Keys to Measuring

This past week was filled with stories from various neighbourhoods.  It all took place while leading a few workshops and sharing how we can love our neighbours through our practices, our posture and our placement.  One story reminded me of how we measure our ‘success’ in loving our neighbours; a younger man told how he  received the keys to the tractor from his neighbour across the road.  As the story unfolded, I heard how these two neighbours began sharing their tools and their lives with each other, how they honoured each other, leading to a very healthy sense of trust.  Sometimes it is the simple stories which reveal some of the greatest ‘successes’…or perhaps it may be better to sum it up with the word ‘faithfulness.’


Sock it to ’em!

Perhaps you may want to “sock your neighbour.”

There may be nothing spiritual here, so do not read into it….

but it is a great idea to get started in your neighbourhood.

(Read the instructions on the card in the pic below.)

We enjoyed filling the sock with gifts for a neighbour.

Don’t get caught when hanging it on your neighbours

door.  And don’t let the dog hear you or it may not be a silent night.

May your neighbour be blessed!

Socking with a Stocking Generic Holiday Version

Local Salt and Light

This recently published article highlights Neighbourhood Life and our up and coming book, “Neighbouring for Life”:

“Love your neighbour” is the second greatest commandment in the New Testament. But what does this look like practically in the physical spaces where we live? Abma is working towards a solution for that question through Neighbourhood Life (NL), a grass-roots initiative in Central Alberta that seeks to enable Christians to actively engage with their neighbours.

Local salt and light


“Love your neighbour” is the second greatest commandment in the New Testament. But what does this look like practically in the physical spaces where we live? What if, in the words of Rick Abma, a missionary in Central Alberta, our traditional efforts to obey this command are carried out at the expense of the person next to us?

Abma is working towards a solution for that question through Neighbourhood Life (NL), a grass-roots initiative in Central Alberta that seeks to enable Christians to actively engage with their neighbours. After 20+ years serving as a CRC pastor in the institutional church, Abma recognized a problem – a shortfall of people coming to the church as an institution. Believing that the answer was not in adding more programs, he resigned from his position and began fundraising to work full time as a missionary in his back yard, building intentional neighbourhoods.

“In the context of church, I’ve observed a tendency for some of us to become so wrapped up in certain elements of the organization and the programs, that we miss the objective of actually engaging with the world we are called to serve,” Abma explained, going on to say that he desires to see less focus on the ecclesiastical aspect of church and more on discipleship.

God will orchestrate
Rick started by beginning to build relationships with people who had been his neighbours for 20 years, emphasizing that the goal is not to try to get people to come to church. Rather, the purpose is to simply live out the commandment, bloom where you are planted and see what God will orchestrate.

And God has orchestrated some pretty remarkable stories, as shared in Abma’s new book, out this month. The pages ofNeighbouring for Life (Lulu Publishing) are filled with surprising and delightful anecdotes of the joy and small miracles that can occur when people simply start taking the time to get to know their neighbours.

It seems so simple, but for many people the hardest part is knowing where and how to start, and overcoming two big obstacles – busyness and fear. Calling himself a catalyst, Abma is currently working in over 10 neighbourhoods, helping people find ways to overcome these challenges and to be disciples in their neighbourhood.

“I’m operating from the assumption that most Christians want to obey the command to be salt and light in their community; to be disciples of Jesus,” Abma states, describing how he once used a map of his town to mark off all the areas where Christians lived, based on information from the pastors of each of the various churches. “Imagine the impact we could have if every Christian would do a little something in their neighbourhood!”

Believing that loving your neighbour should be no different than loving your children, Abma says that there are so many things you can do. “People will tell me ‘I’m not an extrovert. I can’t talk to other people as easily as you can!’ or ‘I don’t even have time for my family; how can I make time for my neighbours?’ but it doesn’t have to be big or complicated. The key is to go out with the mindset of searching for where God is already at work. Observe your neighbourhood; discern the beauty and the brokenness.”

Opening the door
The Neighbourhood Life website outlines “Steps to Start” – things like finding a willing neighbour to partner with you, praying for your neighbours and giving of your time, talents or treasures. Abma shared an example of one couple who loved to bake and decided to make five platters of cookies to bring to their neighbours. They didn’t get further than the first house, where they encountered a lonely older gentleman who was longing for company. They stayed and visited, and a relationship grew. Another family asked their neighbours to look after their house while they were on vacation. They returned to a big “welcome home” banner made by the children and two meals in their freezer!

Neighbourhood Life helps neighbours start by offering the free use of their “tool kit” – a number of items that can facilitate large crowd gatherings, such as a commercial size travelling barbeque grill and a meeting tent, which Rick and his partners will set up and clean up free of charge.

They also offer freshly roasted coffee in the form of a free, live event. What began as a fundraiser to bring in initial income for the ministry has turned into a full circle business whose profits now fund 20 percent of Neighbourhood Life’s expenses. The high-end raw coffee beans are purchased by a group of four people from Canada that support 55 farmers in Honduras including the Carpenteros group from Ontario, that Rick met when he lived there a few years back. The roasted coffee ( is sold throughout Alberta in packages that contain stories of transformed lives in neighbourhoods across the region. As he demonstrates the roasting process at live events, it becomes somewhat of a “mini-pulpit” for him to share more of the stories of what is happening through NL and in Honduras.

“Wherever we go, and whatever we do, people ask us ‘Why are you doing this?’ and it opens the door for me to tell them about this big command that Jesus gives us in the Bible to love our neighbours . . . and it just takes off from there!”

Abma’s BBQ grill comes with wheels, fuel and two coolers.

New benchmarks
Rick receives some support through Christian Reformed Home Missions as well as from local churches and businesses. The biggest challenge in finding support, he says, is that it’s hard to measure success, since NL isn’t set up as an organized ministry model with stated visions and goals. The stories themselves, however, shout the success of lives transformed, and as NL continues to grow it is starting to attract attention from outside of the denomination. Rick has had numerous opportunities to teach and lead workshops in churches and with local city leaders. Currently, the cities of Red Deer, Lacombe and Sylvan Lake are actively promoting the work of NL.

Rick is excited to see where his so-called “grand experiment” will go next. “Everyone is dying to know what will happen. I am too!” he says with a laugh. At the end of his book, he encourages the reader to dream of what his or her neighbourhoods could become, to “Be creative! Be genuine! And think more of your neighbours than yourself.”

‘Rumours’ artist and inspiration (page 1)
Karen Tamminga-Paton is a painter, storyteller, teacher and community member. She lives in the mountains of the beautiful Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, where she and her husband, Dale, raised three daughter and wander the wilderness every chance they can (
This piece graces the cover of Abma’s new book. “We carry stories,” Karen says, “we carry secrets. All the while, we live side-by-side in our neighbourhoods. It is very possible to live our lives hidden. And yet, everyone holds echoes of something greater […] How well do we recognize that in one another? […] Imagine the rumours of glory that angels whisper over these same individuals – including you – because they know what God sees. How differently we would see one another!”

Local salt and light


Monica Kronemeyer deRegt joined the Christian Courier editorial team in January 2015. She recently moved from Ontario to Abbotsford, B.C., with her husband and three children. From a very young age, Monica has been drawn to the written word, both as a form of expression but also as a conduit for ministry. She believes that everyone has a story to tell, and that God’s story is shared through our stories. Monica grew up in northern B.C. and graduated from The King’s University College in Edmonton, Alberta. In addition to writing and editing, Monica loves reading (especially out loud to her children every night!), cooking, learning, singing, and exploring new places with her family, although she is known to be left behind reading every single plaque and trail marker and information poster along the way! Monica invites readers to contact her with ideas for the Features pages, and looks forward to exploring together with the Christian Courier community what it means to follow Christ in every part of the story of our lives.


Monica deRegt is the features editor for Christian Courier. Neighbouring for Life by Rick Abma tells the stories of lives transformed through a grass-roots movement of loving your neighbour. The book will be released November 2016. For more stories and ideas that spur us on to thriving neighbourhoods, follow along at

Local salt and light

“Love your neighbour” is the second greatest commandment in the New Testament. But what does this look like practically in the physical spaces where we live? Abma is working towards a solution for that question through Neighbourhood Life (NL), a grass-roots initiative in Central Alberta that seeks to enable Christians to actively engage with their neighbours.

Appearance: Local Salt and Light
Outlet: Christian Courier
Location: Canada
Format: Newspaper

"Neighbouring for Life" by Rick Abma, available soon as eBook and traditional.

Got Milk?

Another story from one subscriber:

“Recently, while in the grocery store, I bumped into an elderly gentleman whom I knew but hadn’t seen in quite some time.  As we were catching up on each other’s lives, he mentioned that he was there to pick up a jug of milk for his 92 year old neighbour.  (I should mention that this man himself is in his late 80’s!)  He went on to tell me that he walks to the store twice a week for this neighbour.  He also said that his wife spent a lot of time at this neighbour lady’s apartment, perhaps even more than she spent in her own!  “She’s just so lonely and unable to do these little things herself,” he said.  When I commented that his actions were surely a real blessing to this woman, he admitted without a trace of pride, ” I really believe that she would no longer be here if she didn’t have us.”  What a testimony to the importance of loving your neighbours!  I felt encouraged by this old friend’s ‘ministry’.”

Evidently, there is never a time when we are “too old” to be a good neighbour!


There is something we can learn about how we live our lives by the books we pick up to read.  Having just published a book, I have learned many interesting guidelines for making the book a success.  Among many lessons from the publisher, the one that stood out was about margins;  the empty space around the text.  That margin is most important!  Perhaps we do not know how important they are until we pick up that book in which there is very little room around the text.  We react strongly to the layout for various reasons and remark on the books with generous margins, saying how they are much easier on the eyes.

So this helps us by understanding that without margins, we are incapable of relational spontaneity in our neighbourhood.  Without margins, we are uninterested in opportunities to serve our neighbours.  Without margins, we are unable to even think about planning time to spend with others.  Margins create buffers.   They give us room to breathe, freedom to act, and time to adapt.  Only then will we be able to truly nourish our relationships.  Only then will we be available and interruptible for the purposes of God.




Hallow’ed Eve

One of the greatest opportunities to meet neighbours is on October 31st. Perhaps the hallowed eve is a holy moment since it creates multiple opportunities for neighbours to connect.  The beauty of it is its simplicity, especially when you witness the way neighbours come out to be part of something bigger than themselves. You do not need to organize anything, just make sure you are one of the many neighbours that join the parade, or stand on the sidelines to watch it.

So you may want to take a walk this Halloween to say “hi” to the families making their way around your block.  Or you may want to stay on your front yard and make a hot cider stand at the end of your driveway.  This is an evening when people use their imaginations, so keep this in mind on an evening when you know many of your neighbours will be outside.  Perhaps you may want to display 95 comments on your front door for people to read when they come to your home (don’t take that too seriously).  Alyson+Hannigan+family+Trick+Treat+iYdedzDxOcjx

FYI: The old English “hallowed” means holy, sanctified, “set apart” (as for service).  Martin Luther’s 95 theses were meant for all Christians, or all “holy ones” – “saints”. He posted them in 1517 on “All Hallow’s Eve”, or “All Saint’s Eve”, at the All Saints’ Church (the University of Wittenberg campus church) in Wittenberg, Germany.

Martin Luther’s core message?: We are saved by grace, through faith, revealed by God’s Word in Christ.

Henri Nouwen

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.  It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence.

Still, it is not as simple as it seems.  My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.

It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.  But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you don’t simply like them, but you truly love them.

-Henri Nouwen


Vicky Schankula 1947-2016


This past week I learned about Vicky and the one simple tradition that brought neighbours together:  One of life’s most gracious and delightful people, Victoria Fairbanks Schankula, found Cornbread Suppers early on, and took joy in the weekly gatherings. She came to Cornbread Supper faithfully, bringing beautiful food, laughter, a camera for her “picture of the day,” a lovely British accent, a commitment to helping clean up, and a constant interest in each other person in the room.

When Vicky entered the house on Monday nights carrying a particular large round plate, children (and a few adults) trailed her to the dessert table to see what she had brought. The favorites: lemon bars, brownies and her mother’s most unusual, delicious carrot cake.

When illness prevented Vicky from returning to Cornbread Supper, one of the youngest members of the Cornbread Community asked, “Where is Vicky? Why doesn’t she come any more?” This young child spoke for the many regulars who enjoyed Vicky’s beautiful spirit, and missed her vivid presence.

We will always miss Vicky at Cornbread Suppers. There is never enough purple now in the house on Monday nights.

More at:



resized_20161007_114011For Thanksgiving weekend we harvested the garden together with neighbours.  Not because we wanted to be neighbourly, but out of necessity – the weather.  This did lead to a neat bartering system.  Today the trade will be red beets and some meat from the last hunting trip in exchange for freshly roasted coffee.  Last week our Thai neighbours loaded us up with cilantro for a beer (not really a trade, but we needed something to drink while discussing our gardens).  The barter is not the point either.  All in all, it seems that the gardening and bartering are a means in which we enjoy the love of others, more than the gifts themselves.  This is what we are ultimately thankful for, which is why we are just glad that those who love, simply show up.  The rest is just bonus!

And so I am thankful for those neighbours who garden together, who share their gifts and goods, encourage on a weekly basis, and are simply present.