Taking the good news of Jesus out of the four walls of the church and to young people and communities has always been at the core of The Message’s DNA. Whilst nothing could have prepared any of us for how Covid-19 would change our lives, it’s also brought with it unprecedented opportunities to share God’s love on a scale never seen before. And we’re determined to use each and every one to tell people how loved they are.
On 23 March all our lives changed as the UK went into lockdown. Suddenly we found ourselves having to stay at home with much of our lives put on hold. As support networks disappeared, incomes started drying up, and with no friends and family around, millions of people found themselves struggling – not knowing where the next meal was coming from or where to turn for help.
Immediately, our teams swung into action being the hands and feet of Jesus, showing his love for their neighbours in word and deed. Meals were cooked and delivered to vulnerable families, calls offering comfort and a chance to pray reached out to the lonely, new foodbanks were launched with local churches and discipleship courses where people could find out about the true meaning of life were launched.
As lockdown has begun to ease, none of this has stopped but we’ve kicked our mission up to the next level. We’re determined to show communities up and down our nation how much they are loved!
Working with local churches, our teams and volunteers have been heading into communities running week-long social action projects that not only help the neighbours practically but also give them opportunities to chat about Jesus. Ten mission weeks have already been run across South Wales with many more to come. Each week starts with hundreds of bags packed with teabags, toys, crafts and hand sanitiser, being delivered to doorsteps. These also include an invitation to get involved with what’s happening in their street that week as well as an online the4points course.
‘As we drop the bags off and talk to the people in each house (from a distance) you see their faces light up,’ explains Mat Walls, our Message Wales Hub Leader. ‘One of the first questions we usually get asked is “Why?” so straight away we have a chance to tell them about Jesus. As the week goes on, we’re back in the same streets spending time with the community and enjoying a visit from a Hawaiian Santa – which is always a talking point. By Friday, we’ve got to know the neighbours so well that by the time we hold our open-air singalong and gospel message we see people lining the streets in front of their homes to be part of what’s happening.’
Mission weeks are not just happening in Wales. Over in Manchester, a small army of over 150 volunteers recently headed to Wythenshawe for our Love Wythenshawe week.
Over seven days, teams cleared and tidied 70 gardens for local people, gave out 600 free arts and craft packs to children, removed ten tonnes of rubbish from streets, parks and the local areas and continued delivering hot meals to 2,000 families. Two families, nominated by neighbours, also got a ‘Ground Force’-style transformation of their gardens.
Whilst showing Jesus’ love practically is important, word and deed need to go together. So, wherever our Love Wythenshawe teams went they shared the gospel with people, prayed for them and saw lives transformed.
In one garden, Lauren met Ella.* As she cleared weeds they got chatting and Lauren felt led to share some of her testimony. As Ella listened (in absolute silence) it was obvious that what she was hearing was making a real impact. Ella then said that just three weeks earlier, life had got too much and she’d tried to commit suicide. And that since then she felt permanently depressed, fed up and that there was no hope left.
‘As I shared the gospel with her you could see the light return to her eyes,’ Lauren explained. ‘There and then she decided to commit her life to Jesus and said that she felt like the weight she’d been carrying around for years had been lifted off her.’
Ella was introduced to members of her local church and is already part of a the4points course and is meeting up with people to read the Bible and pray.
‘Thank you all so much for all you’ve done for us, this truly is the highlight of our past couple of years which have been difficult.’
On another street a team met Steph*, who introduced herself straight away as an atheist. As they spoke, she shared that she’d had a tough life, in and out of foster homes and explained how this had left her feeling unlovable, and how this had led her to not believing in God. One volunteer whose life had been similar to Steph’s was then able to spend time talking to her and telling her how God had changed her story, and she now knows she’s loved and part of a family that will never reject her.
Having started the day feeling unlovable, Steph finished it singing ‘Yes, Jesus loves me!’ She’s now exploring faith more and wanting to know more about God – despite thinking he didn’t exist just a few weeks ago.
Our work to show people how much they are loved by Jesus and the church will not stop here with more Love Where You Live weeks planned very soon.
*Names have been changed.
Want to show your neighbours how much you Love Where You Live? Sometimes it’s the little things like a smile or a random act of kindness that can have the biggest impact and open up conversations about Jesus. Why not take on our month-long challenge to show love to your neighbours? Get all the details at message.org.uk/ love-where-you-live