Over the past couple months, God’s calling to connect to others and reach out within my neighborhood has become increasingly clear. It started as an interaction our family had with a young preteen girl in the neighborhood. Through it my family witnessed the compassion and protection that our neighborhood outreach officers strove to offer for the families in our area.
A stirring began in my heart. One day I drove down Rice Road and saw groups of children playing and my heart quickened. I prayed “God I feel like you want us to do something in our community, but I have no idea what or where to begin.” Within a couple days of that prayer, God answered in the form of an unexpected invitation to come to a neighborhood improvement meeting.
The Community Outreach Officers of the Columbia Police Department host these meetings as a way to partner with and empower individuals and groups inside of key neighborhoods toward building positive community relationships and outreach opportunities. Our neighborhood on the Eastside is one of three strategic neighborhoods the city of Columbia is targeting as underserved. Most of the discussion revolved around what we could do for the numerous children and diverse families within our area.
At the neighborhood meeting I was startled by all the opportunity and doors that God said simply needed to be knocked on for them to open. Matthew 9:35-38 kept echoing in my mind:
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”
During a weekly time of prayer I shared this fragile new dream that was quickly consuming my heart only to see excitement reflected in the eyes of Kaylyn Briscoe, the Children’s Ministry Director, as she told me God had placed a very similar dream in her heart. We both prayed and felt God urging us to move forward. As it turned out, God had also placed a strikingly similar dream on the heart of CF member Rachel Bryan for her neighborhood.
The Sunday after we prayed, the sermon, the worship, everything seemed to confirm what God was doing. That week I had been battling uncertainty; but God pressed into my heart, confirming that He was moving in Columbia. Tears welled in my eyes as we sang Chris Tomlin’s God of this City: “For greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.”
As I left church that Sunday, I knew God wanted us to go out into our community. Both my husband and I acutely felt the Holy Spirit wanted us not only in Columbia, but in our specific neighborhood—even if we didn’t understand why.
Kaylyn Briscoe moved forward in faith with organizing this shared dream into the Summer Block Parties—outreach events for youth that will take place around the city of Columbia. We feel strongly that instead of a traditional VBS at the church building, God wants us to go out into the community and encourage members of Christian Fellowship to engage and build relationships within their personal neighborhoods.
God, in His faithfulness, keeps opening doors of connection and collaboration. Community groups and individuals who are passionate about reaching out into Columbia will also be participating with us in the block parties: Synergy, Jabberwocky, the STEAM bus, Kona Ice, and a local DJ.
Summer block parties will be hosted at Louisville Park, Indian Hills Park, Christian Fellowship Church, and Fairview Park throughout the summer. The parties will run from 6-8PM. (Dates for each location can be found in the event description on the website.)
The doors have been opened, the block parties are planned, now we ask— Are you willing to walk through them with us? Might God be stirring you to come into deeper relationships with your neighbors? Do you feel God moving here in Columbia? Are one of these party locations near your own neighborhood?
Whether you live near one of these locations or not, if you have children, we would love for you to come and let your children participate in the fun events and games. If you do live near one of these locations, it is our prayer that these events can better connect you to your neighbors.
“And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’” – Luke 10:27
Please contact Kaylyn Briscoe if you are interested in getting involved and sharing Jesus’ love with youth across Columbia.