The Back Yard Mission Field

Originally published Saturday, 18 April 2015.



Last week surprised us with a beautifully sunny morning so the two youngest boys and I had gone outside to play.  I took the middle child to an open place in the yard and told him about the garden we would be planting soon with one of our neighbors.  He was thrilled…because basically, he thinks he’s a farmer.  We live in town.  {Sometimes you just have to roll with it.} So Farmer Boy and I discussed the plans for tomatoes, zuchini, and cucumbers while the littlest brother chased a soccer ball around the lawn.

Farmer Boy’s enthusiasm for this soon-to-be vegetable garden was rubbing off on me before I knew it!

And I had this thought, 

What if a simple garden with my neighbor and friend becomes something more?  What if it also builds the character of my children as they help me care for it?  What if God’s plan for this little idea of a simple garden blossoms into something truly significant? 

What if one day, neighbor by neighbor, we all join in together…maybe overtime it becomes a neighborhood garden? I was fully dreaming here, but what if the true fruit of our garden is meant to be missional? Could this little space grow friendship, cooperation, relationships, and even fellowship in a place where neighbors aren’t in the habit of community?

Now my mind was in full swing.  What if this little piece of land could turn into a neighborhood garden complete with neighborhood fellowships?  I would gladly open my backward up to the breaking of bread with my neighbors. 

 Lord, is THIS a mission field?  

Should the building of relationships and serving one another be happening literally in my own back yard?

I can imagine building a long, simple garden and a long, simple picnic table.  Can you imagine the barbecues?  Can you see the neighbors carrying in the buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and the kids enjoying watermelon together?

What has stopped our communities from living this way?  Why have we stopped knowing our neighbor?  Sure, I totally get the hang-ups. I probably struggle with the anxieties of stranger-danger every bit or perhaps a bit more than you, my friend.  

Still.  Something has made us shut our doors the world.  Something has caused us to only invite people into our churches and not into our backyards.  Is it something more than fear of strangers?  Is there a lack of care for those that God has put around us?  My mind took a pause.

God has placed these people around me.  These people.  These are my people.  

God, in His sovereignty, the Creator who knows my name, He created my neighbors as well.  He orchestrated our residency here: side by side by side.

I’ve always had a distaste for that tongue-in-cheek question that they often ask when you speak of an upcoming mission trip.  It isn’t spoken all that kindly….and it bugs me.

“But what are you doing in your own backyard?”

{Insert my not-so-subtle eye roll here….because really.  Ugh.}

I want to answer God’s call.  Always.  He is the Lord of this life.  He can call.  I want to answer. 

And then there is this moment when I’m standing on the unbroken land…a broken person, saved by His grace and learning to step only in faith–always by faith and not by sight.  I don’t have to see the garden yet.  I already know what He can do with it if it is His will.  Basically, I’m all Field of Dreams, standing there beside Farmer Boy…resisting the urge to whisper, “If you build it, they will come.”

Really though.  Can community and fellowship grace our neighborhoods?  Does that really have to be a thing of the past? 

I want to hear from you today.  How has friendship blossomed in your neighborhood?  Have you fascilitated community in some creative way on the streets where you live?  Share with me in the comments!  Tell me how you and your people are coming together to love one another like Jesus loves.  Give us your ideas for taking the Gospel next door.  Someone.  Everyone!  Speak up and tell us that there are those among us that are planting and watering seeds of faith…

in their own backyards.

From my heart {and the Farmer Boys’ heart} to yours,