All cisterns go for Barrow Baptists and their sporting challenge
Leicestershire Baptists have combined sporting challenges with community outreach – to raise thousands of pounds for charity
Engaging with its local community is central to Barrow Upon Soar Baptist Church’s mission – and its Big Barrow Challenge over the May bank holiday proved a great way to bring community and congregation together.
The three-day Challenge was born three years ago when Barrow Baptists decided to take on some serious fundraising for the church’s chosen charities – and it has become an annual event.
For the first two years, it was aimed at cyclists who, between them, clocked up hundreds of miles and travelled far from home.
This time, the church offered a range of challenges, including 50- and 100-mile cycle rides, over one, two or three days. In addition, 25 people took on the ‘Charnwood Three Peaks Challenge’, an 18-mile walk around Leicestershire’s local beauty spots, including the beautiful Bradgate Park, home of Lady Jane Grey. There was also a parent-and-toddler walk and picnic, to ensure no one was left out.
This year’s chosen charity was Tearfund’s Toilet Twinning campaign which provides clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene training in some of the world’s poorest communities.
Church members have links with projects in various countries, especially in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda, and some members regularly visit Ethiopia to work in educational and hospital projects. Those who have visited Africa have all experienced poor sanitation first-hand, and Richard Jayes, one of the Challenge organisers, says it was a ‘no-brainer’ to support a water and sanitation project.
‘I remember in Rwanda seeing small children with plastic jerry cans collecting muddy water from the river and then dragging it back to their homes – and that’s what they have to live with,’ says Richard, who visited Rwanda with Compassion, the child sponsorship charity.
One of the most positive aspects of the Big Barrow Challenge is the fact that it involves the whole church, both through sporting endeavour and sponsorship. On the Sunday, riders took a break from their ride to attend the morning service in their ‘ecclesiastical Lycra’, as Richard puts it. ‘And after the service, the whole congregation saw them off again with clapping and cheers as the cyclists started out on the next 50-mile ride to the beautiful Belvoir Castle.’
Together, Barrow Baptists raised almost £7,000 for Toilet Twinning. For all involved, an equally rewarding part of the Challenge is the links it has strengthened with the local community.
Richard explains, ‘During the week, the church serves all age ranges of the community and is very busy. This involves baby and toddler groups, a weekly cafe, study groups, sports and youth groups.
'When you spend all day cycling or walking with people, it gives you time to get to know them: otherwise, it can just be a fleeting hello. People from outside the church get to see that we are normal people and then they’re not so apprehensive about walking through the church doors on a Sunday.’
Find out more about Toilet Twinning at toilettwinning.org