Fresno neighborhood wakes to Christmas blessing
by Kathy Heinrichs Wiest
Last December, on the Saturday before Christmas, Kayleen Clark and other Mountain View Community Church members started about 9 a.m. ringing doorbells in the church’s Fresno, Calif., neighborhood.
“It was kind of like, ‘Hey, wake up. We’re blessing you with a free Starbucks card,’” Clark says.
The activity is Mountain View’s annual “Neighborhood Blessing.” Teams go door-to-door in the homes near the church, offering their neighbors a gift and a prayer and inviting them to come to the church’s Christmas services.
Mountain View’s missions pastor Mary-Tyler Wahl points out that Christmas and Easter are opportunities to reach people who don’t normally attend church.
“Mountain View has always done flyers and invitations for big services,” she says, “but a few years ago a gentleman in the church had this great idea to take something with the invitation.”
Initially, the gift they brought was a houseplant, but in recent years they have begun giving Starbucks cards instead. The church targets 1,000 homes and buys about 400 five-dollar gift cards.
Only people who come to the door get the gift card, and even some of them refuse to take one. “A lot of people were like, ‘What do I have to give you?’” Clark says. “It was surprising how long it took to get rid of our cards.”
The canvassing team, usually 40 to 60 people, begins by gathering at church for worship in song and prayer. The volunteers include families with young children as well as adults and junior high and high school youth. “It’s a nice time together,” Wahl adds.
Associate Pastor Jon Giesel enjoys taking his young sons with him. “Along the way my son, who is three, is asking why we are doing this. I get to explain that it’s because God loves [our neighbors] and he wants them to know him. It teaches him to go to our neighbors and greet them and even pray with them.”
After offering the gift and the invitation, the team always asks if they can pray for the person who came to the door. “A lot of people were conservative about what they would ask prayer for—maybe a difficult financial situation or just world peace,” Clark says.
“There’s always lots of prayer for healing,” adds Wahl, “and sometimes people bring other household members to the door to be prayed for.”
While the teams seldom have a chance to see the results of their visits, Giesel saw firsthand the long-term impact when he and his family moved into one of the visited neighborhoods a few years ago. “Our neighbors right next door had been invited in previous years. When we moved in next door that put a face to the church, and they started attending.”
Clark plans to join the “Neighborhood Blessing” again this Christmas. “You never know who you will encounter,” she says. “You might go to 50 houses but maybe one person will come to know Jesus. These people need to know Jesus.”