Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Seven Steps to Help You Walk Out Your Front Door ~ Titus 2 Tips {on Thursdays} ~ A Guest Post

“Today, do we think that the fields are ripe for harvest in Africa, Asia or Latin America, but not here in North America? Maybe it’s more about the mindset of the harvesters than about the season or the location. Perhaps one of the reasons that God uses missionaries and church planters to reach people with the Gospel is the intentionality with which they live their lives—not just because they meet people who are spiritually receptive … I’m convinced that there are spiritually-hungry people all around us. The challenge is not so much that we live in a spiritually-closed culture, but more that we so easily give in to distraction and apathy . . . Let’s get to work. The harvest is now—it’s all around us!” (Randy Friesen, The Harvest is Now)


I ran into the above magazine article recently and this quote really summarized some thoughts I’ve had in the past year or so. When I travelled to Africa in 2003, it seemed like there were so many opportunities to reach out and share my faith. But here in the suburbs of a large Canadian city, I almost never see our neighbours, so how could I possibly hope to reach them? As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t have work colleagues I can share my faith with. How can I be intentional right here, in the place God has put me? If He has placed me here, then it means that there must be people He wants to reach through me. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) But how do I meet these people that God wants me to reach?

Before I was married, I was introduced to a young Muslim mom who wanted to practice her English and was willing to teach me some Arabic in exchange. I never achieved anything close to fluency; in fact, my claim to fame is that I am now able to greet people in Arabic and I can recognize when it is being spoken! In between the “lessons”, I played with her daughter, sampled middle eastern cuisine, talked with her about our differing beliefs and developed a friendship that continues to this day.

But once I had young children, the ideas for reaching out that had worked really well in my single years suddenly became more challenging and complicated. I decided to explore my neighbourhood and city and see what options there were for meeting unbelievers; in particular, young moms. I wanted something that would fit with my life stage (mom with young children), our budget (free!) and our schedule (mornings open for activities). It needed to be something that wasn’t too structured so that I would actually have a chance to interact with the other moms, instead of being busy doing activities with my children the whole time. 




What I discovered are some amazing places found in Ontario for parents and preschool children (ages 0-6) called “Early Years Centres” and “Ontario Literacy Centres”. These specially designed classrooms provide an environment where kids can learn side by side with their moms (or other caregivers). The children learn by exploring the activities, crafts and toys that are set out each day, but the parents also learn activities and songs that they can bring home with them. I found these centres to be wonderful places to allow my children to explore and learn. But my other reason for attending was to meet and connect with young moms and I enjoyed doing that each time I would go. 

In March and April, my children and I were connected with another preschool program (held in a church, but run by an immigration organization) that was geared towards children who may not know English or may be new to Canada. I wasn’t sure if we were really eligible when I learned of targeted audience for this program, but they were very happy to have fluent English speakers joining them! My daughter was so excited to be going to “preschool” each day, and she loved packing her snacks and setting out her clothes each night. She showed such growth over those six weeks as she learned how to interact with children who were new to Canada (many who couldn’t speak English). It was also tremendously fun for her to do the learning activities, crafts and games that the teacher prepared for them each day.

Before the program started, it was suggested to me that I should probably invite an English friend to come with me. The schedule for the morning included time when we did learning activities with our children, but also had time when the children could experience what it was like to be in a classroom without their moms. During this time, we would be in a separate room and the teacher warned me that the other ladies would probably not be speaking English. She was right, at least at the beginning. It would have been tempting to be frustrated with this, but I chose to see it as an opportunity to experience and empathize with what it must be like to be constantly surrounded by other languages, and not understand a word. As time went along, they talked to me (and one another) more and more in English. We shared laughs, snacks, and wedding and baby photos together. By the end of the program, we were truly friends and a foundation of friendship and mutual respect had been laid. They also knew of my Christian faith (and I knew about their various religious beliefs) and that conversation had been left wide open. It was exactly what I had been praying about for so long. My biggest takeaway was that there were searching hearts in Canada, just like in Africa. I just need to be around to see them.

When I’ve told other Christian moms about this program, many of them have said, “You are so brave to do that.” But to be honest, I don’t think I’m brave at all. As believers, we have God’s Spirit in us to give us strength and He has asked us to share His love with others. Do we think that He will ask us to do something and then abandon us when we do it? So why are we so scared and unwilling to meet new people? It’s kind of convicting when I think about it that way. And I say this as someone who took four years to get to the point of really recognizing and remembering the value of reaching out, so I speak to myself as much as to anyone else.

My friendship with these women has opened some amazing doors. But it required me to get up early, pack the children up, leave our cosy home, and walk through the door of that preschool each and every day, even at the beginning when I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t have any friends to “lean on” once I got there. It required me to ignore my fears and hesitations and trust that God had provided this opportunity so He would provide the strength and courage to carry it through. And He did!

Perhaps this resonates with you and matches the life stage you are at (a young mom with children in the 0-6 age range). Or maybe you are in a different life stage but want to find a place in your community to connect with unbelievers. Here are seven things that were helpful to me in this process, and I hope they will be helpful to you, regardless of what life stage you are at:

1. Do some little sleuthing to find your “point of contact”. 


Search the internet, pick up program booklets at your local community centre, and read that little community newspaper that you usually throw away (the one that tells you what is going on in your community)! If you are a young mom, chances are good that your community has similar programs to what I’ve found. It may be offered by your local library, a local public school, or even by a non-profit organization. If you have older children who are involved in community sports, this is also a great way to connect with other moms! For those in other life stages, consider programs geared towards new immigrants (that you can volunteer in) or classes held at your local community centre (fitness, painting, or crafts).

2. Pick a day and a program and be consistent. 

When I started going to these types of programs, I often would “pick and choose” various locations and dates depending on our schedule and the kids’ moods. I soon realized that in order to get to know other moms (instead of meeting new people each time), I needed to be more consistent. Enrolling in a one specific program gave me a chance to actually get to know each of the women in a meaningful way.

3. Come prepared to engage with others.

This applies for women in every life stage, but as a young mom, it’s particularly easy to be fixated on our own children. Sadly, this can often be an excuse for us to not engage with other women since we’re SO busy with our own children. Beyond the obvious goal of getting to know other women, it’s actually better to take a step back for the sake of our children, so that they can explore and learn on their own. It also allows them a chance to practice and refine the social skills we’ve been developing with them at home. Ideally, our children should know we are nearby, but we should be allowing them space to explore, without hovering. This also allows us the space to get to know the other moms! Along with this, it’s important to put our phones away. It’s easy to want to check our phones when we feel lonely, but we have to resist that because it sends the message that we don’t really want to engage.

4. Have a plan to start conversations. 

Sometimes it’s helpful to think ahead of time about some points of discussion that you can bring up. I would often think about the news events in our world or a story from the night before about my children that I could share. I learned to assume that they were probably shyer than I was (especially because most were not fluent in English) so I needed to take the lead and start conversations at the beginning. It became less “one-sided” as time went along but if I had not started those first few conversations, they would have probably assumed that I didn’t want to talk to them. Early encounters set the tone, so be intentional about this, especially at the beginning.

5. Find ways to show love. 

When Easter arrived, my daughter and I put together simple little bags of goodies for the children: a plastic egg filled with jelly beans, a handmade card with a verse about the resurrection, and a little Christian bookmark. The other mothers were always happy to share their culture and religion with me, so I felt the liberty to do the same. In fact, because they knew we were a Christian family, they weren’t surprised at all. After all, we had seen their special costumes and foods at other times during the six weeks. This was our way of sharing our “culture” with them. I was thankful that Easter came towards the end of the program because it allowed me to have a natural way of sharing our love for them and our faith in God at the same time. But it was well-received because we had already been together each morning for five weeks and they knew and trusted me.

6. Take the next step. 

Look for ways to connect your new friends to your life outside of the program. I’ve had opportunities to pass on helpful connections to my new friends, like suggesting fun and free places to bring their kids to, or recommending good dentists. They have shared the same types of things with me. I’ve also invited them to the summer camp at my church. At the end of our time, I gave them my cell number and email address. That allowed them to take the lead if they wanted to develop the friendship, but it didn’t put any pressure on them if they weren’t comfortable.

7. Pray before, during, and after the program. 

This is probably the most important step, since we know that we can plant seeds of God’s Word, and we can water those seeds, but only God causes the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:5-8) There are things that we can do (like connecting with unbelievers and looking for opportunities to share our faith), but there are things that only God can do (like changing hearts and saving souls). Let God do His work, but be faithful in yours at the same time. And our first work, before anything else, is prayer. 



Steph was an elementary teacher for ten years, but has been a stay-at-home-mom for the past four years. 
Although she misses the classroom, she loves all the teaching that naturally happens in the home. Her greatest joy is to see her children (ages 4 and 19 months) starting to learn God’s Word. 
 Steph and her husband have served in their church’s young adults ministry for the past three years. Her role is to help young women to get integrated and involved in a small group and to train, mentor and encourage the young women who lead these young women’s “small groups”. 
When she’s not busy being a mom, or serving with young adult women, you can find Steph reading her Kindle, scanning Twitter to learn something interesting (and re-tweeting it via @stephabees) or valiantly trying to scrapbook and record her children’s quickly fleeting childhoods.
A Soft Gentle voice
I am honoured to host these guest posts in this series on women mentoring women 
Some weeks you may find tips from the kitchen or healthy recipes, tools other women have used to grow spiritually, hints to help us build up and love our husbands, and lessons they have learned as they have walked along with their children to teach them to love God wholeheartedly, habits they have developed in keeping their home, ways they have worked on to keep their behaviour respectful, or rhythms that allow peace and rest in the home and hearts that dwell there within.
You will find all the posts in the series here.


"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour,
not slanderers or slaves to much wine.
They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands,
that the word of God may not be reviled."

{Titus 2:3-5}

5 comments:

  1. Steph, so great to read this! Such an inspiring post. I have been praying for a specific ministry that may start up here that is geared towards mothers. We are still in the waiting and planning stage but I found your thoughts incredibly useful!! ( I will probably read it again!:0) (Rachel H)

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    1. That is so awesome, Rachel! I think there is a tremendous opportunity in this area!! Thanks for your encouragement, too. :)

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  2. I do appreciate reading this post, Rebekah ....thanks for inviting this guest (who happens to be my own daughter, Stephanie!!)....I think she has clearly shared a practical way of intentionally meeting others and sharing Christ's love, and going outside the box of our cozy Christian lives. Prayer being a pivotal point too is something I appreciated her bringing out. I also will read it again, as there are valuable tidbits throughout it. (and I soon forget) Thank you for your blog, Rebekah....you know how much I appreciate it!

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    1. Thanks, "violiner". :) I think you taught us well when we were children and we would go with you to visit nursing homes! <3

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  3. Very encouraging. I'm in a different stage of life and looking toward retirement but have the same goal of engaging with others in spreading the joy found in Jesus; and your tips/steps are very applicable.
    Blessings,
    Deborah

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