Family reorients life to invest in neighbors

by BSCNC Communications
  • Brandie Upshaw, left, and her mother-in-law, Judy, share how they committed to being intentional in their efforts to reach their neighbors with the gospel. Photo by Alexandra King.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 7 yrs old

Other than a few names, Brandie Upshaw didn’t really know her Gulfport, Miss., neighbors.

So when her husband, Brian, accepted a job with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), they committed to doing things different in their new home. As they prepared to move from Mississippi to North Carolina they prayed for God to move them into a neighborhood where He would use them to share the gospel.

Five years ago Upshaw had no idea the journey God had in store for her family, and she shared that journey during the Sept. 6-7 women’s prayer and evangelism conference hosted by Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries of the BSCNC. Her break out session on learning to do evangelism from the home was one of several sessions offered during the conference at Ridgecrest. The conference also included plenary sessions and special prayer times.

Initially, trying to meet and build relationships with neighbors was not easy and at times proved frustrating. Yet, they continued praying and seeking opportunities to get to know the people in their neighborhood.

“They saw that we were real people. We were very intentional about reorienting our life to interact with our neighbors,” Upshaw said. “Sometimes we don’t take the Great Commission literally. Literally, God has placed us somewhere and He has a bunch of people around us who need to know Him.”

About two years after moving, one neighbor finally expressed interest in participating in a Bible study the Upshaws wanted to start in the neighborhood. They began the study with Bible storying and that study led to a more in-depth Bible study with two adult couples. That study has led to other Bible studies and, ultimately, salvations.

“Give them the gospel, but also give them your life,” Upshaw said. “People have been hurt by other people and they blame it on God. Pray for love and relationships that point to your Savior; don’t make people your projects.”

During her break out session Upshaw also encouraged the women to be mindful that many people have not been taught basic Bible truths and stories, and so they must be patient and take time to offer explanations as needed. For example, during a study on the book of Acts, one of her neighbors had never read Acts and therefore had no idea that Saul would become the apostle Paul. His excitement upon learning how God changed this man’s life brought much joy to Upshaw.

“They are so hungry and they have such fresh eyes,” she said. “I have learned so much from my neighbors.”

Upshaw’s mother-in-law, Judy, also began a Bible study with her neighbors. She moved to North Carolina to be closer to family and within about six months knew many of her neighbors, most being senior adults. Just by going on walks in her neighborhood she met many people, and as she did, she asked if they were interested in a Bible study.

“I’m just real with them. Now, they’re not afraid to come,” she said.

What started as one group of five or six ladies has turned into three groups, including a group in a nearby neighborhood.

Upshaw shared with women that neither she nor her mother-in-law did anything out of the ordinary in their neighborhoods. “We are just normal ladies. It’s all God; it’s totally Him. It’s nothing I do that’s special,” she said.

Upshaw and her husband had some concern about moving into their neighborhood, as it was not the most kid-friendly area they could have chosen. Yet, they are learning to follow Jesus’ example.

“Jesus went to the people and spent time with them. Sometimes we worry about what others are going to say. Jesus didn’t worry. He went,” Upshaw said.

Deciding to be present in peoples’ lives – to go to them – has made a difference for all eternity.   

“In my former neighborhood I wasn’t really there,” Upshaw said. “It’s fun to see what God can do just by loving the people around you.”