Growing Where You Are Planted

Scripture commands us to love God and love people. We are also called to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves received. This could mean talking to people about Jesus. Or it could mean paying for someone’s coffee or even their cancer treatment.

But as a practical matter, how do we do these things? How do we connect with people who are neither our friends nor our family? Churches love to talk about far away mission trips. Or how we should volunteer in soup kitchens or do home repair projects in the ghetto. As a young Christian I shuddered at this stuff. And it took me decades to figure out why.

It wasn’t that I was opposed to these things. But I was opposed to the subliminal message behind these things. It seemed that lurking in the background, was always the hidden subtext that you can’t love people unless it makes you uncomfortable. Either that, or it must involve some profound sacrifice such as far away mission work. Anything else was second class love. Anything else would never have a true impact.

Growing Where You Are Planted
But this couldn’t be further from the truth! Most of us don’t spend the majority of our lives in Africa. Most of us don’t (and never will) dole out ladles of soup, 8 hours a day in an urban soup kitchen.

If we think back to how we met most of the people we care about (and have an impact on), it was simply by doing ordinary things, in ordinary places, for ordinary reasons, in our ordinary day. Chances are, you met these people at work, at school, while shopping for groceries, at the laundromat, at the hiking club, at the bank, or while doing the various routines you normally do without even thinking of it.

Remember the good Samaritan? Did he rescue the man half dead on the road because he was on a special mission trip? Probably not. Most likely, he was simply doing life and going about his normal business. So what made him different from everyone else? The answer is that when he saw the opportunity to love someone, he took it.

Does The Bible Really Say To Grow Where You Are Planted?
To my surprise, there is no single verse in the Bible that says “Grow where you are planted.” But even so, there’s plenty of Scripture that talks about this.

For example: To the exiles in Babylon, the Lord said “Build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce.” (Jeremiah 29:5)

To the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul said to “let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you.” (1 Corinthians 7:17)

This is not to say that you must never go on an overseas mission trip. But it does refute the notion that the Lord can’t use you in your ordinary day to day activities.

Adopting a Starbucks (How I Use My Routines To Love My Neighbor)
The fact is that I love to drink coffee in the morning. Coffee and people watching are a large part of my routine, which I especially enjoy doing at the Avalon Starbucks in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Back in 2018, shortly after I saw this Starbucks being built, I decided that I would adopt it to cultivate a special relationship with the people. I was very intentional about it. Whenever I went there I’d greet them face to face (not while talking on my phone) and I made sure to tip 1-2 dollars, always in cash and in front of the other customers. Sometimes in secret, I’d slip a much larger bill in the tip jar (to remind them they were very much appreciated and that someone always had their back).

Giving Away Cute Gifts
Often beforehand, I’d take trips to the Dollar Store (something I delighted in doing anyway) and then bring them fun gifts from the ancient and mysterious Far East.

A few years earlier I learned that people get suspicious if you give them an expensive gift, or for that matter even an extra cheap one. But for some reason, people lose themselves if you make them choose between two cheap gifts! Amazingly, this catches them completely by surprise and they suddenly forget to be skittish.

So often, I would approach the counter, and in a mock serious voice tell them LIFE IS FULL OF IMPORTANT CHOICES… AND SO NOW YOU MUST CHOOOOSE. I’d then set on the counter a stress ball, a pink pom pom puffy pen, and a funny squeeze toy. At times, I would add NOW YOU MUST CHOOSE ONE FOR A CO-WORKER. (In this way, everyone could take part in the joy of giving.) At other times, I’d switch the script and just ask them “Which one of these makes you the most happy?

This was an instant hit. They were delighted. These people take orders all day. They’re always on their feet, rushing back and forth, and dealing with nasty, angry people in the throws of caffeine addiction. So my little cheap toys made their lunar week!

But adopting a Starbucks meant this wasn’t a one shot. It was a long term commitment, even if a small and easy one.

Routinely Hoarding Change To Make Change
Long before I ever knew Jesus, I loved to hoard my change. Over time, I would save up pounds and pounds of coins that I’d drop into a large plastic jug. Hoarding was so much fun for me, that sometimes, I would pay in cash just so I could get more change to fill up the jug faster.

As a Christian, I still love to hoard my change. But now I began leveraging this habit to help those at the Starbucks. Every year or so, when the jug got close to being full, I’d roll up my pennies and silver while sitting in plain view at the Starbucks community table. (I wanted the staff behind the counter to see exactly what I was doing.) This could often take up to an hour, and would yield close to $200 in assorted change.

Then, I would take the rolls of change and drop it into a clear jug with a note that said “Jesus loves you.” The jug now heavy with rolls and rolls of coins, was then given to the manager for her crew. Over the years, I’ve done this at least three times now.

In the course of showing them I care, God showed up and made things happen. While I didn’t plan for the things that happened next, since then, I’ve also prayed with at least three people, encouraged at least two to delight in Jesus and have even helped someone who was laid off during the height of Covid.

I remember it was back in 2020 when I saw her leave the Starbucks crying. She said goodbye to me and I asked her what was the matter. Through her tears, she told me that due to Covid 19, business was down and they had to let her go. But with her rent due, there was no way she could make it without this week’s pay.

At that point, I asked if she knew Jesus and if it was OK to pray with her. She said yes to both, but admitted that she had stopped going to church. So I prayed with her that Jesus would protect her and that she would seek Him in her life so she can love and delight in Him as I do.

At the end, I pulled out some bills I kept in my wallet, just in case I ever came across such a need. Suddenly she could pay her rent! Her tears of pain turned to tears of joy; and we both cried together. Once again, the Lord was doing what He does best! He leveraged my tiny mustard seed of faith to make many small commitments over time. And then, He miraculously made these bloom into something wonderful that she would remember for the rest of her life.

What I did was nothing special. I simply was committed to being intentional. I invested in something that was low cost, fun to do and part of my routines anyway. I showed the people around me that I cared for them and I kept alert to any of their needs the Lord might bring my way.

If I can do this, so can you. Just ask Jesus for guidance. He will help you think long term. It could be the people at your bank. Or maybe it’s your colleagues at work or the people you see at the laundromat. Just ask Him to show you how to love them. When you do even little things as a routine, time is on your side! And God will open a door to show you His glory, and then take you along with Him to enjoy the ride!

Related Blogs

Loving My Neighbor in a Post Covid World?
Practical giving during a world wide pandemic.

Other Blogs

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  1. Love your wisdom, brother. Keep responding to the Lord and relating those experiences to us. It’s encouraging and motivating.

  2. Such a great read, inspiring and brilliant ways to Evangelize in your Mission Field. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.
    Love and Blessings to our Thrive Family. Miss you all!
    In Christ,

  3. Inspires us to do more and listen to our loving, faithful God. It can bring us unspeakable joy when we do the little things as we engage with others.

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