The concept is simple: Love thy neighbor as yourself, but what is stark in its simplicity can often be more complicated to put into practice. That's exactly what First Baptist Church of Viburnum realized when they started the Love Thy Neighbor Ministry informally a few years back to meet the needs in their community.
It is exactly what Rachel and Jeremiah Privett see in Dent County as they hope to bring such a ministry here. The Privetts along with some of the youth at their home church of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Salem, have gone to support the Viburnum ministry and to learn about how to operate a similar concept here.
The Privetts are spearheading a leadership team to create an expansion of the Love Thy Neighbor Ministries, here in Salem.
"We want to get people involved in our community in the same way that the church in Viburnum has," said Rachel Privett.
A Facebook page has been created named Love Thy Neighbor Dent County, MO. The group is “supported and managed by local churches to reach out to our community through home repair projects for those who do not have the resources to do it themselves. It is a way for us to put our faith in action and live out the Great Commandment - loving God and loving our neighbors,” says one of the posts.
First Baptist Church of Salem is hosting the initial meeting to garner community interest at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Organizers have asked attendees to wear a mask if you are able or some will be available at the door.
According to Lance Mayfield, Viburnum, an avid supporter of the Viburnum program who has been heavily involved with the ministry for a few years, the program started as a natural outpouring of their church's love for the downtrodden, especially orphans and widows. Justin Perry, pastor at FBC Viburnum, Mayfield and others on the leadership team at the church came together and realized that there was a lot they could do in their own community.
"It started out as youth mission trips," said Mayfield. According to Mayfield they would travel far away and do these sorts of construction projects to help people in need. "But we started to realize that we didn't have to travel to make a big difference in people's lives," said Mayfield. They realized that they could make a difference in their own community. "We have people right here that have the same needs," Mayfield said.
That's where it begins to become just a bit more complex. You can't do this sort of thing without money to fund the projects and skills to do the work. They have all sorts of fundraising events and volunteers even pay to be a part of the project. People who believe in this ministry not only put in the sweat equity but back the ministry financially as well.
"It's not unusual for us to work on three to four roofs a week," said Mayfield. The ministry usually needs about $15-20,000 a year to stay above water. However, Mayfield says that God always provides the money for them to keep going.
"People sometimes ask me, how long will you do this or why do you do this, I tell them the same thing that Justin Perry tells them, as long as there are people who need our help and God keeps providing the money, we're going to keep doing this," said Mayfield.