We drove to Denver August 29, the day after the Democratic National Convention ended. On the way there we were met by caravans of busses on Interstate 70 going in the opposite direction, obviously carrying delegates back to their homes.
As we arrived in Denver, I wondered what the local people would say about the week’s events. Obviously, such a big convention had to impact the entire city in a significant way. I heard some talk about the traffic delays and road closures especially on the last day of the convention.
On that day the major north-south route through the city, Interstate 25, was shut down as a security measure since it was adjacent to the football stadium where the final meeting of the convention was held. This meant people had to find alternate routes to work or just stayed out of the area if possible. Maybe I didn’t talk to the right people, but I didn’t hear any major complaints. By the time we got there residents were glad the event was over but also felt relieved that there had not been any major crises or catastrophes.
One story, however, caught my attention in a big way. I don’t know if it got any local or national publicity. At least I don’t know of any. However, to me a group of LoveDenver volunteers were very special people with a very special testimony of what it means to be a Christian.
I talked to a couple who had been part of this LoveDenver campaign. They were part of a group of Christians, spearheaded primarily by Baptists, who found a significant way in which they could serve their city during the Democratic convention. As expected, security during the week was very tight. Police and secret service people were on the job 24/7, working long shifts. In addition to the local police forces, some had come many miles from other cities in the state. Secret service people from all over the country were there as well. For them getting food while on duty was a major problem. Given their short meal breaks, they couldn’t afford the long waits at restaurants and going home to eat was not an option for most.
This is where LoveDenver came in. This group of Christians saw the need to provide food for the security forces in the convention areas. They applied for and received a government grant to help with food costs. Other monies for food came from Christian organizations in the area. They brought in a semitruck outfitted as a kitchen that could produce up to 30,000 meals in a 24 hour period. Approximately 600 volunteers worked round the clock to prepare, deliver and serve food at police-designated locations. They worked long hours, some shifts lasting up to 12 hours.
Volunteers working in close proximity to the convention sites had to undergo intensive advance security screenings. Vans delivering food were given detailed inspections and had to be accompanied by police. Drivers were frisked each and every time they passed a security checkpoint. Thirty to 45 minute waits were the norm.
Hearing to one volunteer couple describe their experiences I was reminded of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. According to the law of the land, a Roman soldier could force a civilian to carry something for him for one mile. But Jesus took this one step further. He said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt. 5:41). Obviously, the soldier would question the person’s sanity if he volunteered for a second mile in the hot Middle Eastern sun. The Christian could then give his testimony to the soldier and thus be a witness for his faith.
Listening to the stories of hassles at security checkpoints and the long hours these volunteers put in, I couldn’t help but think of the testimony they left behind with the people they served. Some volunteers may not even have supported the politics of the convention. So why would they volunteer for such hard work and such long hours?
The small crosses embroidered above the LoveDenver logos on their hats and T-shirts were a powerful reminder of who they were and why they were involved. They were “going the second mile.” And from the reaction of the people they served, their work was much appreciated, and I was told the food was really good.
Sometimes I think we have the idea that in order to serve the Lord and be a significant testimony to our faith the activity needs to be “religious.” Or at least we may think that the more religious the activity is, the more important it is in the kingdom of God. These Denver volunteers gave me a new view of “second-mile” Christian service and the impact it can have. So I wonder, what opportunities do I have to go the second mile for my witness to my faith?