Robert & Kathy Stroup

Gospel Neighboring

Early in Robert and Kathy Stroup’s marriage, they knew the value in knowing their neighbors.  In their first neighborhood everyone knew each other, cared for each other, and watched out for each other.  “When we moved to a new neighborhood in 1994, things were different.   Rear entry garages and no sidewalks made it difficult to engage our neighbors.  We adjusted to our limited way of ‘neighboring’—usually when checking the mail or doing yard work.  We too became busy with our own kids and church activities.  But admittedly we knew something was lacking in our efforts.”  

A couple of years ago, as Kathy was at the curb checking the mail, she was met by a friend walking with her husband.  Her friend, involved in their neighborhood’s homeowner’s association, asked if Kathy would be willing to be an area representative. The offer piqued Kathy’s interest, but since she was teaching and coaching, it would have been impossible to take on that responsibility. But a year later, Kathy changed careers, allowing her more time away from the office. She realized that becoming the area representative would be a great way to meet her neighbors and build deeper relationships. Kathy says, “The primary reason I desired to do this is because I want people to know the love of Christ. I know the peace that comes from knowing Him, and I want to share that with my neighbors - I want them to experience it.  And getting to know our neighbors better is an awesome byproduct.”

Kathy began her new role as area rep with a simple step: going door to door with gifts of homemade cookies and introducing herself. While the gesture seemed small, it made a large impact. She says, “Taking cookies to people was such a simple little thing.  One lady told me that she had never had anyone do that for them – and it was just a few cookies! Little things make more of a difference than we think.” From there, Robert and Kathy began dreaming of ways they could reach out even more. Robert says, “Kathy explained that we were going to start hosting occasional block parties and other events. So, my contribution was building a pavilion in our backyard.” Soon after its completion in October of last year, they hosted a Veteran’s Day block party. Kathy says, “I asked each neighbor if they had served our country, then made posters for each one with his rank, branch of service, and years served. Our own son being in the Navy created a natural connection with our veterans.  At the party, we realized there were a lot of people in the neighborhood who had never met each other, and it was really cool to see them make those connections.” Robert and Kathy soon followed up their Veteran’s Day party with a Christmas open house, and since then, Kathy has started inviting women over for coffee on a one-on-one basis. “I quickly realized that women love sharing their stories,” Kathy says, “I often get to just sit and listen to women share their lives. We have all heard the saying that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.  Trust is earned.  I feel very blessed to live where we live, and I look forward to having more block parties and reaching out and becoming better friends with even more of the women.”

To others who desire to reach their neighbors, Robert and Kathy acknowledge that not everyone can assume the responsibility of neighborhood representative, but there are many small and practical steps that can be taken that have major impacts! Kathy says, “ANYONE can be a good neighbor. You can walk your block and meet your neighbors, pray for them as you walk, or return the trash bins after trash day for your neighbors who may be older or still at work. Have some extra cake? Cut a few slices and take them to your neighbors! If you’re on your way somewhere and see your neighbor in their front yard, stop your car, roll down your window and ask how they’re doing. If you find out your neighbor is sick, take them some soup!” She goes on to explain that these small and seemingly insignificant steps add up, and while people may not be going through a hard season at the moment, they will inevitably fall on hard times. “In the future, if someone has a need, we hope that we would be the person they would call,” Robert says. To those who struggle with the fear of rejection or awkwardness, Kathy explains, “The fear you have is normal. It can be intimidating, but consider for yourself what a blessing it is when someone reaches out to you. People aren’t offended when you ask to pray for them. The blessings you will see will be hundred-fold. The next time you think “I should stop and say ‘Hello’” or maybe I should walk over and check on my neighbor, know without a doubt the Spirit is ALIVE and WELL.  He is prompting you.  The Spirit is speaking all the time – the question is, will you listen and take a step?”