Two days after the terror attack in Westminster, people were still coming to Parliament Square with their tributes of flowers. Grief for the four people who died at the hands of Khalid Masood showed no signs of abating.
Josh and Jake came on the tube in their blue blazers from the Jewish School in Kinsbury, bearing a wreath of flowers for PC Keith Palmer. They gladly shared their story with a Billy Graham Rapid Response chaplain opposite the Houses of Parliament. They wanted to “pay respect to the sacrifice of the officer”, a man who had given his life in the protection of Parliament.
“I feel really emotional,” said Josh, as he paused in writing a tribute on the wreath. PC Palmer had given Jake a tour of Parliament just three weeks earlier. “I just hope it doesn’t happen again,” said Josh, “because it’s our generation which it’s going to impact.”
“Would you like me to pray for you?” asked the chaplain? They were more than willing, and the chaplain laid a hand on each of the boy’s shoulders and lifted their grief to a compassionate heavenly Father.
Peter was kneeling by a long row of flowers along the grass of Parliament square. On the back of his rucksack was a placard carrying the pictures of the four who had died. A chaplain gently approached, and Peter began to share: “My mother was on a tube train in 7/7 when a bomb went off, and she was badly damaged by the shock. We’ve suffered as a family, so I understand something of what the families of these people are going through. It’s been really sad – and the feelings are coming out now.” He bowed silently as the chaplain prayed for the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Roy, a visitor from Los Angeles, dragged himself towards the flowers in a wheeled frame which gave him some mobility in spite of a severe disability. His wife Hannah followed behind, subdued and a little wet-eyed. A chaplain engaged the couple in conversation. It appeared that they had intended to cross Westminster bridge on the day the terrorist struck. But for some reason Roy had overslept, and about 20 minutes before the attack they realised they were running short of time and changed their plans.
“It could so easily have been us,” said Hannah.” They knew they needed to pray, to thank God for His protection and to release the overwhelming emotion.
You couldn’t imagine a more ordinary young couple than Darren and Hannah. They had taken the train from Dagenham in Essex, bringing a bunch of flowers for PC Palmer as a sign of their respect. Darren, wan and thin-faced, fumbled to unwrap the bouquet as a chaplain came alongside. Hardly a few sentences were exchanged before the trauma he was carrying began to pour out.
“Three times now I’ve been attacked by gangs,” he said. “The last time one of them had a spanner, and I just ran across a field.
“There’s so much racial tension. Some people want to send all the immigrants home, but I know you can’t answer hatred with hatred. That’s why we’ve come here.”
His wife looked at the chaplain. “We’re not praying people,” she said, “but you can pray for us, if you want to.”
Eva had fled a Muslim country following persecution for her beliefs, and she interacted only briefly with the chaplains as they crossed Westminster Bridge.
As they returned, however, she connected again and began telling the story of her complex and tragic life. Touched by suicide, prison and isolation, she had become hardened to the challenges of life. The chaplains gently shared with her the Gospel message and asked if she would like them to pray for her. Eva agreed, but wasn’t ready to make a faith decision. The chaplains talked through ‘Steps to Peace with God’ which Eva readily took away to read.
“You could see her countenance change with prayer,” said one of the chaplains. “It went from hard to gentle and peaceful.”
Please continue to join us in prayer for London, for those bereaved or needing healing from injuries, and that the Holy Spirit would touch more hearts as the chaplains minister.