Love your neighbor as yourself


Caryann Piazza, 2013 Study Tour Participant

Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

nonameWhen I considered who my neighbor was, I thought of someone who is close in miles to me or to my home. I imagined people like my best friend that lives a couple miles away, the sweet family that I share a backyard with or church member who I can share coffee with early in the morning. My definition of a neighbor was someone that I see regularly; someone who is physically close.

During the 2013 Study Tour through World Vision I quickly became neighbors with people from so many different parts of the world.  I could find my neighbor lying in the bed next to mine, in the driver’s seat of our World Vision trucks, sitting to the left of me on a plane ride, playing against me on a soccer field, yelling “ferenji!” down the street and even in the airport bathroom stall beside mine.

I spent so much time with my new friends from the states and friends from Ethiopia, and I really came to love each and every one of them. The relationships created and compassion that was exchanged made me feel like I was fulfilling God’s commandment, to love my neighbor. The people I encountered on my trip were my physical neighbors and the loving bonds that we shared were genuine and they were real.

But following my arrival home, I couldn’t seem to come to terms with was the fact that I am hundreds and thousands of miles away from our little buds in Africa, and our Team Ethiopia family. How could I continue to love all of the people that I met? To me, we were no longer neighbors.  It was easy to love them on our trip because they were so close. I could love them with hugs and toys and smiles and words but being 7142 miles away was something that I really struggled with upon my return home.

I became frustrated and confused on why God would give us these incredible relationships to just have them taken away in the blink of an eye. Three weeks ago, I could walk up two flights of stairs to find my neighbor’s hotel room. We could drive a half hour to our welcoming ADP neighbors. But now I am home. I prayed for God to show me why the bonds that I have with these people have to be broken by miles and miles of land and ocean. I asked God to reveal how I can continue to show love to the people that I will probably never see again. I wrestled with myself and with God about this.

noname1After much thought and prayer, God is showing me that I need to reshape how I think about Matthew 22:37-39 and how I can fulfill those two great commandments. My church body and the people around me are helping me to structure a new definition of ‘neighbor’.  I am opening my eyes to new possibilities of kingdom work here on Earth.  I am seeing beyond the precincts of my city and viewing the world with no borders. Even though I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet or how God is going to use me, I do know one thing. Just as the lady who shares my backyard is my neighbor, so are the beautiful of Mekelle, Ethiopia.