explained where I lived and how I knew her (she also was a school bus driver at the school I went to) she was happy to put down her book and engage in conversation. “This may seem a little awkward, but is there any way I could pray for you?” I asked. She responded with a deep gasp, and said “My husband and I were just talking about an issue that needs prayer.” She went on to talk about that issue and gave me many other requests as if she had been prepped to talk of these things. In our conversation she revealed the issue of being hurt by a church they attended a while ago. She said since then they haven’t gone back to church saying that they “can worship just as much at home”. Isn’t that sad? Christianity was never meant to be lived in isolation but I find that many people are driven to isolation by the thoughtless harsh critics that attend our Sunday morning services. I told her that I would be praying for them to get connected with a body of people that will love them and care for them.

        

     One day in front of a store-front in town, I was having a conversation with a man I used to work for when an Amish gentleman came up behind us. We made eye contact and smiled at one another before he entered the store. The other gentleman and I were just finishing our conversation when a neighbor of ours came out of the store right on cue! He has a physical disability and has to ride on a power wheelchair. “Hello Mark”, he said and asked how I was doing and gave his condolences for my Grandpa’s death. This led into a conversation that was divinely orchestrated and amazingly encouraging!

        

      I told him that my Grandpa had expressed his joy to my parents about having his sins forgiven. (83 years old and finally having the comfort of forgiveness wash over him; O’ how that must’ve felt for him!!) We talked about this a little before he asked, “What do you think is going to happen to Sam Mullet” (the “beard-cutter“)? This question caught me off guard a little, but as always the Lord gave me the answer that was apparently needed. I said, “The power of the Gospel is this, Sam has the same opportunity to receive forgiveness as me, you, or Grandpa. I pray that as he spends time in prison he would give himself over to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and receive the forgiveness of sins that‘s available to him.” A little shocked at this answer he responded by saying, “You know that as long as we’re good we can hope to get into Heaven when we die, right?” I just smiled and said, “If I need to depend upon my goodness I’m afraid that I’ll never make it to Heaven. Picture it like this Joe, Christ up on the cross and me under His feet. As His blood is shed it falls upon my head covering over my sinful flesh. As God the Father looks on me He no longer sees me but sees the sacrifice of His Son covering me. ’He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’, and ’God demonstrates His love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’. The message of the cross is this: ’My life is hidden in Christ, with God.’”  After I shared this, he said, “Isn’t God amazing, isn’t God amazing Mark?!!” After this he said that he was struggling to forgive certain people that had misused him and needs help with this. I told him that I will pray for him and we separated with a handshake and a smile.

        

      I didn’t feel the Spirit leading me to witness further at that point for a couple of reasons. When we engage the culture around us we must pay attention to the Spirit’s direction. Proper care needs to take place in a field before you can expect a healthy crop. Timing is a key element in witnessing to others. This isn’t a program, it’s a relational thing!! Relationships take time to cultivate; be sure to time it properly. The danger is to run forward too fast pushing our agendas and not paying enough attention to the timing of things. Also, I know the Amish culture and the way they feel about being spiritual in public. I felt like it would offend, if not scare him and I didn’t want that. Maybe in time the Lord will present the opportunity. In fact this has been my prayer for him!

 

 
Take The Step

     These things all happened in 2 months time!! I didn’t plan anything. It didn’t cost me any money and it strengthened my prayer life! I wanted to write this as an encouragement to anyone who is “on the fence” about signing up. Please don’t let your own reasoning stop you from becoming involved in something much bigger than yourself. Become an intricate part of your community by signing up to cover it with your prayers. Throw your plans to the side on how to implement this “program” into your life and just surrender yourself over to the Lord of your life for a “movement” towards the deepening of relationships.

          

     Life is all about relationships. How are your relationships with the people living closest to you? Are you praying for the marriages, children, businesses, churches, schools, farms, etc. in your neighborhood? Can you see your neighborhood overflowing with the Lord’s blessings? “If My people,” the Lord says, “will humble themselves, pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven... and heal the land.” Is part of this wickedness a lack of involvement in our neighbors’ lives? Please, take courage and get involved!! If God can use this unorganized, imperfect author to touch his neighborhood imagine what He could do through you!!

        

     Adopt-A-Street is a movement to engage the children of God in praying for the practical needs of people around them. Pastor Dan Barker has had the courage to share the vision the Lord impressed upon his heart. How have you responded? Child of God, get involved in this movement, and have fun with it.

            

 
 
     In Christ’s Love,
     M. Hostetler