Megan and I both grew up on farms in rural areas, Megan in Montana, and me in North Dakota. My hometown had 250 people in it, and I had a graduating class of 9. In comparison, Megan’s hometown was a thriving metropolis of 1200.
Each of our communities was small and tight-knit where everyone knew each other. We had been taught to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” and as children we understood this to mean to love the people we are surrounded by, to love the people in our communities. But as we left home to go to college and began our adult lives, we were faced with other experiences that broadened our understanding of what it means to “love your neighbor.”
My first teaching job was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The people there were warm and welcoming, and I quickly fell in love with the country. It was also a country plagued by poverty and violence though, and I started to see how “love your neighbor” also means thinking about how the decisions I make impact others around the world. I learned that when I vote, I am not just voting for what happens in my country, but also for the world. I started looking at where the clothes I bought were made, and thinking about the working conditions of the people making those clothes. In short, my definition of who my neighbor is began to broaden.
For me, my understanding of loving your neighbor deepened with my first job of working in an eye clinic that primarily served Chicago’s South Side most vulnerable population who had little to no access to healthcare. I repeatedly saw young to middle-aged people lose vision from preventable diseases because of lack of access to care. Suddenly loving my neighbor went beyond just treating my patients with kindness and empathy, and began to include being an advocate to fight for changes in our healthcare system.
When we moved to Minneapolis, it was important to us to find a church that lived this broader understanding of loving our neighbor. We were drawn to Westminster because of the work it does to serve our neighbors in this city and across the world, whether it be providing a FEAST meal, developing affordable housing units, or supporting peace-building efforts in South Sudan.
Since joining, we have experienced the love and support of Westminster members in our own lives. We were married in the chapel in 2017, and our marriage has been supported and strengthened through the counseling and encouragement of Westminster members. Our daughter, Willa, was born last December, and after her birth, the church set up a meal train for us, which was a lifesaver as we were adjusting to life with a newborn.
Westminster lives out the mission of loving your neighbor both locally and globally. We ask you to help support the work Westminster does through the giving of your pledges on Stewardship Sunday, November 17. By giving generously, not only can we continue to support each other in this church community, but we can also show love to the most vulnerable in our city and beyond.