About a month ago, I asked for 10 volunteers to write 20 simple letters to our neighbors. They were to be hand
written on special Saint John’s Church and School letterhead, created by a
3rd grader. The message to neighbors: we would like to pray for you
if you will let us know what you would like prayed for.
Simple letter, simple message.
The point was to build the Kingdom of God, one letter at a time. It was not to increase our church membership or to solicit donations but to let our closest neighbors know that we’re thinking of them.
20 volunteers, instead of the ten I asked and hoped for, signed up. Wendy, our church assistant, put together twenty packets with ten addresses each, letterhead and stamps. Some letters were written the first day, many the next week, and a few others will be mailed out this week.
Responses have been rolling in and I want share a few of them with you. Some information is private, surprisingly private. Maybe it’s easier to tell a complete stranger personal details than a friend or member of your family. Or maybe a letter reached someone at just the right time for them to share with us. Obviously, I need to honor our neighbors’ privacy but, at the same time, I’m excited about this project and want to tell you about it. Here is a collage of four stories with details obscured for privacy but I
trust the strength of their story will still shine
First, a story I’ve shared already. We received a letter from a neighbor who is a great-grandmother. She was so uplifted by our letter that she made copies of it and is writing to her great-grandchildren on our letterhead! Our handwritten letter reminded her of the past when people would sit down and write letters to one another. She told us the letter from Saint John’s made her want to share that gift with the youngest members of her family and start a new tradition with them. She asked that we pray for peace in the world so that her great-grandchildren can grow up in a world better than it is now. I see the Kingdom of God being built within her family by starting this new/old tradition
Another neighbor used to attend church at a nearby house of worship but stopped going after a family tragedy. Our letter, and follow up communication, has prompted him to return to his church after many years of being away. My conclusion? The Holy Spirit spoke to him through our parishioner. He asked that we pray for our country and the safety of our military which, of course, we are very happy to do.
Another letter received this week was from a distraught neighbor who has been down, really down, lately. Her circle of friends has diminished and her family is distant. But then, she received our letter and the letterhead reminded her of her childhood and made her smile. The main impact was what our parishioner wrote. She needed to hear that someone is thinking of and praying for her. Our letter writer is now writing a reply. She asked that we pray for love in the world.
Incidentally, she sent cash in her return envelope for our mission and ministry.
There is a letter on my desk we received yesterday. It’s written on personal stationary smaller than the size of a bank check. I was nearly moved to tears when I read it. The second line of the handwritten thank you note is this, verbatim, “Pray for the children in orphanages.” Our neighbor did not know that eleven years ago Christi and I started praying for children in orphanages and that those prayers dramatically changed our lives (and the lives of our daughters Galina and Victoria). Yesterday, I personally needed that reminder. It seems building the Kingdom of God is a two way street. That letter I will answer myself and thank the author for reminding me of God’s Kingdom and the blessings God gives us through prayer.
In the words of our neighbors, may God’s Kingdom be known through peace in the world, in the protection and safety of our men and women in uniform and may we learn to love one another, and, finally, may the peace of the Kingdom be with all children inorphanages
- Fr. Marshall