Building Bridges

All of us long to have a positive impact on those around us, the kind of significant impact that happens through relationships. Yet have you ever reached out to individuals who did not want to connect? If so, welcome to the club!
We decided to hold an open house on New Year’s Day in our new neighborhood. We invited all the neighbors on our street, the street behind us (we have connecting backyards), and two side streets. Only three people showed up. What can we do when our efforts to connect with people fall flat?
We have found it crucial to watch for how God is working and to persevere. Tracy sometimes refers to finding the relationships God has for us as being on a treasure hunt. When one relationship does not work out, who else does God have? Or, have we missed the positive start to a relationship because we were expecting more?
As we look back over our efforts the last three years here in Columbus, we have not always connected with those we reached out to. We were disappointed by the lack of turnout at our open house, but we connected with the three who did show up. Two neighbors told us afterward they had wanted to come but had other plans. Just extending the invitation started some relationship there.
We have kept at it. Now, two and a half years later, God is giving us several deeper relationships in our neighborhood. One couple recently asked us to have breakfast with them once a month. Tracy is regularly walking for exercise with a couple of different women. We have strong rapport with neighbors immediately adjacent to us.
We have invited the neighbors behind us to several fun church events and to join us in serving others. They seemed open, but each time something kept them from joining us (childcare, injury, etc.). One day they told us that they were not really interested in church, but that whenever they were out at their fire pit in the evening we should feel free to join them. So we have. God is at work. It is just taking longer than we would like. But we can’t give up. We are building the friendship, and at some point we will be able to share how a relationship with God meets their needs.
The same kind of thing has happened as we have tried to connect with people in our church group. Several couples were not available for a closer relationship, but we connected with three college students who were part of our group. We found them very open, did lunch with them, and connected in other ways. One young woman was a part of a summer discipleship group that Tracy led.
We have found that no matter what the response is to our efforts to engage in relationships, we cannot stop trying to build bridges where we live, work, play, and worship! If there is a roadblock, we ask who else the Lord has for us. Who knows—the next person may say yes!

John and Tracy Radcliffe are on staff with Navigator Church Ministries in Columbus, Ohio.