Rediscovering Fellowship in Our New Abnormal

Greetings to our OHI community; I wish you a cool, comfortable, and colorful fall as the temperature drops and autumn leaves paint a beckoning background. This is such a wonderful time of year to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and celebrate the spirit of life while noticing God in nature.

Meanwhile, our Covid-19 world continues to confound many people, including the experts, which makes me want to see our ministry reaching beyond the walls of our two campuses. Our four-and-a-half, decade-long God-centered holistic approach to healing has helped so many people facing health opportunities, and it can help so many more. Ahead of us on the horizon, is the holiday season, and yet new fears, such as the Delta variant of Covid-19, are causing us to pause in our return to normalcy. Still, our physical, mental, and spiritual health is dependent on connectedness within our faith-based and secular communities. Prioritizing fellowship should take precedence.

You may recall from our January newsletter, we looked at two ways of protecting ourselves during our current circumstances and beyond by using Situational Awareness and Self-Care. In the spring issue I expanded on how we can remain safe by keeping mentally and physically healthy by staying socially connected, and doing so by utilizing Safety Bubbles. In the summer issue, I addressed how we can intelligently and safely move forward into our new abnormal with purpose, mindfulness, and critical thinking. In this issue, I will discuss how we can rediscover our empathy and fellowship in these trying times.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approachingHebrews 10:24-25

I share these Bible verses because we’re all weary from the pandemic restrictions especially those that have kept us apart from our extended network of friends, loved ones, and communities of faith. Spending time with those we most value – in other words belonging – is a huge part of the human condition; in fact, as I have mentioned before it is built into our DNA.

Renowned professor of social work, Dr. Brené Brown, says it best, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Avoiding Communication Breakdowns Prevents Misunderstanding

Covid-19 is a coronavirus which by its nature, isn’t going away anytime soon, nevertheless, it’s time to focus on new ways to get back together and stay involved with our most important relationships.

Pandemic masking, social distancing, and isolation have disrupted our natural communication structure. Despite that we still strive to stay in touch, feel connected, and enjoy the sense of belonging that comes from our communities. Because of the lockdowns, we have relied more and more on digital communication. But, well before 2020, the world was moving toward a preference for corresponding via email, text, and instant message.

The problem is that these lack the humanity and richness of one-on-one linguistics. Words, without seeing faces and hearing voices, can be misinterpreted. They simply cannot accurately convey the body language, hand gestures, eye contact, nodding, emotional expression, vocal tonality, and non-verbal cues of face-to-face conversation; and the real meaning of your tidings get lost. Even worse is how much it curtails meaningful conversation and physical touch. And, sadly many people have been upset, and relationships destroyed, over a poorly written text.

The simple solution is to take more time when you write. Depending on the age of the person you’re messaging limit the use of abbreviations (especially for Baby Boomers like me). When you take the time to use full words, proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, it can make all the difference in how your message receiver interprets the intention of your words. Ask yourself before you hit SEND, “Could this message be understood differently from what I think it means?” Or even better, hand write your letter and deliver it in person.

Take the Time to Make the Impersonal More Personal

If it’s not urgent, let it sit for a while as a draft, then re-read it before you send. You’ll be surprised how often stepping away, then returning with a fresh set of eyes, will enable you to view your words in a whole different light. It also helps to read your messages aloud in a neutral tone of voice as it will help you hear the tone of voice as your recipient will.

If you must quickly send a brief message, and you don’t want it to come off as curt or insensitive, use an emoji.  I know, I know, I had to be dragged into the 21st century too, but the fact of the matter is that humans are hard-wired with a negativity bias that makes us assume the worst when the objective of a message is unclear. Using an emoji helps clarify your emotional intent, and because of this their acceptance has grown immensely.

The best solution, if you can’t meet in person, is a one-on-one conversation via Zoom or Skype. These real time applications enable us to see and read faces while hearing the tone of voice nuances so vital to understanding intention. And, let’s not forget a good old fashion phone call. The goal is to stay connected and not allow today’s circumstances to keep us apart.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sisterRomans 14:13

The future is here, and it looks like we’re going to be blending the in-person world with the virtual one for a new hybrid community. How well that will work depends on how much we reach out to the people in our communities. Most of us will have several communities such as work, family, friends, hobbies, and communities of faith, such as the OHI community.

As we head into the holiday season, we will be test driving this hybrid community with our family and friends. Many of us have seen how it functions at work, now we can expand it the rest of our lives. Imagine a Thanksgiving dinner with a computer screen logged into Zoom at one end of the table, and around the rest of the table will be seated the host and those guests who are able to attend in person. We may have to learn new forms of etiquette in order to make those attending virtually feel fully included. These friends and family will still be praying together, showing gratitude together, and conversing together, all while sharing a meal together.

Fellowship and belonging, which I’ve written about before, is vitally important to revisit as we move forward into our new abnormal. It affects our life satisfaction, happiness, health, mental health, and longevity; and it helps us find and achieve our purpose.

Hybrid Communities Provide the Sense of Belonging We Need

According to Forbes Magazine, belonging is more than just being part of a group. It is critically tied to social identity, which means having a shared set of beliefs or ideals with the members of your group. Belonging has to do with identification as a member of a group and the higher quality interactions which come from that.

Belonging is a powerful emotion. Sometimes we don’t notice how the sense of belonging really feels until it is gone. Have you ever gone back to visit friends at a company where you once worked? The place looks the same, your friends are happy to see you, but it feels different than you remember. That’s because you are on the outside of the group, versus the inside.

It is crucial right now to maintain contact with the members of your groups during this time of change and adjustment, so that you don’t lose that special feeling or those connections. Without a sense of belonging, we can fall into loneliness and depression. Social media helps, but it falls short; it simply doesn’t provide the personal interaction that we all need and crave.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

As I mentioned above, I see this hybrid world as a new opportunity for our ministry to reach out beyond the walls of our campuses. A church may have five areas of participation and influence: worship, mission, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship. Here at OHI, we have all five.

We worship individually and together as each of us understands our creator. We have missionaries who help our new guests navigate the curriculum. We have disciples who advocate to their friends and family the benefits of becoming a guest. At the core is our ministry: a holistic healing program for the body, mind, and spirit that teaches participants how to: cleanse and nourish the body with diet, fasting, and exercise; quiet and focus the mind with journaling and meditation; and renew and awaken the spirit with study, prayer and celebration.

Best of all, we create a safe and sacred environment for fellowship that lasts a lifetime, and with people who understand you better than anyone else. Reach out this holiday season and spend time with your cohort either here at OHI, or by creating your own hybrid community.

The Safest Place You Can be Away from Home Keeps Getting Better

We’ve made these recent updates with your safety and comfort in mind: At OHI San Diego, all 60 guest rooms have been remodeled including replacing the carpeting with wood flooring. This upgrade is more hygienic and makes the rooms feel larger and warmer. At OHI Austin, we added new wood flooring and carpet to our exercise classroom. At both locations, we added 100% certified organic cotton bedding. And, by the time you’re reading this, we will also have certified organic cotton towels.

We hope to see you at OHI soon – either to help us celebrate our 45th Anniversary or for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year holidays.

Inside this edition: Read further about building strong families and community and best practices in communication. Get to know our colonic provider, Dr. James Novak; Jane Jones, an OHI San Diego missionary; OHI guest, Nila Sinha; and Jan Hemming’s story of how the OHI Scholarship helped her. We remain humble and grateful to all those who contribute and help people like Jan. Please also consider contributing to the OHI Scholarship Fund which helps OHI community members in need. And finally, be sure to turn to page 10 for details on your Optimum Fall Cleanse.

Call us to book your reservation today: (800) 588-0809. Or visit our website at

Wishing you health and wellness in this blessed fall season.

Yours in prayer,

Robert P. Nees, Jr.

Senior Pastor and Chairman

Optimum Health Institute of San Diego and Austin