Hey, Neighbor - COVID-19 Response

Ventura Missionary Church is not a building. Ventura Missionary Church is people - people who are Christ-followers; people who believe they are called to BE the church outside of the walls of our building. To that end, we have planned a response to the Coronavirus crisis called, "Hey Neighbor."  Pastor Parkher is heading up this initiative. We connected with him to find out more:

Parkher, tell us about the “Hey Neighbor” initiative - what is it?
Hey Neighbor is a way to stay connected to your neighbors while honoring social distancing. We are encouraging people all over the city to print, fill out, and drop off four Hey, Neighbor cards to their closest neighbors, the people who live to their geographic left, right, behind and in front (or on top of and under if they're in an apartment!). The cards are a simple, fill-in the-blank style, designed to encourage connection with the people closest to our homes.
How did you and your team come up with the idea for this initiative?
We saw something similar that was done by another church down south! Our team was moved by the simple reality that if we all care for our geographic neighbors right now, then we will all move through this season so much better than alone. We believe it’s still “not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and it is still of the utmost importance to “love your neighbor in all the ways you love yourself” (Mark 12:31). We want to live out of the truth in God’s Word, and our team thinks this is a great way to do that in this cultural moment.
What do you and your team hope this initiative will achieve? 
Connection. Connection is so important to humanity. We are created relational beings, and there are neighbors in all of our communities who were isolated before COVID-19, and now those feelings are intensified. All of us feel more alone than usual right now. There is something so powerful about loving your neighbors well. We have found that can be one of the best ways to keep our eyes on Jesus.
Can you tell about some of the ways people from our church have checked in on their neighbors and then come alongside them during this difficult time?
We have already had amazing stories come through! Two great one liners are:
  1. “We went from being neighbors to friends because of these cards and a few texts back and forth!”
  2.  "We’ve been here for three years and have never meet the people across the street! We still haven’t, technically, but now we are calling each other every day for quick encouraging talks!”
These stories are exactly what we hoped we'd hear and why we are motivated!
Have you had a chance to check in on your own neighbors? What have their responses been?
My neighbors have been so encouraging! A couple months back, I preached from Jeremiah 29 and encouraged the church to plant a garden and give the stuff they grew away to their neighbors as a way to love them. My family has been doing that since, and we now have a fruit and veggie swap. One neighbor has oranges, another lemons, another avocados! Since the coronavirus crisis, though, we have connected in ways we had not before. We talk about our anxiety, how much money was lost in the market, how work has stopped. Those conversations are so real and raw right now. It’s been a privilege to listen and offer hope to our neighbors during this time.
Do you have any suggestions for how we can keep this mentality of checking on our neighbors top of mind, even after this coronavirus scare is over and life goes back to “normal?”  
Share the nitty-gritty of your life with the neighbors. If you lost a bunch of money in the market because of this, be honest about it. If you are out of work, be honest. Honesty is key. Our neighbors need truth, and Jesus was so clear that He is Truth personified (John 14:6). That truthful honesty will “open doors” that as we all normalize, will stay open. 
What’s been your biggest personal take away over the last two weeks of navigating life in a time of the coronavirus? 
Stay aware of Jesus in every moment. Take time to breathe deeply, pray, slow down, and offer the world hope and a non-anxious presence in the name of Jesus. Some things like hope, peace, and calm, only grow in the soil of abiding in Jesus (John 15).
Is there anything else on your heart that you’d like to share?
Don’t let your fear keep you from following Jesus. James said whoever lacks wisdom should just ask God for it, and He will give it generously (James 1:5). Wisdom means “skill in living.” Figuring out creative ways to love your neighbor like yourself will take some skill in living, but don’t forget that Jesus will be with you every step up to their front doors and each moment afterwards!
Grace + Peace
Pastor Parkher

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