Travelling 3,887 miles to Chad
A fundraising challenge with a difference is taking place at Kidlington Baptist Church – and looks set to take the congregation to Chad and back
Led by the youth group Solid Rock, the church has committed to spending the month up to Easter clocking-up 3887 miles to raise funds for BMS Operation Chad. The figure is the distance from Kidlington Baptist Church to the Guinebor 2 Hospital in Chad, home of Tom and Mel Spears, the BMS mission workers currently supported by the Oxfordshire church.
The challenge involves walking, running, cycling, swimming, scooters and even mobility scooters; meaning that all ages and stages of life can get involved. Even those shielding haven’t been forgotten and have been encouraged to do laps round the room or garden.
People are encouraged to log their miles throughout the week and send their totals to youth worker Scott Cheeseman on Saturday. He tots them up and with the other youth leaders marks the distance covered on a map, ready to be shared on Sunday.
It has captured the imagination of young and old alike, with more than 80 people of all ages taking part, ranging from young children on the school run to a shielding elderly gentleman who has already clocked up eight miles pounding his living room floor.
In fact so many people are taking part they’ve just crossed Algeria into Niger and have nearly reached their destination – and are now seeing how far back they can get before the challenge ends on Easter Sunday. They’ve already exceeded the initial £695 fundraising target too and will soon pass £1000.
‘It’s been something the whole church has got behind,’ said Scott. ‘I didn’t realise how many would and to be honest, it’s stunned me.’
The idea initially came from the youth group, conceived in the height of lockdown, where one of the few activities available to people was getting outside to exercise.
Scott said, ‘One of the kids said ‘what about walking a bit further?’ Then the idea grew – one of the youth leaders suggested we could connect it to our support of the Spears family in Chad which the youth group agreed with.
‘Then it kind of spiralled. We worked out how far it was to Chad, and just went for it. It was announced in a Sunday morning service, and we invited people to take part.’
Scott said it’s important to show the young people that we support them. ‘They are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today. It’s their idea, creativity and drive that has led to this.
‘It’s all about owning it through faith. In this instance they’re taking the lead in mobilising the church in a journey of justice, and it’s inspired them to think about how we can help others. Chad has various problems - it has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world, and life expectancy averages 50 years old. The Guinebor II hospital is a beacon of hope in the hostile Sahel desert - yet we know from Tom that coronavirus has affected the hospital financially. It’s seeing there is a need and running with it.’
The Shields have sent a video thanking the church and wishing them well.
‘The kids were taken by it,’ said Scott, ‘it’s given them more ownership, there’s now more of a connection with the people we support – they’re not just a distant couple.’
He added, ‘A big part of youth ministry is relationships and making memories. I’m hoping we can look back and say “Do you remember that time we walked to Chad?”’