In the past three years since I became a Fousert, my adventurous husband and I have lived or boarded at 9 locations in 3 countries. There have been several sparse apartments, a posh home with a glorious view, a little hillbilly farm with a tiny house. About the only common thread among them all has been the neighbors. We’ve always been blessed, would you say, with interesting neighbors, if interesting is the word I want. I think in this case, it is. It covers them all.
There was the guy across the street in Holland who moved among the plants by his large picture window much like Adam moved among the bushes in the Garden of Eden. Before the Fall. We called him the “naked neighbor” even though we did have the awkward pleasure of running into him fully clothed on the street a time or two.
The next apartment, there was a Congolese lady across the street with a little boy named Motz. That was about as weird as they got.
We stayed for a little with Sietske, who puts up with a rage-aholic on the floor beneath hers. Last time we were there, she got worked up about something and started throwing stuff into the street, screaming like her lungs would burst. We happened to be just under her window then, and I remember dodging a big white purse.
I don’t want to say too much about our next living arrangement because we were in a situation where someone was forced to take us in, against her will. That is about as interesting as I want to get, as far as boarding with people. We also had a saggy single bed to share that time, in a room full of knick knacks. The knick knacks were the worst.
But then we got placed in a spacious home for a few months, and we loved every minute except for about two minutes every Saturday morning when the Jews next door would blow the shofar into our bedroom window. At least that’s what it sounded like. They were so nice, but they didn’t believe anyone else was and they had a huge concrete silo next to their house, full of food to get them through the apocalypse or something.
You learn a lot about your neighbors when you live in apartments. We learned the neighbors upstairs didn’t get much sleep at night because they were so very, very busy. And the boy next door prayed in tongues very loudly— my bedtime lullaby.
Then we moved to the little white house on the hill and I was tossed into a subculture that I had thought was extinct: the American redneck. I’ve lived in several different cultures very different from my own, you know…. but there was something so foreign about these mountain people and their way of life that I succumbed to the idea that it was a cultural gap I just couldn’t bridge. Just a warning— this story gets really sad.
We put up with loud country music every now and again. We smiled and waved at suspicious stares. We were really curious about our neighbor’s obsession with a blaring electronic rooster, night and day. Hj learned about the rebel flag waving across the street. We even tried to make some real, live contact with the natives but it was very hard. We prayed sometimes, but mostly we just waved and smiled as we zipped in and out, determined to make him wave and smile back, even after a year. We were always going to take cookies or something, but it just never happened. I guess we were too busy?
In a horribly tragic turn of events, our neighbor is gone forever. It was an awful, violent day that marked us with sadness and fear (until our pastor came and anointed our heads with oil). We are still sad; we are grieving a life that Jesus died for, that the Father loved and longed for, that was worth the price of His Son. We are grieving for the wounded, battered lives around us who live with absolutely no thought for eternity. We are grieving the coldness in our own hearts, the chances that we missed to show the love of Jesus. We are asking ourselves, “Who are our neighbors?” because the truth is, we don’t know.
There is this verse that just slammed into our hearts and shook us to the core, and it talks about loving your neighbor as yourself. I must confess I have no idea how to do that. But for the sake of Jesus, I really, really want to learn.