Luke tells us that a certain lawyer stood up to test Jesus (Luke 10:25). In the course of their conversation and the “testing” the lawyer ask Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan forever answers this question. Your neighbor is anyone who needs your love, compassion, and help. Your neighbor is not confined to your block, denomination, social status, race, or even country. For years, Fred Rodgers was a wonderful example of this concept to all of us. For 912 episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, he asked the whole country through a television screen, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Jesus tells us that our neighborhood is the world. We work to spread the message of salvation to people that have never heard of Jesus in distant parts of the earth but we can’t stop there. We also need to come back to our immediate neighborhoods, a place where most have heard of Jesus but don’t have a clue as to who He really is. We must find a way to introduce Jesus so that people do not feel threatened or uncomfortable. I believe the best way to do this is to be Jesus. I don’t mean to grow our hair and wear a long robe, and none of us are likely going to walk on water. What I do mean is that we need to study how Jesus was able to find His way to the heart. He became one of us. He shared our thoughts, hopes, and dreams. He felt our pains and cried with us. At our most vulnerable moment He picked us up and offered us hope by proving His love at the cross. What can we give? What are we willing to sacrifice to reach the heart of someone who needs God? Too often our compassion ministries have a hook or appear to be a bait and switch. I feel we need to be completely transparent and willing to sacrifice ourselves for others simply because of love.
There is something very scary that has been in the news over and over in the last few years. Almost everyone has heard of the subduction zone earthquake that is going to hit the Pacific Northwest, and yet almost no one is prepared for it. I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for us to help our communities. Interestingly enough, Jesus second coming is also imminent and many are not prepared for that either. No one knows when the earthquake will happen, but we do know that we are statistically overdue. We also know that the Juan de Fuca plate is sliding under the North American tectonic plate a little more every year, continually building up pressure until finally we could be faced with the largest US catastrophe in a hundred years. We are looking at a possible 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami wave up to 100 feet high. Thousands of bridges across rivers and overpasses will be unusable from Northern California to British Columbia. Water, power, police, medical facilities and fuel will be unavailable for months and in some places years, all we will have is each other.
One of the best ways to prepare for this horrific event is to get to know our neighbors. It’s also one of the best things we can do as Christians. How will out neighbors know we love them if we don’t get to know them? Ultimate Mission, working with Adventist Community Services, has developed a Neighborhood Connection manual. This manual is designed to be handed out to your community as a workbook. You can meet with your neighbors and write down each other’s names, children’s names, phone numbers, pets, and special skills that could be useful in the event of an emergency. You will map your neighborhood, marking where everyone’s gas meters and meeting spots are. There are lists of items you should store and advice about how to talk to children about disasters. In the back of each book is a MadiDrop, the water purifier we use in the mission fields. The MadiDrop can be used over and over day after day to keep a family of five in clean water for one entire year.
The Neighborhood Connection program is a way to meet your neighbors’ needs and do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. Communities are much safer when neighbors know each other even if there never is a major disaster. With this program you will build lifetime bonds with your community. Your neighbors will be safer, you and your family will be safer, and now some people will have met Jesus for the first time, because they will have met Him through you.
Ultimate Mission has been training churches to run the Neighborhood Connection program throughout the Pacific Northwest. Please let us know if you would like us to help you set up a program in your community.
Pray, pray, pray.
As I write this on March 24, social distancing is the phrase of the day. Isolation seems to be the social norm and we are left wondering what can possibly be next.