...well - most things.

There are certain words that are arguably overused, and I'm not one for hyperbole, but I think it is true to say that the past month has been exceptional / extraordinary / unprecedented. The new coronavirus known as Covid-19 has now reached pretty much all around the globe, with a significant part of that alarming progress made during March 2020. The direct impact on those infected, and the associated restrictions imposed as part of whole-population public health responses, have caused everyone to sit up and pay serious attention. There is currently no escaping the fact that the pandemic has affected us all in some way, and is likely to continue to do so for some considerable time; even once restrictions on movement are eased partially or lifted completely, the long term cost of this outbreak will be very high.

All of that puts my running and marathon training into perspective: however laudable the pursuit of physical fitness might be, or the raising of funds in support of some good cause or another, the preservation of life in the face of a threat such as Covid-19 is obviously a more pressing need. It is also true to say that the need for Feba's ministry in times such as this is at least as great as ever. Indeed, our founder's heart was to use radio to take the Christian gospel behind closed doors - to share the Good News with people who might not hear or receive it by other means. The isolation that so many are experiencing today is - for most of us - the closest we have ever come to understanding the remarkable power of connection through media. With schools, offices, and even churches closed, many people are experimenting with new ways of finding or creating 'community' and are seeking out new sources of information, entertainment, comfort and inspiration.

Seeds of Hope

Feba's partners across Africa, Asia and the Middle East are all engaged in producing and sharing content that is designed to meet the needs of their local listeners - seeking, ultimately, to inspire them to follow Jesus Christ. In response to the current Covid-19 pandemic, programmes include public health messaging as well as messages of hope - rooted in the unshakable, unique hope we can have in Christ. Perhaps not surprisingly, we are receiving reports of real openness and great hunger as people search for answers. You might like to read our 'Seeds of Hope' articles about the ministry in China, perhaps the latest update from Central Asia, maybe news from Nepal, alternatively the response in Ukraine. Please do keep an eye on our website or Facebook page as we'll be sharing more similar stories in coming weeks. Please do pray for our ministry partners as they themselves are having to deal with the imposition of restrictions that make their own home and work lives complicated and difficult. Ministering in a time of such widespread need is vital and valuable, but it is draining.

You might be interested to know that we have decided to try some online virtual prayer meetings. We held the first of those in early April, and we're planning to hold the meetings monthly at 7.00pm on the first Wednesday of each month. We will ensure that up-to-date information is always available on the Prayer Meeting page of this website. You'd be very welcome to join us, and please feel free to invite your friends and family too.

As a UK team, all staff are now equipped to work from home, and we've had a couple of weeks of operating remotely at something close to normal capacity: encouragingly, we can still do all the core things that we were doing from the office previously (- including handling post, phone calls, emails, and producing our regular publications), and people are starting to settle into the new way of working. It has been a significant upheaval and required a lot of adjustment, so please join with me in giving thanks for the progress made - very thankful for God's leading, protection and provision at this time.

So - what about the running? Well, it has been a mixed month. As the UK's response to Covid-19 has evolved over recent weeks, plans for all sorts of events have changed accordingly. Whilst it was undeniably a disappointment, it was no real surprise when the London Marathon was postponed on 13th March. With so many people having put in so much training focused on the original date of 26th April, the revised date of 4th October means that we'll all have to go back to the drawing board and think carefully about what to do over the summer - and whether to take our places on the new date. There is also the question of what to do on 26th April: as things stand, it would theoretically be possible and permissible to run a marathon distance from home on that date, solo and self-supported (i.e. carrying one's own supplies of water and food). That is something I am seriously considering at the moment, but will keep under review over the next few weeks.

The Bath Half Marathon on 15th March was one of the last major running events to be held before the ban on gatherings was introduced. I took part in that with my brother - treating it as my scheduled 21km training run for that particular weekend. It was a good opportunity to get some more experience of large scale events, especially being in our late mother's college city. The weather was grim - cold and damp - but I was pleased with the way it went, feeling quite comfortable throughout.

The weather generally through February and March has been fairly taxing for the running, especially the wind. It really does make a significant difference when you have to deal with a headwind as well as the distance - everything seems so much harder work! Nevertheless, I have sought to stick to my original training plan and have persevered - as this video hopefully shows:

However much we might attempt to pursue some sort of normality, in truth Covid-19 has indisputably led to all sort of unexpected changes; the full extent of those changes is not yet fully known, as the virus is still far from having run its course. What we do know, however, is that we can trust in an unchanging God, a God whose love never fails. He has not and will not change - and ultimately His plans and purposes will prevail. We do not profess to have all the answers (- for that would be desperately foolish), but we can have confidence in the midst of the uncertainty. That is what I cling to, and I trust you will too.

On an encouraging note, the sponsorship does continue to come in. I fully appreciate that in a time of such great practical need and with the economic uncertainties being so great it can be difficult to contemplate giving to charitable causes, so I am more grateful than ever for people's generosity. At the time of writing, my fundraising effort has reached just over £1,800 (plus Gift Aid). Raising funds for Feba does make this worthwhile for me personally, and it really does make a tremendous difference to know that I'm not doing this alone. If you could possibly make a donation of whatever value then I would be so very grateful. Thank you.

Finally, please do send any comments, questions, encouragements, or suggestions using the Contact Form or calling the office - it would be lovely to hear from you.

We'll see what happens...

* * * * * UPDATED - 27th April 2020 * * * * *

See the April blog for news of Bob's marathon attempt!

If you would like to sponsor me, please see my fundraising page.

To read more about my marathon efforts, please click here.

Thank you!

Photo/video credits: Bath Half and Worthing Pier © Bob Chambers.