Summer Loving: Loving in the Local

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” (Luke 15:11)

The kingdom of heaven doesn’t seem to value size in the same way that the world does – it’s not the boldest, or the biggest, or the wealthiest, or the most successful people that are important in the Bible, and it’s not always the biggest acts in the New Testament that are praised. Jesus commends the widow who gives just two copper coins (Luke 21), and in Acts 9 Tabitha, who makes robes for local widows, is praised as a disciple who “was always doing good and helping the poor.” In the parable of the bags of gold (Matthew 25), the man who gained five more bags is given the same praise as the man who gained two more.

So when we are asked to love God and love our neighbour, we aren’t told how many neighbours to love, how public it needs to be or how big an impact it should have. We are told to love, and trust God with the consequences (and the ability to keep on loving them). Bringing God’s justice on earth can look like transforming a nation, but it can also look like a life given in faithful service to one small community of people. Both are so valuable in God’s eyes, when done out of love for Him and his creations, and both glorify His name.

Volunteering locally is an amazing way to show people God’s love, and bring more of His justice and kingdom to earth. There are so many different ways and places to volunteer. According to AgeUK, two fifths of elderly people in this country say that the television is their main company, and over half of people aged 75 or older live alone. There are lots of charities pairing volunteers with an older person – AgeUK has a befriending service, and so does Contact the Elderly and Friends of the Elderly, along with lots of other local charities. Other charities that allow volunteers to give time to the elderly are Independent Age, the Royal Voluntary Service, and The Silver Line. Alternatively, there are over 17,000 homes for the elderly across the UK, and although residents are usually well cared for, staff don’t always have the time to stop and chat for a couple of hours. Most homes will let you pop in and chill out in their living room – bringing games can be fun, along with a little patience for repeated conversations!

If the thought of scrabble and reruns of Midsummer Murders is too much to bear, there are so many other people looking for a friend. There are lots of charities looking for befrienders for children and adults with additional needs to do activities with them. Try Scope, the National Autistic Society or the Befriending Scheme. Local Minds looks to help people with mental health issues by pairing them with a volunteer. Other charities are more directly on the scene – Street Pastors are made up of volunteers from local churches who help people in need during a busy night on the town.

There are also lots of ways to love without being quite so intimate with other people. Charity shops are always looking for volunteers to sort out their backrooms, and run their tills. Time can always be given to conserving, cleaning and clearing local parks or National Trust properties, showing love to God’s people and his creation. There are so many other ways and places to volunteer locally. Homelessness charities, drop in centres, children’s centres, hospitals, youth clubs, and sports groups are invariably keen for volunteers. Websites like Do-It give long lists of volunteer opportunities, churches are often really involved (and often looking for help themselves), and googling around the local area can be so informative.

So be praying for the millions of people who volunteer in the UK, for the strength to continue, and for joy in what they do. For those who are Christian, pray that they can share the love and knowledge of Christ with those they are helping and those they work alongside, and please pray for people who volunteer who don’t know Christ, that they would become Christian.

Pray for other JL members who are thinking about how to fill their time this summer, and pray for guidance and wisdom in how they can be loving their local communities.

‘Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.’ (Isaiah 58:10 NLT)