This is the second time that we have lived in Sahuarita, Arizona. Back in 2010, I believe that I was one of the first people to own a yellow “new” Camaro in our community. At one point I think that there were only two of us with cars like this. The advantage was that my car really stood out. The disadvantage was that my car really stood out!

It was very easy for people to spot my car. I was reminded of this one week-end when one of our retired Deacons had a birthday lunch for her husband at the local casino. I am not a gambler, and I avoid casinos. I did not, however, want to miss this birthday party. Both of these people had touched my life, and I wanted to be a part of the celebration. Later in the week I had someone ask: “What were you doing at the casino?”

On another occasion, I was shopping at Wal-Mart. I received a call on my cell phone from one of our young adults. She saw my car in the parking lot, and wanted to know what I was doing at Wal-Mart. I told her that I was on a “missionary expedition”. She laughed, then said “really?!?” Really. Big box stores are a great place to reach out to people!

My last encounter with someone was this last Saturday at the very same Wal-Mart. He was driving a cool sports car. I’m fluent in speaking Chevy and Ford, and I can speak a few words of Dodge. All I had to ask was how he liked his car, and the conversation was started! He told me how he had been “on top of the world”, with everything going his way. He had a prestigious job where he was supervising over 300 people. Then he was hit by major health issues. Now, at the age of 51, he finds himself struggling to survive. I think that he needed someone to talk to. Someone who would take the time to listen. I feel humbled that God put me in the position to be that person. Before we were finished he shook my hand twice. We started as strangers in a parking lot and left as friends!

When we are out in our communities, are we seeing the people that are around us? I’m convinced that we have been taught how to politely ignore each other when we are in places like big stores. What happens if we really start seeing other people? I have to admit that I think I make some people uncomfortable. I don’t play by society’s rules. When I ask people how they are doing, I really want to know. God has placed us in this world with so many fascinating people—and we get the chance to truly know each other!

A good place to start seeing people as people is at church. Are you willing to do this? Let’s start with an easy question. How often do you sit in the same seat in the Sanctuary? If the answer is “every week”, raise your hand! If this is you, this week I challenge you to sit on the other side of the Sanctuary in a different row. Choose someone to sit by that you don’t know, or you don’t know well. Before leaving the church, learn something about this person that you didn’t know before (if you pick someone that you have never met before, this should be easy!).

OK, let’s try an intermediate challenge. Does your church have a fellowship time? If it does, this is a perfect time to visit with people. Look around the room and see how many people you can identify that you don’t know well. See how many connections you can make before the fellowship time is over.

Do you feel like you are ready for a more advanced challenge? Find some people that you don’t know well and invite them to go out to brunch or lunch with you. It’s natural to visit during the meal, and to get to know each other better. If you like to entertain at home, a variation of this challenge is to invite some people that you don’t know well over to your house. This is a wonderful way of connecting with new friends!

If you decide to accept any, or all, of these challenges, I would like to hear about your experiences. Know that it is perfectly OK to try each of these challenges more than once!

Your brother on the journey, Mark

 

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