Living Out and Growing Our Faith in the Other 167 Hours of the Week
Our faith is formed every minute of every day, whether we’re connecting with neighbors, driving carpool, playing sports, reading books, nurturing relationships, or pursuing career goals. So how can we be attentive to God at work in these everyday moments? And how can these moments also be opportunities to live out our faith in our neighborhoods?
These are the kinds of questions that prompted podcast hosts Karen DeBoer and Chris Schoon to invite Ruth Padilla DeBorst to be a guest on Faith Formation Ministries’ Open to Wonder podcast.
Padilla DeBorst shared that when she and her husband moved to a portion of an old coffee plantation in Costa Rica in 2009, they knew that God had provided that place as an opportunity to grow into their calling. What that opportunity would look like specifically they left to the work of the Holy Spirit.
“This was not a big master plan,” Padilla DeBorst said. “My husband and I didn’t sit down and say, ‘Five years from now we’re going to be (a community of) so many people, and 10 years from now we’re going to have done this, that, and the other.’ It’s really been more of an answer to God’s call, one step at a time.”
As the Padilla DeBorsts answered that call, their home in Costa Rica grew into an intentional community called Casa Adobe. Supported by Resonate Global Mission, Casa Adobe is a communal residence housing several families and individuals, including young adults participating in one of Resonate’s cohort opportunities. Community members gather for morning prayer, share meals and life together, and find ways to share their gifts with the surrounding community and creation.
“We’re called into being good neighbors in our neighborhood—our physical neighborhood and the people living there, but also the broader environment—so, caring for the river that’s just down the road, gardening, creating, and encouraging our neighbors to develop urban gardens, seeking to be faithful to God in those things,” Padilla DeBorst said. “That’s where the intentionality comes together: living together, sharing life.”
While living in a communal residence isn’t possible for everyone, Padilla DeBorst shared helpful questions and suggestions on the podcast for discovering ways to develop intentional community in any neighborhood.
As an example, she suggested, “Instead of every family needing to buy their own lawnmower, what if you got together with the neighbors on your block and said, ‘Let’s share one’? Because ecologically and in terms of our footprint on our world, it would make sense to do that. What if you purchased fruit and vegetables from a local farmer together, collaboratively, instead of each of you going to the supermarket?
“The Holy Spirit is the inspirer of creativity. So I don’t have a formula for you,” Padilla DeBorst continued. “But ask the question: What would it look like to live more intentionally as a community that is seeking to live out the values of God's reign and God's justice and contribute to the well-being of our neighborhood, our city, in a less individual way?”
Growing Vibrant, Whole-hearted Communities
Though they’re not sharing a lawnmower, one community of members from two Christian Reformed classes (regional groups of churches) in British Columbia is coming together for times of intentional learning about how to live out their faith for the well-being of their neighborhoods, cities, and regions.
They call this initiative “1Life: An Equipping & Learning Collective.” 1Life developed out of a desire for renewal in classes B.C. North-West and B.C. South-East. In March 2020, both classes approved a joint team to curate an intentional “curriculum for Christ-likeness” that allows for deep theological reflection on each of the five callings named by the Christian Reformed Church: faith formation, servant leadership, global mission, mercy and justice, and gospel proclamation and worship.
The 1Life team of five “curators” partners with B.C. congregations to offer relevant and theologically grounded resources and opportunities related to these callings and help members grow in faith beyond Sunday morning.
“As 1Life curators we are committed to continually sifting through and sharing excellent content—articles, book discussions, workshops, etc.—that relates to each of the five callings of the CRC,” said Liz Tolkamp, who also is the regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in British Columbia. “Our curation is always toward wondering and exploring how the five callings serve as a path toward growing us to unity and maturity in Christ.”
Opportunities curated by 1Life included drop-in prayer times on the first and third Thursdays of each month and partnering with The King’s University to offer public lectures. 1Life also connects folks with other Christian Reformed ministry initiatives such as The Faith Practices Project (a collection of resources for exploring transformational Christian practices) and Hearts Exchanged (a learning and action journey designed to equip Reformed Christians to engage with Indigenous people as neighbors and fellow image bearers).
Sent Into the Neighborhood
Others within the CRC are making God’s mission a part of their daily lives through Resonate Global Mission’s Go Local program as they build relationships in the neighborhoods where God has placed them.
“In the modern era, I’m not convinced the model ‘if you build it, they will come’ will bring neighbors into your church's doors,” said Peter,* an outreach team member at a Christian Reformed church in Tinley Park, Ill.
That’s one of the reasons why Peter and four other members of his church participated in Go Local. Through the Go Local process, Peter and his wife have become more intentional about connecting with people in their quiet Chicago suburb through simple actions such as joining a neighborhood Facebook group and shoveling snow from neighbors’ driveways.
This year, they hosted an oliebollen party. On New Year’s Day, they huddled outside and served the traditional deep-fried Dutch treats to those who stopped by. “Neighbors stayed for a while, and we had a heel gezellig (very cozy) time,” Peter said.
Not all of their neighbors attended, but the invitation opened up conversation with others in the community. While a woman a few houses down the street was shoveling snow off her driveway, Peter went outside to shovel his own driveway. As the two met at the sidewalk, she asked how the party went. Peter asked if she knew very much about the couple who lived in the house between them, and she shared that one of them had had multiple back surgeries, including one surgery that past summer. They decided to shovel their neighbor’s driveway together.
Peter said this work is about being “Christ in the neighborhood” and, even more importantly, “watching the Holy Spirit work while we are simply God’s vessels of love and hospitality.”
Stepping Out in Support
In Calgary, Alta., Ben* has started taking daily walks around his middle-class neighborhood—a practice he started because of Go Local—and has gotten to know quite a few of his neighbors.
One day he met someone new: Arin.*
“He had appeared from a home that our neighbors tend to refer to as the ‘halfway house’—a place that is home to an always-changing cast of young men who do not interact with neighbors,” Ben said.
Despite the warm weather that day, Arin was hiding in a sweatshirt, his hood pulled over his head. He asked to borrow a phone. Ben didn’t have his phone with him, so they walked over to Ben’s house. The two sat outside, and Ben learned that Arin had moved around quite a bit in his lifetime, was currently living on a disability stipend because of mental illness, and roomed with six other men. He had spent most of his money on drugs and had pawned his phone to pay a debt to a friend who was threatening him. He hadn’t eaten in days.
Ben made Arin a sandwich, helped him get his phone back from the pawn shop, and connected him to a local pastor, who used church funds to help Arin secure groceries.
“The more we talked, the more I seemed to be drawn into (Arin’s) life,” said Ben. Arin was eager to heal from his drug addiction, and a few weeks after meeting Ben, he was taking those first steps. He had stayed sober and had also found work.
“It makes me realize that every meeting is the beginning of a relationship. And relationships require commitment,” said Ben. “I am slowly introducing (Arin) to a couple of neighbors, … hoping to build a bit of a community support network.”
Because Ben had been taking a walk every day and was being intentional about opportunities to build relationships with his neighbors, he met Arin. Ben was able not only to support and encourage Arin, but to step into his neighborhood and join God at work.
“Being intentional and available in our neighborhoods actually makes a difference for us and our neighbors,” said Karen Wilk, a Resonate Go Local catalyzer. “Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that these simple actions become life-giving and faith-forming experiences, since we believe that God is at work in God’s world. But somehow, we always are!”
*Names have been changed