Building Relationships in Neighborhood Communities
Long before we ever realized we were learning it, we’ve been taught to love our neighbors. The concept seems simple enough, right? However, caring for our neighbors isn’t only a nice concept, it’s a command. What would our world look like if, as Christians, we actually made an effort to genuinely love those who live in our immediate communities?
After joining a CARES Team through Apartment Life, Raz and Kristina Bradley have learned the art of neighboring firsthand. Apartment Life is a nonprofit organization, whose purpose is to send CARES Team members into neighborhood communities to build intentional relationships with the people living around them. Their job is to help cultivate these friendships by planning fun social activities to increase interaction between residents. By hosting monthly events that facilitate community, the Bradley’s hope that they will build long-term relationships with their surrounding neighbors. “We’re designed and wired to be relational. It’s our job to be friends with people,” says Raz.
So far, the Bradley’s have had great success with event turnouts within their community. They have enjoyed contacting local vendors and businesses to help supply resources for their planned events. Both the businesses and the apartment community benefit from the communal environment and promotion that the CARES Team is creating. “We are an intermediary between the staff management team and residents,” said Raz. “It is our job to be a friendly middle man for the community needs and spokesperson to the management on behalf of the residents.” Kristina adds, “We’re creating mutually beneficial, lasting relationships in Columbia.”
Recently married in 2015, the Bradley’s have quickly learned what it takes to work together as a unit to make their CARES Team successful. Kristina and Raz have had to up play each other’s strengths while getting to know residents during their time there. Kristina says, “We’ve learned what gifts we’re each best at and how to trust and rely on one another. We are in a season that allows us to do this job because our schedules are flexible, so we have time to build these relationships with other residents.”
An apartment can be a challenging place to create long-term relationships since living there is extremely transitional. As a CARES team member, goals have been set to ensure that efforts made are successful. By requiring three events per month, the Bradley’s have several opportunities to generate community and conversations with the other residents outside of visiting them door-to-door. “At these events, conversations just naturally happen, “said Raz. “It is easy for us to exceed these goals, but the overall goal is to ultimately see Jesus move in the apartment community.”
Too often we ignore the fact that the places in which we live and work are our primary mission fields. We neglect plenty of opportunities to sincerely love and care for our immediate neighbors with the love that Christ has shown to us. For Kristina and Raz, stepping outside of their sheltered Christian bubbles has been especially challenging. “You shouldn’t have to learn this - but I’ve learned that it’s a lot easier to talk to people who are well outside of these bubbles we create than most Christians sheltered by the Bible-belt would think. We’re just learning to have real conversations with real people,” said Raz.
The Bradley’s have no plans to get out of this ministry anytime soon. “Even if we weren’t a part of Apartment Life and moved into a suburban neighborhood, we’d be able to apply the same simple principles we’ve learned here,” said Kristina. Raz adds, “The love for hanging out with and genuinely caring for your neighbors would easily transfer to anywhere we decided to live as a result of being a part of a CARES team.” If you love people and have a schedule that allows, Kristina and Raz highly recommend that others get involved with a CARES team in their community.
Continue to be in prayer for the Bradley’s as they truly live out one of our greatest commandments: “Love thy neighbor.” May we take their example to heart and truly apply it in the places where we live in order to see a Columbia that longs to make Jesus known. It’s as simple as walking next door.