A pastor at one of the churches we visited gave a sermon on the critical aspect of fellowship in the growth of a Christian. He made a funny yet compelling statement when he said, "You want to know what NOVA (Northern Virginia) really stands for? Nobody Visits Anybody."
This took us back a bit, but in the months we've been here we've witnessed first hand the hustle, the activity, the business, and the commutes that leave little time to say "hi" to a stranger.
The stone faced shoppers, the "hurry-up" mommas, the get-out-of-my-way 10 minute lunch break businessmen all look through you as they rush to the next item on their itinerary and earn another check-mark of completion.
I had a hard time believing these robotic strangers really had nothing to say or were busily accomplishing world changing tasks every single second of the day. I knew that if "nobody visits anybody" is going to change, at least in our corner of it, I had to do something different.
Human nature in this century would make it easy to hide behind a social network and forget interacting with the fast paced world around me, but the boys and I launched into "Operation Retail Missionaries" and started speaking with the autopilot high speed souls around us in stores, malls, and parks.
Not surprisingly, the suit and ties, the stressed out mothers, the going non-stop shoppers, and underpaid employes all had something to say. A moment of shock crosses their face when you first engage them and snap them out of autopilot. But in an instant they connect and see I'm serious in my reaching out. And the stories start pouring out as if they haven't had human contact in years.
I've heard tales of starting a new job and of losing jobs, of coming to America to find a better life and of learning to speak English, of saving up for Legos and losing life savings, of having lost sleep with a newborn and of longing for a newborn. I've had people literally walk with me to our cars just to continue the conversation. I've had people ask if we would be back. I've seen my boys start to engage in conversation and bring smiles and laughter to an otherwise stoney faced employee.
And it's not that the people here in NOVA don't want to visit anybody, I believe they forgot they could. The rush and bustle of this place saturates every aspect of life if you let it and the motions of the day carry you from wake to sleep without genuine interaction. I don't expect we are going to transform this populous, but my boys and I are going to continue to shock people with conversation, with genuine concern and attention for what they are saying. And maybe our home will be the one flowing with visitors who know they are welcomed, wanted, and will maybe see a glimpse of Jesus as we take on our NOVA mission field.