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When a Problem is a Good Thing to Have

When a Problem is a Good Thing to Have

We learned long ago in Catholic Europe that people on our street are hesitant to accept help, but usually happy to extend it. The Lord used this dynamic in the past month to arrange closer contact with our new neighbors.

A young family from southern Europe–dad, mom and two little girls–had moved into the row house right next door at the end of last summer. We’d tried repeatedly to have them over for coffee, but it never worked to coordinate our schedules. The man had been working feverishly to gut the house, remodel it with the aid of his extended family, and also keep his job going. But then he installed his new heating system, obliging him to disconnect the old oil burner and empty the fuel oil tanks behind his house. Somehow the sharp odor of that fuel oil penetrated an old heating duct in the corner of our house. The fumes were so strong that we couldn’t sit in our dining room without opening the doors and windows to the outside. We asked him about it all and he was deeply apologetic. A heating consultant advised us to throw a big box of laundry soap powder down the shaft of the unused heating duct to absorb the fuel oil odor . . . and so we smelled laundry soap until we taped the vent tightly shut. Our neighbor continued to feel embarrassed about the scenario.

A week later a short circuit in our dish washer melted down the electronics. God graciously prevented a serious fire, but we had to replace the appliance. I asked my neighbor if he could help me undo the water lines, which were difficult to access, and carry down the old machine. He was delighted to give a hand. And when the new machine was delivered a few days later, he eagerly helped connect things up again. So now we owe him . . . and that’s the best position to be in! We look forward to the end of the coronavirus confinement in the coming weeks so that we can finally have them over. They know we are Christians and are very friendly. We are asking the Lord to time that meeting with them so we can have a more extended conversation about spiritual things.

Reaching them may take time. The neighbors they replaced were local people who eventually came to Christ after over 25 years of witness. We trust this new family will be less resistant, and that the Spirit of God will draw them to Himself. Reaching neighbors in northern Europe takes patience . . . and sometimes a problem or two that they can help you solve!

Are you ready to settle into a new community and get to know your neighbors for the sake of the gospel? Contact our Global Opportunities Team at to find out how you can join one of our missionary teams around the globe.