In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.
Jesus (Matthew 5:16)
On the darkest day our city has seen for many years, we took to the streets to be a light. Jesus’ light. The light which brings life and can never be extinguished.
In practical terms, this light was carried by the team into the city in a camper-van, borrowed from a generous local company. Armed with sugar, caffeine and hope, MV took to the streets: met, chatted and prayed.
More recently, some of the Love Manchester team explained to me the impact that terrible night has had on how we love our city.
How did we come to have the van?
“The van originally was a very useful way to take sweets and drinks into the city after the attacks. It gave us a real feeling of credibility too. It was a great place to base ourselves but mostly we wanted to chat to people and respond to the feeling the city had. Hopelessness, fear and anxiety hung over the city and it really gave us a chance to talk to people about Jesus and give them time to process what had happened.
We also went door to door taking handwritten notes and chocolates around the area where the bomber lived. We chatted to the people and police as there was a real sense of fear and shock there. It was so close to home for them and it was great to be able to take God’s love to them and come together with them as fellow Mancunians.
Afterwards we really felt like we should get a van of our own. Amazingly businesses and individuals outside of the church gave really generously so it wasn’t church funded; it came from a community who saw what we were doing, saw it had value and enabled us to carry on.”
What is the van used for now?
“Now the van has two main functions: compassion and the work we do out on the streets.
We park up near where we meet on Sundays and go out and do what we did after the bombing – give out food and drink, chat to our neighbours about Jesus and offer them prayer. We are just aiming to be a light in the city and a signpost to who God is.
We also use the van to collect and transport goodies for local families – our church’s area falls within the 0.5% most deprived parts of the country, so we have partnered up with local children’s centres and food banks to provide the practical stuff they are not able to (clothes, nappies, toiletries etc.) We fill the van once a month and give the centres what they need to support their families. ”
How do you feel when you take the van out onto the streets to talk to people? It probably sounds quite nerve-racking to some of us!
“I try and remind myself what God has done for me and that I know Him because someone else shared the good news with me. Now we have a responsibility to go and do that ourselves. Yes it can be terrifying approaching people, but we go out to see people the way God sees them. When we do that, a real, genuine love flows out of us, and they can engage on whatever level they are comfortable with. We’re just there to love them. We’re just there to be obedient.
If stepping out of your comfort zone is to give someone a chocolate then do that, if it’s to tell someone Jesus loves them then great. It’s all about taking steps in faith and courage, whatever that looks like to you.
God said to love Him and love our neighbours. This is not an optional extra we’re doing for the sake of it, it’s part of our faith to share Jesus with others – this is one way of doing that. With the van we are facilitating ways people can do that, it’s not a stand alone ministry. We’re out as a team, we’re all there for each other. It’s a lot of fun and also a great way to get to know other people.”
Any other highlights?
“There’s so much spiritual openness in the area around the church, it’s amazing. We’ve also had so much favour in the city, for example policemen offering us protection from parking fines (not that we’ve needed it!) as they were so happy with what we were doing. We constantly manage to park in great places legally and for free. The traffic wardens seem to appear just when we need them to!
God’s hand has been all over this – I’m sure the impact will be big because God is all over it. It’s a visible way to share Jesus with people and we absolutely love being part of it.”
How to get involved
- Fill in a hello card and check ‘team’ – someone will be in touch
- Email the van at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The van goes out every third Saturday of the month
- Grab a shopping bag from the welcome area and help us fill the van every first Sunday