Ever since John and I moved to this country almost five and a half years ago, it has always been a burden on our hearts to get to know our neighbors and share with them. After all, if you live close together, then that should be easy, right?
But it wasn't as easy as we thought. First, as we shared this with a national friend (not a neighbor) during our first year, his immediate response was, "What?! You don't want to get to know your neighbors! They live close to you! They know all of your personal business! They hear your family fights and when you yell at your kids and things like that! It would be embarassing to become friends with them!"
Hmmm. Unfortunately, we discovered that his reaction was shared by lots of people. We made a few efforts, (Christmas parties and such) but at our old apartment complex, mostly filled with retired people, it was pretty tough going. So, we made friends in other places and didn't worry about it too much. We were always friendly, but didn't work too hard to pursue relationships within our small apartment complex.
Things changed when we moved, exactly one year ago today, to our new apartment. This apartment complex has lots and lots of young families, and we were eager to take the girls out to play and make friends. And we have been able to meet several families, but there's almost been the opposite problem--there are so MANY families here that we see different people every time we go out. Add in a new baby and an extremely busy schedule for John in the past year, and we haven't made as many new friends in the neighborhood as we probably could have.
[By the way, just for some context: more people live in our "neighborhood" than live in the town I grew up in! My hometown is about 2800 people, and more than 3000 people live in this apartment complex. That's crazy for an Iowa girl like me!]
However, Father has been at work. I won't go into details, but we have been extremely encouraged by events in the lives of our neighbor who lives directly across the hall, and the neighbor who lives directly above us. The above neighbor and her young daughter came over for lunch this past week and we had a wonderful time. She began to share some difficult events from her life and actually sat and cried on my couch while the girls played together after lunch. I was so amazed--this is unheard of in this culture, especially on a first visit!
We are also seeing how John's business is opening up relationships in the community. On Wednesday evening we were outside, ostensibly to play badminton, but instead got stopped to talk several times--once by a mom who knew me from Clara Anne's previous kindergarten, once by a couple whom we've met several times and are moving here this weekend, and also by a mom who was very interested in having her son study English at John's school. It was actually really exciting to go out after supper to relax for a bit and get to talk to so many friends!
So, moral of the story: Father is so faithful. A desire that He put on our hearts years ago is finally happening! I look forward to the summer (schools here are just getting out in the next week or two) when some of my neighbors will have more time to get together. Great possibilities ahead!