J’aime Mon Voisin Is Gaining in Popularity
Over the last few years, Québec has been taken by storm by an initiative of love.
In 2011, a group of Christians decided to publicly display their desire to love their neighbour. To date, more than a dozen Québec churches have already experimented with this approach to reach their own micro-missionary field.
Those who undertake the initiative J'aime mon voisin (JMV) have access to a toolkit of resources to help them organize their community service activities. Many Churches take advantage of this because...
- JMV is a resource for those who want to reach out to their community but don’t know where to start.
- JMV is a short-term, one-time, and accessible experience.
- JMV provides an opportunity to connect with city leaders and local organizations.
- JMV is a starting point to develop relationships with those around you.
- JMV confronts us with the needs of our community.
6. JMV creates a good context to initiate and teach youth (and the whole Church).
Some Churches take advantage of the accessibility of JMV’s activities to initiate their youth to experience missions within the context of their age, experience and level of training. They learn to consider the interests of others above their own, and by reflecting with them on different situations and daily anecdotes, leaders have great opportunities to demonstrate and teach them the Gospel through their direct experiences. In fact, this is valid for the whole Church — for both disciples and prospective disciples.
Indeed, JMV gives Churches an effective and relevant platform in their own cities to train and educate their members. Moreover, fellowship and mutual edification are lived out in a particularly refreshing way by being together, in the very heart of the harvest. It is also a beautiful way for leaders to train other leaders intentionally — to follow, coach, accompany, and support them when they do it on their own.
Obviously, JMV also provides the opportunity to teach about the concept of evangelism, which is our next point.
7. JMV helps to energize a Church and its global vision of evangelism.
The sometimes-unpopular aspect of evangelism was discussed in the first part of this article. Right or wrong, it is possible that this is related to the different ways of defining and conducting evangelism.
The fact is that there are probably as many different visions of ministry as there are Churches, in terms of valid motivations for offering help and proclaiming a word to our fellow human beings. Practically each Church defines and lives its mandate differently. What JMV offers, however, is the opportunity for all local expressions of the family of God to reflect, teach, and act according to their convictions and that energizes the Body!
Generally speaking, positive aspects that emerge from the JMV experience include (but are not limited to):
- Feeling a fresh breeze within the Church as it gets into action.
- Spreading the overflow of love that each Christian receives from God when his cup overflows.
- Learning to love, even in difficult circumstances.
- Questioning oneself about one’s own motives for loving one’s neighbour.
- Allowing those who do not feel they are evangelists (or believe they do not have the right words) to be in contact with people who probably have different beliefs than their own.
- Bringing out the fruit of the Spirit and the evidence of the Gospel in the life of an undeserving believer.
Against such things there is no law!!
8. JMV is the result of Church leadership that supports and inspires.
It is undeniable that despite all the benefits that JMV offers, it represents a major project for a Church. For that reason, we have also written this article for those who are experiencing difficulties or doubts related to their social involvement. We see that the support of Church leadership is a key factor in the success of a JMV project. The leaders’ decision to dedicate time to the event itself, to promote it within the Church, and to invest financial and human resources has a great impact on its success. It shows that it is a Church project and not just the idea of a few zealous individuals or other activist groups. For example, the fact that at least one key person in leadership plays a coordinating role helps in the preparation during the year, in the administrative organization of the event, and in the contact with the organizations involved. The perseverance that all this requires makes a huge difference in the implementation of a JMV activity.
Also, the presence of committed leaders relieves and encourages those who are more naturally involved in this kind of activity, but who are at risk of becoming exhausted. Their presence also has a ripple effect within the Church: the more you invest, the more you talk about it, the more you get involved, the more it is attractive. It’s the snowball effect.
9. JMV’s experience makes you want to do it again and is contagious.
The impact of the JMV initiative is great among Christians who witness God’s work around them, and what He can and wants to do in their neighbourhood. Taking part in it is exciting and invigorating. Indeed, we often hear about the benefits for the people being helped, but there is no mention of the joy that volunteers experience in making a difference in the lives of others. Many expressed that despite their initial fears, they developed a genuine sensitivity to people’s needs, made the choice to depend on God and their faith was strengthened. JMV allowed them to go out of their comfort zone, and they realized their ability to live the Gospel. Even though the fruit of the Gospel was not always shared with words, they saw people’s responsiveness and saw the impact of their actions.
To those who have tasted active missionary life and the privilege of spending their energy in caring for others, a growing love for others allows them to experience another dimension of God’s love. Many people transformed by their JMV experience have invited others to join them, resulting in the growth of a movement of generosity and service.
Editor's note: Since this is an edited version of several testimonies, some elements may differ with respect to the approach or experience of one Church or another. This article was made possible by interviews conducted by Jonathan Clermont. Special thanks to the churches of Saint-Liboire, Pierrefonds, Gatineau and Longueuil, who shared their past experiences and subsequent reflections. Many thanks also to the other congregations who did the same in more informal contexts. You are helping to grow a movement of love for our neighbours.