Summer Fest isn’t the first time the Dodsons have tried to connect with their neighbors. Lora and Keith have been building relationships since first moving into their house nine years ago. But they live in a neighborhood where neighbors rarely engage with each other. Lora had a feeling that the lemonade stand would be a perfect way to interact with the neighbors and reach a deeper level of conversation.
The family decided to put up their stand on the same day as a nearby garage sale, hoping it would increase traffic on their block. They began praying for the stand and the opportunity to donate its proceeds to a College Park ministry partner, Wheeler Mission. When Lora told some friends, they committed to praying as well.
Initially, things didn’t look good for the Dodsons’ lemonade stand. When the girls first set up, there were no customers in sight. Their oldest, Hannah, began to get discouraged. Lora, however, saw it as a chance to grow in faith. She stopped and prayed with the girls. Together, they asked God to bring people to their stand.
Within five minutes, the Dodsons were hard at work; the girls were greeting customers, explaining their mission, and sharing Christ’s love.
“We weren’t doing it in our own strength,” Lora said. “We could definitely see it was the Lord.” The Dodsons were able to share the gospel with a number of neighbors and passersby. This College Park family is already planning its next neighboring event.
Across the city, the Robinson family was also pursuing a neighboring opportunity. The Robinsons’ Slip ‘N Slide Kit was the perfect addition to a summer party that had been in the works for quite a while.
Daniel Robinson, the dad, has been pursuing his graduate degree for the last two years, just like the wife of their next door neighbor. The two families had grown close through the shared experience and had been talking about holding a party to celebrate the two graduations. So, when Pastor Joe Wittmer announced the Summer Fest DIY kits on a Sunday morning, the Robinsons immediately knew they could put it to use with their neighbors. They picked up a Slip ‘N Slide kit that Sunday and put it to use the following Thursday.
They spread the tarp, bought pizza and ice cream, and called it a party. Before long, several neighborhood kids—and their parents—had come out for the fun.
The Robinsons explained to their kids that the Slip ‘N Slide wasn’t just for their enjoyment
“We told them that the purpose of the Slip ‘N Slide is to have fun with neighbors and to tell them about Jesus,” Sara said.
The children caught the vision. Their seven-year-old even brought her Bible to the backyard and started reading Bible stories to the other kids.
“There are other church-going families in our neighborhood,” Sara said. “But we’ve really noticed a distinction between those churches and College Park. The message here is that you’re put amongst neighbors who don’t know the Lord, on purpose. They aren’t to be avoided.”
For the Dodson and the Robinson families, engaging with neighbors is no longer just a summer initiative.
“It’s all about doing life together and showing how a Christian family does life,” Sara said, echoing Lora Dodson’s comment: “It’s not us. God is our strength.”