Heidi and Justin Fox are city pastors with Rock Harbor church in Southern California. Justin also writes and records good music. You can download his brand new album "The Sound Forgiveness Makes" at his website http://justinfox.bandcamp.com It's really good!
Justin and I have lived across the street from the Baker St. apartments for over eight years. Although the kids from both sides of the street attend the same school, the racial and cultural divide has felt a mile wide. Ever since moving in, we've prayed about, planned for, and practiced the idea of sharing God's love with these neighbors. We speak very little Spanish (and don't even like spicy food!), and yet God has knit us together with this Latino community in incredible ways. PTA projects, birthday parties, an ESL night called "Share Your English", holiday events, and play-dates have all contributed to deeper friendships and incarnational conversations that have indelibly shaped us this year. After walking out of a restaurant one evening during the summer with our neighbors, they told us this was the first time, in 40 years, that they had ever gone to dinner with a "white couple". They later asked us, "Why do you show us so much love?" Can you imagine the Gospel set-up we were handed in that moment?
This year, we have not only seen the power of reaching out, but we've seen the inspiring way our neighbors care for us. We could never attempt to attend every birthday party invite, or every community meal we're offered - there's just too many! My friends from Baker St. are my confidants, my PTA partners, and the absolute hardest working, most joyful people I know. I am humbled by their contentedness, their simplicity, and their family bonds, and I will never get over how generous they are. They are always giving, always serving, and always surprising me. Last week, as the holidays were approaching, I mentioned casually to my neighbors that I had stepped out of my job in Operations at ROCKHARBOR so that I could focus solely on local ministry. I knew money would be tight, but I also had faith that God was in this and that He would provide.
A few days later my friends said they had a "surprise" and wanted to make sure I'd be home to receive it. I was not prepared for what I saw; a small group on my front porch with grocery bags! The husbands even pitched in to bring it all over, and the gang proudly unpacked their gifts of food, condiments, and treats onto my kitchen counters. A grand abundance out of limited means. I was overwhelmed. I kept asking why they would do this, and everyone's response was, "You guys do so much for us!" This community across the street has encouraged us, inspired us, challenged us, and cared for us, and maybe I have given a lot, but in a deeper way, they have given much more.