The past week has been like a blur—a dream, but not a good one. As a pastor, I have spent so many hours in meetings with church, school and community responses to the terror attack that stopped our city and broke our hearts. Alongside Pr Younis and our presidents Pr Mike and Pr Eddie we have attended the funerals and visited with Muslim community leaders and the families of those killed.

The emotions have been difficult to articulate and come to terms with. The predominant feeling was simply exhaustion. The greatest blessing this week has been being able to offer words of encouragement to our Muslim neighbours. Most Muslims hug three times and that gesture, and how willing people are to accept that simple act of kindness, has touched my heart and helped me heal. Not only that I have heard over and over again how much love and kindness the Muslim community have experienced and how grateful they are to those of us who stretch our arms out in love.

Hasham is a local Muslim and a young father and he is running the Family Support Centre in Hagley Park. Every time we have met him, he has been tired and busy, but always he has spent time with us, asking questions about who Adventists are and sharing his faith with us. When Pr Younis and myself first went to the Family Centre he introduced us to his brother-in-law Hashmat who was so excited to see Adventists, because his best friend in Dunedin is an Adventist. And so the doors opened up and God has given our corporate church opportunities to serve and make connections this week.

There is power in personal interaction—we may be fearful of culture, language and perhaps some politics in the background, but never let that stop us reaching out and being a neighbour to anyone in need. God is looking for his people to be a light of peace and the salt of kindness in a sinful world falling apart. This Sabbath’s Global Youth Day event for our entire church is a great opportunity, surrounded by family, to be a blessing to our community. I know many of our church members are already serving and it has been a blessing to see familiar faces on the media reporting and at the vigils and laying flowers. Let us step up to the challenge as followers of God and find someone in our community to connect with personally and show kindness to. There are many people out there who need the hug of a Christian today.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

–  Pr Stephen Wilson, Christchurch Regional, SNZC