“Lord, how can we tell people of Your love during a pandemic when we are in lockdown and have to stay at home?”

That question weighed heavily on my heart at the end of last year and the beginning of this one as the news seemed so very bleak and church outreach seemed so very difficult. Working with other local churches, we decided to build on our Advent project when we had distributed 48 knitted angels around Goldthorpe. What if, we mused, we could put hearts out into the community and aim to put some in Thurnscoe and Bolton-on-Dearne as well as Goldthorpe, to represent the main areas represented by our churches? We decided to aim to do this by Easter (Valentine’s Day seemed too near!), as a prophetic gesture to remind people of God’s love. Each heart would have with it a label giving an Easter message and would be left in prominent local places for people to find and take home.

And so the ‘Whispers of Love’ project was born, the title for the project coming from the famous hymn ‘Blessed Assurance’ with its line ‘echoes of mercy, whispers of love.‘ Surely, surely at this time of fear, unrest, confusion and uncertainty, what we all need are God’s whispers of love.

Fast forward to the end of March, a week before we are due to distribute the hearts, and what can I say? My original (largely unspoken) target was 300. I reasoned that we could surely make 100 hearts for each of the three villages – after all, we were in lockdown, so some people had time on their hands! In February, we decided that we should offer hearts to residents in local care homes, who at that time were not allowed any visitors at all, as well. Every single home we contacted embraced the idea with an enthusiasm that staggered even me. And so the number of hearts needed rose… but by then, hearts were coming in on a regular basis. Knitted hearts. Sewn hearts. Decoupage hearts. Wooden hearts that were painted. Card hearts decorated with buttons and jewel stickers. Foam hearts. Cross stitch hearts. Key ring hearts. Beaded hearts. Hearts painted on pebbles. Painted glass hearts. Cards with hearts on. The sheer variety of hearts was astounding. Schools and after-school clubs joined the project. Young children took to this with enthusiasm. Older people said that they had found it therapeutic to have something positive to do in lockdown.

Today, as I’ve collected heart-making kits from a friend at Encaustic Art Plus in Elsecar, we have reached the total of just over 1000 hearts. I’m staggered, but I’m also thankful. Thankful for all the people who have embraced this project, thankful that we can do something to spread God’s love in our communities at Easter. May these whispers of love reach far and wide, a reminder that God’s word is never chained, even if we are. (2 Tim 2:9)