ST. LOUIS – Since 2016, the Good Neighbor Initiative has worked to bring Mark 12:31 to life as cities like St. Louis become home to refugees from around the world. That verse reads: “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
At least 41 refugees arrived in St. Louis last year, from countries like Afghanistan, the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.
The Good Neighbor Initiative, a partnership between St. Louis Metro Baptist Association and Oasis International, matches active members of association churches with a neighbor new to St. Louis they can befriend. Those interested can sign up to be a part as an individual, a family or a small group / Sunday School. The goal is for a 12-month commitment to visiting the new neighbor in their home at least once a month, praying for your new neighbor regularly, as you are comfortable and God leads, invite them to your home for a meal, special occasion, a holiday, complete the “Checking In” form on the Good Neighbor Initiative website on a monthly basis.
Around 70 area churches are currently part of the Good Neighbor Initiative, representing more than 100 American Christian families intentionally building relationships with recent refugees.
“We’re learning a lot all the time about what it means to be a good neighbor to people from a Muslim faith, from war-torn countries and people who have come here with literally nothing more than the clothes on their back,” said Darren Casper, associate executive director of St. Louis Metro Association. “The need for long-term friendships has only been solidified in my mind. This isn’t a ministry where you’re going to knock on a door, share a gospel tract, and see someone accept Jesus right away. But as we build bridges and authentic friendships, the opportunity to share the gospel comes.”
Those in the St. Louis area who are interested can apply at www.stlbaptist.com/goodneighbor/. After a pastor completes the recommendation form and approval, the association will match up new neighbors.