“¿Que Pasó?” I ask with concern as I see my neighbor and her daughter approaching on the busy sidewalk. My husband, Nathan, and I have our arms full of grocery bags as we are coming home from the store. Our neighbor, Diana*, is also just arriving home and visibly upset.
(Nathan and I had moved into our new home in Los Angeles’s Westlake/MacArthur Park community just months before this. Along with our InnerCHANGE LA team, we have the joy of living among and walking with families in this vibrant area, inviting them into life-giving encounters with God and sharing his love through relationship. Since our neighborhood is home to the highest concentration of recent immigrants in the city (mostly from Central America), growing in Spanish was one of the first key steps in loving our neighbors.)
“We are coming back from the clinic and my daughter is very sick,” Diana explains as the apartment gate clangs shut behind us. I look down and notice the pain in her oldest daughter's face as she sits in the stroller, clutching her stomach.
Recently Nathan and I have been stepping out in faith to pray for people who are sick, right on the spot. We see the example of quick prayers on the street resulting in healing and life transformation for many in the Bible. Yet, every time we step out in this way it feels like a big act of faith—trusting and expecting that God will move in supernatural ways beyond our comprehension. I gulp before asking, “Can we pray for her?”
Right in our apartment’s cement courtyard, we all put down our grocery bags and I lay my hand on the sweet child. What I attempt to say in Spanish is, “Jesus thank you that you love us and are the God who heals. Come and take away the pain and sickness, in your name. Amen.” (What actually comes out in my limited Spanish is nowhere close to this.) I give Diana a hug and then we part ways.
I close the door to our studio apartment with a sigh. “She is going to think we’re crazy,” I reflect. “I didn’t say anything that made sense when I prayed in Spanish.” Frustrated, I bemoan the limitations of my language skills and ask God to move nevertheless. “Surely the God who knows all the languages can interpret my flawed Spanish,” I hope.
Days later, at the colorful food truck (a convenience store on wheels) on our block, we bump into Diana and her daughter again. To our surprise, they come running to us, beaming with joy, to give us a big hug. “God healed my daughter the day you prayed!” Diana exclaims with glee. We rejoice together briefly. Afterwards, Nathan and I marvel at how humbled and honored we feel that God would use us even in our weakness. We ask God for this testimony to help us have more courage and trust next time.
Our encounter with Diana that day has opened the doors for rich, genuine friendship with her and her family. We enjoy visiting them, chatting while doing laundry side-by-side, and sharing one another’s hopes and fears. We have also had the chance to love Diana and her family in many practical ways including answering the door to pray late at night when she experienced crisis, taking her children to the nearby park, reading the Bible with the family, and helping them access supportive services (such as emergency rental assistance and legal support). One of my favorite memories in the neighborhood was celebrating Thanksgiving with Diana, her family, other neighbors, and InnerCHANGE LA teammates. Her husband remarked that day, “This is the most fun we have had in a very long time.”
Since our first time praying with Diana, we have had many more opportunities to pray and talk about God together. Over time, I have begun to notice a shift in how Diana relates to God. For example, she recently shared her concerns about not having money to purchase school uniforms for her kids. “I know I can trust God,” she said matter of factly before we began to pray and look for resources together. Where she used to ask for prayer from a place of panic and anxiety, we can sense her growing faith in God’s goodness and care. Though we long for and expect the day when Diana and her family will deeply commit their lives to Jesus, we can see God pointing Diana to himself already and revealing his character as he answers her prayers.
Just as God is cultivating Diana’s trust through answering her prayers, he is using the supernatural ways he has cared for Diana to increase my own trust too. I am learning that as I step out in faith in little ways, God shows up and often completely exceeds my expectations. It is truly an honor and priviledge to form this kind of mutual friendship with our neighbors, where we can grow in our trust in God together.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. When has God used you in spite of your weaknesses or limitations? Praise God for this experience.
2. Prayerfully recall a time when God moved in unexpected or miraculous ways in answer to prayer in your life. Invite the Lord to use this testimony to increase your faith and boldness.
3. How might God be calling you to step out in a small act of faith today? Perhaps it is praying on the spot with someone in need, sharing an encouraging Bible verse or picture with a friend, or interceding with a loved one. Regardless, expect God to move and look for how he responds.
*Name has been changed for the privacy of our friend
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Flickner and her husband Nathan have served with InnerCHANGE LA since 2015.