The recluse

August 11, 2008

Neighbor M's father died recently, so I bought a condolence card, and took it around for each of the neighbors to sign. I'm sneaky, you see: I want to bless M. I want to bless the neighborhood by rallying them to a neighbor's cause. But I also saw an opportunity to visit each neighbor, and if invited, enter their homes.

"Looks like except for W, you have everybody," R said.

"Yeah, I'll get W. But I also want to get S," I replied.

"S? Oh man. If you don't come out, I'll come look for you," he joked.

The neighbors don't know what to make of S, who lives with her grown children but is never seen. Some of them are scared of her. R tells me that once S came into the court with a handgun, which W removed from her.

So I headed over and rang her doorbell. Little dogs inside responded, trying to sound vicious. A voice: "Get away from there!"

"S? Is that you?" I asked.

No reply.

"S? It's your neighbor, Jon. May I come in?"

S came out instead. She hadn't heard the doorbell, she explained, and was yelling at the dogs. We sat and visited. I already knew some history: She was a pastor's wife, until he divorced her. She's experienced chronic back pain since an injury years ago. Her life is dark. "I think if I died, nobody would notice. The neighbors might notice my children wearing black — except that they wear black anyway," she said with a sad grin. "Nobody comes to see me. I don't want to think that God has forgotten me."

"That's why I'm here," I said, apologizing for not coming sooner.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

15 responses to The recluse

  1. Wow, don’t stop there!

  2. I am omitting quite a bit, but that’s pretty much how our conversation ended.

  3. no, jon. the conversation hasn’t ended…it’s just begun…

  4. I hope so, Jeph — if I can ever get her to answer the door again (grumble)

  5. missing you my dear friend…

  6. came through from Backyard Missionary comment
    and glad I did
    this story of unearthing hidden stories behind closed doors touched me
    your neighbours are lucky to have you in their street

  7. Jared! What a surprise. Boy do I miss you…

  8. Kel, thanks for coming by. “unearthing hidden stories behind closed doors” — what a neat perspective! I hope I can continue to reach out in blessing. But not long after this, my neighborhood efforts seemed to stall and I felt myself crawling into an uncharacteristic dark emotional hole. Just a few days ago in prayer, I suddenly realized that this was likely a spiritual attack meant to discourage me.
    So anyone reading who feels led to pray for me, I sure could use it. And one thing I could use is a local support group, or better still, people willing to partner with me somehow.

  9. This is such an inspiring thing. 🙂 Where are the good old days where you can walk into a neighbor’s backdoor and rummage through their fridge without them pulling a shotgun out on ya.
    😛 Or I think I grew up in much too friendly a world. Which is no longer there, sadly..

  10. Heh, I don’t know if I want that, Kryx. But let’s prayerfully make the world we dream of.

  11. It is inspiring and challenging to read your very real stories of encounters with people as you spend the day with Jesus. It makes me feel not so alone in the daunting mission of reaching out in my neighborhood.
    Our neighborhood is considered by some as the “ghetto” of Durham, NC. We regularly hear gunshots, oftentimes not far from our apartment, and there is some kind of intimidating spirit that makes me want to stay off the streets, hole up, and lock my doors.
    Walking on our street, there is always some sort of personal encounter – drug dealers staring at your from their porch with a threatening look, young people roaming and looking like they’re up to no good, or some lonely older woman sitting on her porch in a ‘cookie cutter’ government subsidized duplex, who greets you with refreshing warmth.
    Today someone from Greater Emmanuel Temple of Grace approached us and timidly, almost apologetically, invited us to his church and handed us a business card. He mentioned their prayer ministry among other ministries, and I immediately asked him to pray for us. I was feeling somewhat desperate and alone in some struggles.
    Surprised, he looked around for one of his church teammates to help him out, as if he was in over his head. But then he stepped up to the plate, took our hands, and prayed for us. We were blessed by his reaching out to us. We want to be a blessing too.

  12. Debbie, our challenge is to take what we learned “on the field” and keep living the missionary life according to the teachings of Buckaroo Banzai: No matter where you go, there you are. I am praying for partners for me, and now I pray that for you as well.
    Reading the description of your neighborhood made me think of Soul Graffiti, as much of the book is a description of the ways the author is living out his calling in his neighborhood.
    Thanks for dropping by my blog again! You bless me.

  13. Jon, it is so wonderful that you are reaching out to the “lost and forgotten” in your neighborhood. “S” reminds me of a dear family friend, named Bertha, who had lost her husband to lung cancer in the 1980’s. She was from Sweden, and had a lot of pluck for a 92-year old. She was legally blind, but still lived at home with her two cats. She kept up with current events by using audio books and audio magazines. It was decided by her family to put her into a nursing home. Initially,
    she handled the transition well. As time wore on, however, she began to fade away and became very discouraged. I would pray with her when she would despair why God had left her alive when she was so miserable. She was broken-hearted, and so broken. I asked for my parents’ pastor, a man of God, to come and speak with her and he did. Christiana and I were able to pay her one last visit on her 97th birthday, but lung cancer had now infiltrated her body, even though she had never smoked. Ten days later, she died. I don’t know if she ever found peace. She was like a grandmother to me and I mourned her passing.
    There was another 97 year-old, Lillian, whom Gunter and I ministered to during a food ministry we were both in. She had been a missionary and a strong Christian. She was bent over due to crippling osteoporosis and had to sleep in a chair because she couldn’t lie down. She was amazing – she had such strong faith and so much joy despite her pain. She even gave Gunter and I a special word from God on our last visit to her, and she passed away a few days after that. We have never forgotten her, and we look forward to seeing her again in Heaven. The others to whom we delivered food, were just happy to have someone come visit them. They are so lonely, and often forgotten, in these nursing homes. Our little Brownie troop is adopting a nursing home in our area so that we can spread a little joy and be blessed by them in return.
    Keep doing what you’re doing, Jonathan. There are a lot of lonely people out there whom others have forgotten.

  14. Hi Jon
    Last Sunday was a shooting/murder about 25 meters from my bedroom window. This house is reputed to have a lot of drug activity, so it was not a total shock. But it was nevertheless surprising and frightening to hear the very loud gunshots and to witness the police scanning the area with flashlights and finding a body so close to where we lay our heads down at night. We kept talking about how “easily” a young man’s life was taken from him with a few gunshots, right under our noses.
    I was shaken up by the incident and the police investigations that ensued, wondering about our safety as well. I mean, these guys know where we live!
    My friend reassured me that no questionable activities should be happening there again. I guess the devil overplayed his hand so that the house has fallen strangely quiet. I used to hear the enemy’s words, “I’m here!” when I looked at this house, and it discouraged me from even praying for these people. But now when I glance over there at nighttime, I hear the words, “You’re next!”
    It’s an area of the city where evil seems to be reigning with violence and drugs, mocking the genuine Christian presence in the area. Frankly, I want to move away from this area, even though it has such potential for God to do incredible things here. But I also know God wants to move us all past fear to pray boldly for the areas where we live. Your blog has inspired us to walk with Jesus into dark places and shine His light.

  15. Webbie, may you continue to boldly follow God’s leading. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.