A few years ago I was introduced to some interesting observations:  That it is hard to find someone with celiac disease in Italy due to the way they make their bread and grow their grain.  Then there was the absence of ‘attention deficit disorder’ in many countries outside of the western world.  Is this true?

This leads to a conversation I had this past weekend regarding Ethiopia and how the welcoming and hospitable culture give reason for why you would be hard pressed to find a depressed person in that country.  In fact, the conversation gave way to how people are not even prone to using words like ‘introverted’ or ‘extroverted’ to describe another or themselves.  This was followed by a debriefing on how the culture of individuality in North America seemed odd to those who grew up in countries like Ethiopia.

For the majority of the past 80 – 100 years, western culture has been driven to create individuality and independence in a world created by God to be in community. Perhaps that is why Jesus was so big on loving neighbours.  Maybe he did have our best interests in mind while we were so busy keeping ourselves distanced (walking on the other side of the road) from our neighbour and creating our own Kingdom so not to be dependent on those who live around us.

So it was no surprise to hear the conversation gently suggest that our challenge to live in community, such as loving those on our road or block, may be a major contributing factor to some of our social illness.  The Bible does say that love covers a lot of ground.  If we spend a great deal of our time keeping our distance when we were created to be in community, something has to give.  Stats do show that those with valuable relationships in the place that they live, lending itself to a sense of deepening community, live an average 5 years longer than those who cannot say the same.  It is no secret that healthy relationships have always been key to healthy lives, whether a family unit or a neighbourhood.

And now that I am writing this, I do remember people from other countries finding it kind of odd that neighbourhoods in North America are filled with people who do not know each other’s names, attributes, let alone matters of their neighbour’s heart.


Three Friends

Once there were three friends who grew up together. From childhood
their lives were intertwined in play, at school, on the street, and in
their dreaming. Their relationship made them inseparable. They had
different personalities and even their approaches to life were quite
divergent, but they were bound together like the Hobbits in Lord of
the Rings.

As with many relationships of youth, when they grew older, they
gradually moved apart. Following college, each married and found jobs
in different cities; their times together became more sporadic and
episodic. They would still connect by phone and internet; it was easy
for them to become Facebook friends, but the long conversations became
rare events.”

Then one day, quite unexpectedly, two of the friends received emails
from the third. The email came as a wonderful surprise. The third
friend invited them to spend a weekend at his home on the West Coast,
offering a few long evenings of food, wine, and conversations like the
ones they remembered. It sounded perfect.”

When they arrived at their friend’s home, their host welcomed them
eagerly. The evening began with catching up about families and jobs.
They joked about weight and age and they talked about old times. The
food was great and obviously the host had learned a lot about the
vintages and pairing of wine.

But sometime during the evening the atmosphere changed. It was
hard to pinpoint the moment, but the two invited friends began to
sense something was wrong. They couldn’t put their finger on what it
was at first, but each sensed an unease and disquiet entering the

The host began doing the talking and it was all about himself. Each
time the friends spoke, the host cut them off and turned the
conversation back to his life, his questions, and his needs. He asked
lots of questions to elicit information that would further focus on
his own interests and plans. He mined them for information that could
make him look better. He seemed preoccupied with how to become more

For him the evening was a wonderful, enjoyable, successful time.
He felt great! The other two felt like objects being used to meet
someone else’s needs.

As soon as they could, the two invited guests said they needed to get back to their hotel.  They thanked their old friend and departed, perplexed and sad.  What had happened?  How could their friend become so self-absorbed?”

….and who are these three friends?

The three friends are Scripture, culture and church.  For some 1500 years they grew up together, deeply intertwined.  At times one was more dominant than the others, but they remained connected to one another.  Today, they have grown so far apart they hardly recognize each other anymore.

– excerpts from “Missional” by Alan J. Roxburgh, published by Baker Books, 2011


Our annual retreat has proven to be a great inspiration.  Not only has it been a true fulfillment of the word ‘retreat’, it has been a connecting point for those who want to meet others who creatively invest in their neighbourhood.  And it’s also a great venue for them to meet you!  The story telling and sharing  has been second only to the time to retreat.  Meet the elderly who intentionally moved into a neighbourhood for reasons beyond self-interest, and meet the the young families who creatively love their neighbours within a condensed populated neighbourhood.  Urban or rural, there will certainly be stories of heartbreak and triumph; either way, the stories reveal how God has gone first to pave the way to love your neighbour.

Here is more info and the registration:



After reflecting on their neighbourhood over the past year, neighbours could see how things can get rolling…..
Our neighborhood didn’t have much to do with one another until we decided to plan a block party. We set up a facebook page for our block and kept in touch that way throughout the year. The following year, a couple other neighbors decided to get the ball rolling and took initiative to plan the next block party. Both were a huge hit and people really seemed to connect and have many positive things to share.
It didn’t end there! This year, in December, a couple girls on the block offered to use their gifts and invite all the neighbors to a Christmas card making evening. The girl organizing the card making did not have a home large enough so another neighbor on the block was happy to invite everyone into her home. Was such a success! We even had a new neighbor show up and she felt so welcomed by her new community.
Submitted by a Neighbourhood Life participant.


This should get the neighbours talking!  A unique way to take your front yard and make it a connecting point for neighbours.  If its done well, as in this case, the beauty and creativity out weigh anything negative.  And it creates an epiphany of sorts when we are not aware of the talents that our neighbours possess.  No prizes, or participation ribbons.  Just a display of beauty.


“Neighbouring for Life”

“Neighbouring for Life” has been a three year project, filled with many stories of deepening community.  We are proud to announce that it is now available to order or download.  We are grateful for the many who have supported this project and contributed stories from being an intentional presence in their neighbourhood.  In a few weeks the book will be available from a variety of websites, but for those want it now and have waited patiently, here it is:

Order here!

After 20 years of ministry in the church, Rick ventured into a full time missionary position that focuses on bringing the “good news” to people right where they live. These pages are filled with stories that follow the transition from the institutional church into the mission of various neighbourhoods.


Looking back over the last year there was one reoccurring lesson which could be summed up in one word; motivation.  For many, it can be difficult to love your neighbours unconditionally.  Over time it becomes more natural, but at first it can seem like there is no motivation or perhaps motivation with expectations or conditions.  One person challenged me with the question, “What motivates the heart to love our neighbours?”  For some, neighbours across the street or down the road, have seemed more distant than those we know who live across town or in another city.  Others have simply communicated their desire for neighbours to stay independent of each other, deeming them out of reach.  Still some have demonstrated that, although their motivation could not be identified, the hard work of reclaiming community in our back yards was still necessary.  The beauty of this all is that those who diligently “tried something” in their neighbourhood came away with a story or two that created a little fuel for moving forward.

Share your story, if you would.

And may this new year add more fuel to your motivation.



Simply put, the new metrics for fulfilling the command to “love your neighbour” may challenge us all.  As we wish each other a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, do we see an increase of these greetings in our neighbourhood?  Have our neighbours been included in the rhythms of our lives, or more importantly, have we included ourselves in our theirs?  As we scroll through our technological data, can we see an increase in social media among neighbours over the past?  It may surprise you to look;  over the last year texting and Facebook posts, along with tweets and pics on Instagram, may pleasantly surprise us with new data on how we are moving forward.  As we persevere, may we acknowledge that our role in loving neighbours has never been presented as a chore, nor has it led us to believe we are some kind of service provider.  Rather, loving neighbours is what we do with them, just as we do when we love family and friends.

A Kick Out Of Christmas

For more than a year we heard one particular neighbour share the pain of separation in her family.  Following years of very little communication and interaction with her children and grandchildren, our neighbour shared a beautiful story that led to this year’s surprise reality Christmas story.

It started over a year ago as we connected with this neighbour and heard about her son and the strain that came between them. This past summer, we took holidays to the Winnipeg area, and were asked by our neighbour to take some gifts for her son and his family. We actually forgot them in our home.  Thankfully we had to go back for a second trip in which we redeemed ourselves.  The gifts were delivered and we met our neighbour’s estranged son and family out in Manitoba.  It is difficult to understand how brokenness among families comes to be, so we don’t pretend to understand.

Several weeks ago, her grandson was kicked by a horse.  This led to a quick reunion, due to the severe circumstances.  All ended well, and the little boy came through and healed nicely. Since this “emergency” reconnection, our neighbour has reported that her son needs to transport a horse to Alberta.  I cannot explain how or why, but these series of events, along with the need to relocate the horse, are bringing our neighbour’s son and family home for Christmas for the first time in a long time.  To top it all off, this son and another who lives here in Alberta will now be seeing each other for the first time in 5 years – I think Hallmark should seriously think about making this into a movie.

Our neighbour is overjoyed, to say the least!  We are too, especially when we are the recipients of her joy.  When a neighbour has such great news that fills her hearts and she chooses to intentionally tell you as it unfolds, it can do nothing but make joy contagious.  What a gift!