Heart Matters: The Time is Now

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“The sun is shining, the sky is blue. I love Jesus and I love
you.” The tune is catchy as it’s sung in a front yard on Garden
View Drive in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Forty-plus children and
adults sing with clowns, puppets, a 6-foot-tall dog, and several
laypeople from my church. When the song is over, there are stories,
performing clowns, skits, and a clear presentation of the
gospel.

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The yard belongs to Jerry and Sue. It’s their fourth year to
host a Neighborhood Outreach Week (N.O.W.). As in years past, Sue
provides refreshments, a smile, and caring concern for her
neighborhood. Sue has watched hurting neighbors cross the street
and sit with their preschoolers for the entire program.

It seems that each year, God provides one or two neighbors who
question Jerry and Sue about Jesus after the N.O.W. meeting. A
person may come over and ask for prayer several days or even weeks
after the N.O.W. team has left Sue’s yard.

What has N.O.W. meant to this family? It’s provided an
opportunity for them to be leaders impacting their neighbors for
Jesus. Would they host N.O.W. again? Sue says, “Any time you have a
team ready, I’ll open my yard.”

N.O.W. began because of an overbooked church calendar. I wanted
to reach children with the gospel, but the church was too busy to
participate. I discovered one week in the middle of summer that
wasn’t filled with camps or patriotic specials, and I claimed that
week in the name of children’s ministries. I called it Neighborhood
Outreach Week.

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As I write this article, I’m experiencing my fourth N.O.W. at
this church (it’s the eighth in my career). In the last two days,
four teams have held 10 meetings in four communities. So far, 476
children and adults have attended these meetings. At the end of the
week, Lord willing, we’ll have held 22 meetings and reached over
1,100 people with the gospel.

Kyle, a 12-year-old clown on one of our teams, was feeling
pretty low this morning. He didn’t think he was doing a good job.
This evening on the porch of an apartment in his own housing
development, Kyle prayed with a neighborhood friend, leading him
into a personal relationship with Jesus.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie lives with her mom. Natalie is
typically quiet, but when hidden behind a bit of clown makeup, she
comes to life. As a clown and puppeteer for N.O.W., Natalie has
taken part in skits and songs. She has been activated in the Great
Commission this week. I wonder how many boys and girls will
remember Natalie the clown or her puppet long after they’ve
forgotten about me — the funny guy with a beard.

Today I watched my son Tim, 9, and my daughter Rachel, 14, as
they clowned in the side yard of Cindy’s house. Children laughed at
their expressions. Boys and girls understood as my kids presented
the truth that Jesus is the Way. Were these the same two who only
yesterday were arguing over who should do the dishes? I teared up
as I realized that because of N.O.W., my own children are
changed.

N.O.W. is not just about open yards; it’s about open hearts.
It’s about ordinary church members like Jerry, Sue, Kyle, Natalie,
Rachel, and Tim participating in something extraordinary that’ll
affect their neighbors for eternity.

Perhaps N.O.W. isn’t the event for your church. Certainly,
though, there’s a week on your calendar that can be filled with
something that’ll have a giant impact on eternity. Check it out
today. Plan for outreach. Who knows, reserving a week to share
Jesus with your community could be happening N.O.W.

Dick Gruber is a funny guy with a beard in Bloomington,
Minnesota.

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