“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27
Step outside your front door. Look around your neighborhood. How many of your neighbors do you truly know? There may be some going through a difficult time; illness, loss of a loved one, strained relationships and more can place a great burden on people. Now imagine if you could help not only transform these people’s lives, but your community as well. That is exactly what is happening right here in North Idaho.
Through the Adopt-a-Street program, there are people, primarily in the Sandpoint area, who are praying for others and helping the needs of their neighbors be met. The good news is those in Sandpoint who have spearheaded the program locally would love to see this program spread throughout North Idaho starting with Bonners Ferry. It is simple to do and produces powerful results.
A team of pastors, business owners, retirees and more formed a team that meets once a month and is making Sandpoint one of the leading places in our nation where the program is in place. There are also 11 area churches currently involved. Pastor Chris Bassett and Janine Shepard are two of those people who are part of the program.
“We walk people through the steps to prayer evangelism,” explained Pastor Chris, who said the program is modeled after the book of Luke, chapter 10 in the Bible. “The four elements are blessings; fellowship, which is time spent with our neighbors; ministering to the felt needs; and proclaiming that the kingdom of God is near.”
By being a blessing to others and seeing that their needs are met, relationships begin to develop. “We want to see God move and bless the community’s needs,” said Shepard. “We pray first before doing anything. We pray for doors to be open.”
The group states that one of its purposes is to engage entire families to take responsibility to pray for their neighborhoods, workplace and school and see the spiritual destiny of the area fulfilled. Pastor Chris said it is simply about fulfilling the needs of the community.
“We do not want to convince anyone (of a specific belief) or convert them; we want to bless them,” said Pastor Chris, adding that they want to see the real life struggles of people, whether it is homelessness, domestic violence or poverty, be eradicated.
The goal for the Sandpoint group is for every street in Sandpoint, and eventually Bonner County, to be adopted by a resident of that street. “When I adopted my street, I started with an ice cream social,” said Shepard of her desire for people to get to know one another. As of today, 60 percent of streets in Sandpoint have been adopted, and they hope that is just the beginning. They want to see Boundary County experience this wonderful program to the extent it has grown in Sandpoint.
“People want to see transformation in their community. It’s a great way to see the Lord working,” said Shepard.
The power of this prayer can be felt throughout the community as stories are shared of not only adults but also of kids who become involved. Pastor Chris relates one such story where a woman began to pray for her street and discovered a neighbor who was struggling while going through divorce. Her neighbor needed help so she and her children pitched in and did yard work throughout the summer. “It is kids learning to be a blessing,” said Pastor Chris. Soon, the lives of the neighbor and her kids were transformed; they began to go to church and the kids were grounded and no longer struggling emotionally.
Another story was as simple as a woman finding a stray dog. It had a license from California, and the number she called went unanswered; she had no idea where to begin to look for the owner. She began to drive around on roads unfamiliar to her, praying that she could find the owner. She turned a corner and found a man standing in the middle of the yard. She stopped and asked if he had lost his dog. It turns out it was in fact his dog. “He told her he was on the couch watching TV and something told him to get off the couch and go outside. It was at that time this woman stopped the car,” said Pastor Chris. “I think God thinks all of our needs are important.”
The desire to transform lives goes beyond our neighbors. “We also want to come alongside people in the community. We want to be a blessing to everyone, not just our neighbors,” said Shepard.
So just how do they know when this prayer is beginning to transform the community? “One of the biggest signs of transformation is when poverty is eliminated,” said Shepard.
But Shepard is not just referring to physical poverty, which involves lack of money or food. Pastor Chris explains that there are other types of poverty as well. “There is relationship poverty, which involves domestic violence, domestic abuse and sexual assault; motivational poverty—which looks at whether people are willing to work hard to make their lives better; and spiritual poverty.”
They emphasize that people of all faiths are welcome to join the Adopt-a-Street program as the focus is not on a specific religion; it is to simply bring blessings.
Shepard said they would like to see this brought to Boundary County to the magnitude it has in Sandpoint and shares that her group will mentor anyone who wants to take the steps to cause transformation. Change is possible. It’s simple, yet powerful. And it begins with each one of us.