Two days in London supporting the community at Grenfell Tower are two days I will never forget.
Nothing prepares you for the shock of seeing the blackened towering tomb that pierces the west London skyline. The gaping holes of blown out windows where families and people once lived, partied, played, loved and laughed now a sickening, shocking and disturbing vision.
The minute I got off the tube, I engaged with a young woman, red eyed and teary, standing looking at the tower in disbelief, as were the crowd gathered there. We talked at length, she opened up to me, and shared her pain and shock, she then allowed me to pray with her, as I felt the calmness soak through, I hope she understood, that her pain had been shared.
A young Iranian woman, told me how she had been kidnapped in the past and came to this country to get an education and build a future for her and her family, as we sat on a cushion under the fly over bridge, we prayed, we prayed for her, her family, for her community, for our nation, we prayed for God’s love and grace. This experience was very powerful for me, as afterwards feeling the prayer up her arm overwhelmed her, I could see she was visibly calmer, she seemed more at peace.
I spent time talking with the police, the young men and women who were standing at the cordons in the sweltering heat in inches thick of stab vests and heavy hats. I saw the compassion, I saw how they protect them selves by a hardened shell of reflection. How can anyone be there for hours and hours and not be effected by what they see and hear?
A young man walked by me, smartly dressed, quite clearly not a local - he was from the press, I got chatting to him, He covered Manchester, London Bridge and now Grenfell, he has seen so much, absorbed it, as we prayed, his hand holding mine so tightly, I do hope he heals.
Some of the stories I heard, I cannot share - hearing about a horror movie, but knowing the witness really lived it…
During the two days, I witnessed, anger, frustration, despair, hopelessness, bewilderment, hurt, disbelief, shock, grief, numbness, drunkenness to numb the pain, displacement, caring, helplessness, compassion, listening, giving, practical support, practical giving, unity and love.
We walked alongside them.
People turning up in vans, cars, push bikes with clothes, food, toiletries, and money. Food was arriving in the form of soup kitchen style curry stops, soft drinks, cakes, kebab vans, dominos pizza, KFC, everyone just wanted to help, it fills my heart so full it makes me cry.
Both nights on the train journey home I cried, I cried for the people I had met, I cried for their pain. I cried because I felt helpless. I cried because I was coming home, to a beautiful village, a beautiful home, a loving family.
The work of the volunteers supporting this community is immense; I will continue to keep them and my fellow Response Pastors in my prayers. I made some amazing new friends. Some of which I had met at London Bridge and never expected to see again… but so sadly I did.
I hope those who perished rest in peace, I hope those who witnessed the horror find calm, I hope those who lost their homes find comfort. I hope the emergency services get the recognition they deserve. I hope all who support, in whatever capacity, do it with God’s grace and love in their hearts.