In celebration of Women’s History Month, this March we are featuring some stories of women making everyday history as they live on mission for God.
About ten years ago, Shannan and Cory Martin walked into Goshen St. Mark’s United Methodist Church with three young kids in tow. The Martins were the youngest in the sanctuary by a couple of decades at least, and there were no other children present. It was decidedly low-tech but disarmingly loving.
Shannan recalls that the pastor spoke about sharing Good News in the neighborhood. It was a message that resonated because—within that same month—the Martins had just moved two blocks away, trying to answer God’s tug to live as a neighbor to their community.
Before this point, Shannan describes her life in dreamy terms. The pair had worked in federal politics, including a stint in Washington, D.C. They bought their dream home, a farmhouse in the country outside of a small, homogenous, Christian community.
Both Shannan and Cory were raised in evangelical churches which, in combination with their political work, “set us on a path where we really believed that the goal was to make a life for us and our families that was as safe and secure as possible. God’s blessed life was an upwardly mobile, secure, quaint life for ourselves with Jesus along with us,” said Shannan.
Their eyes began to be opened to the idea that God desperately loves and is an advocate of the poor. Shannan said, “At that point we had to grapple with the fact that we didn’t know many people who were in poverty or grew up in poverty. We had built our lives around people who were familiar and comfortable to us, immersed in a world where our views were the norm.”
Without clarity of all the details, Shannan and Cory knew God was leading them somewhere else.
They sold their dream house. They moved into a home that was geographically close, yet very different from what they’d known. They moved with the commitment of blooming where God planted them, to living, loving, and being neighbors.
“Meaningfully sinking feet into this new ground and becoming a part of this neighborhood slowly over time, changed everything for us,” shared Shannan. “It changed the way we see the world and our place within it. It changed the way we vote. It changed the way we see and understand God. It changed us dramatically, and it continues to change us.”
Since that move, Cory’s job has transitioned from politics to chaplaincy at the county jail. Shannan became a published writer and speaker. Their family added to their three adopted children with a fourth. The most significant changes have been in how Shannan understands what it means to be a neighbor.
She points to the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. “To live as a neighbor is to draw near to each other in mercy,” Shannan said. “To do this is to move past the things that make us separated, to see one another with humanity. For Christians in particular, that spiritual identity as neighbor is our truest calling.”
Living as a neighbor is slow, practical, and holy work. It means paying attention with our whole selves. It means spending time out in the neighborhood, intentionally noticing its beauty. For Shannan and her family, it has meant talking walks and learning names, eating together with neighbors whenever possible.
For others wanting to live into their Christian call to be good neighbors, Shannan simply suggests this: “Ask for help. Be the one who shows up needy. We like to be the helper much more than the one in need. Asking for help tells others that they can ask for help, too. It’s a good way to live, leaning on another.”
Living missionally as neighbors is an invitation for everyone. Shannan said, “Where you are and where you’ve been planted is not accidental. God intends it for our formation and transformation.”
Shannan’s book about the way God turned their world upside down for the better is detailed in “Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted.” Her book, “The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking up to God’s Goodness Around You,” talks about what it means to love and be loved right where God has placed you. Shannan’s latest book, “Start with Hello: (And Other Simple Ways to Live as Neighbors)” will be released on October 11, 2022. To keep up with her writings, sign up for her newsletter, “The Soup,” here.