10 July 2015
This week the country stopped to remember the devastating attacks that hit London 10 years ago on 7/7. This anniversary and other recent terror attacks were playing on my mind as I headed up to the famous Wimbledon queues. It sounds negative but I had been thinking about the potential of a big British sporting event such as Wimbledon being a target. After all, the queues comprise of people from all over the world.
As part of Love All Serve All outreach, six of us, with arms full of cans of Coke and Tango and boxes of cookies, began giving out the goodies to a queue of 1,500 as an expression of God’s love. The chat is all about tennis, as you’d expect, and who they want to see play tomorrow. The evening atmosphere in the camping queue is relaxed but excitable, and most are touched at this simple act of generosity, thanking us with smiles and responding to wider conversation.
The sky darkened at about 10.30pm and we approached a family of about six Iranians, mostly adults. They had spread their picnic out on a blanket (likely their evening Ramadan breakfast). Their appreciation and humility nearly knocked me over. They were so deeply sincere and so polite and eloquent in thanking us – we were left in no doubt of their gratitude.
They seemed stunned by the love we were showing, which to us was so simple. As we go along chatting to people in the queue we ask all if there is anything we can pray for them. This family’s immediate response was to share that two uncles had died very recently. I could only wonder at the story behind such news. As they bowed their heads eagerly and respectfully to pray with us on the grass in Wimbledon Park, I was overcome with the power of love. When we finished and lifted our heads, I thanked them for the huge privilege it was to be involved in their clearly raw grief. My lip was wobbling and my eyes filled as we stood and shook hands. Before we left them, they simply had to give us something to share with the other campers, and gave us a bunch of bananas to distribute among the tents with our cans and cookies.
It is more blessed to give than receive. I had gone to the park to show love and received more than I bargained for in return. As my partner for the evening and I walked away, I couldn’t help feeling that what had just happened was truly beautiful and prophetic. Love truly is the most powerful thing in the world and we had shared it with total strangers.
When I think of the hate demonstrated in recent weeks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France, I think too of the millions of acts of kindness that go on to make this world a better place. I think of shared prayers and food with strangers from other countries and faiths and I see those acts as great beams of light bursting though the darkness of hatred. It doesn’t make the headlines like Kyrgios throwing his racket or Nadal being knocked out of the contest, but the word slowly spreads, a little at a time, the light increases and the darkness lessens.
Wherever we are we can offer simple kindness and love, which points to the hope that we have in Jesus. Love will change the world. Go on, step out; you never know, you may get more than you expected in return. Because God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
Gavin Murray is lead pastor at Morden Baptist Church, and is part of the Love All Serve All team.