...but the journey continues!

What a remarkable year. Just twelve months ago, none of us had heard of COVID-19 (- the first known case was mid November 2019, but it wasn't named until 11th February 2020); now it seems to have permeated pretty much all areas of daily life for most people, to at least some extent. We've learned new vocabulary, acquired new skills, and accommodated new practices and procedures as 'normal'. The impact of the pandemic has been - and continues to be - quite astounding. Inevitably, change on such a scale can be disorienting and distressing, and it certainly consumes a great deal of energy and resource as we all navigate our way through the uncharted waters.

I know that several of our international contacts have had the virus themselves, and others have close family members who've been unwell. The same is true for our supporters - some of whom have shared their situations and concerns with us. Each of us will have a different story to tell from the past year, and some of those stories would probably not be particularly pleasant to hear. With vaccines being rolled-out there are high hopes for 2021, but news of the emergence of mutations has tempered that somewhat in recent days. Some have expressed the view that 'Christmas is cancelled - it's a depressing end to a dreadful year'.

I am very thankful for the way in which the Feba team has weathered the storm of 2020. The majority of staff have been based at home for most or all of the time since April, working with new equipment and systems to facilitate remote access. We've been able to continue all the usual activities to engage with our UK supporters (including production of our magazine, prayer resources, and appeals plus response handling) and even started a new monthly online prayer meeting and produced some additional resources for families and churches, as well as maintaining liaison with our network of international partners - albeit without the usual project visits, which has undoubtedly been a real hindrance. Nothing has 'fallen over', and we've not even really had any significant slips or trips either. All things considered, we're ending the year in pretty good shape.

Feba Staff Team Christmas Celebration 2020 - on Zoom!

Whilst I do not for a moment want to underestimate the hardship and pain experienced by those most directly affected by COVID, I do find it helpful to reflect on some of the good things that have come from the past twelve months. Beyond our own personal stories, there is also - of course - the overarching, underpinning 'big picture' that we strive to keep in focus: we can be confident that God is still in control, and his love for us is unwavering. Whatever storms we face, we do not face them alone; however deadly the virus, the promise of new life endures forever! It is my prayer that we might all take comfort from that timeless truth this extraordinary Christmas season.

One of the things that has really helped me this year has been the running. Having only started relatively recently, I've found the regular exercise very beneficial - not just physically, but as a means of recharging more generally. As is very common, much of my time is spent sitting at a desk looking at a screen, and so getting outside and exploring on foot has been a real tonic. I also found that the challenge of preparing for the marathons in spring and autumn provided a purposeful and energizing focus.

Since the second of those long runs in October, I have continued to run but in a less structured way - with no specific training plan to follow. To be honest, the shorter days and colder weather can make it less appealing, but I'm keen to maintain a reasonable level of fitness through the winter. My intention is to complete at least one half marathon distance run each month, and at the moment that feels realistic. To put that in context a bit, I've actually managed an unbroken streak of half marathons since October 2019 - completing one or more run of that distance every month through 2020; in total, I've covered just over 1,800km this year - something that would have been unthinkable just two years ago!

I'm delighted to have raised about £6,000 for Feba. My original target seemed fairly ambitious, and so to exceed it was a tremendous encouragement. I'd like to say another very big 'Thank You!' to everyone who so generously sponsored my efforts. As I have said in previous posts, the knowledge that I was being sponsored was a great incentive to persevere when the going got tough - which I can assure you it did!

I do, therefore, sometimes find myself wondering whether I really want to do it all again next year! At present, the plan is that the London Marathon will take place along the usual route on 3rd October, and my place is guaranteed - being rolled-over from this year's event. That date seems a long way off at the moment, but I know how much work is required to prepare for the 26 miles. We'll see what happens between now and then.

In the meantime, it's wonderful to be able to get out with my elder son at the weekends. He is getting considerably faster and stronger, and he's already way beyond my capabilities, so our paths do tend to diverge - but it's still good to be together on the trails in at least a loose sense! The local coastline and South Downs provide a wealth of route options of whatever length, over mixed terrain with breathtaking views. The many footpaths and bridleways are typically sparsely populated, so 'social distancing' is really very easy.

It certainly feels as though this year has been 'more of a marathon than a sprint' for all of us. As 2020 draws to a close, it is my prayer that each of us might know something of the unique joy, hope, peace and love of Christ this Christmas season. And as we look to 2021, let's endeavour to 'put our best foot forward' - assured in the knowledge that we won't take a single step that is unknown to our loving Heavenly Father.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1:5, NIV)

Thank you once again for your invaluable partnership with Feba - your interest and support are so important to us, and we look forward to continuing our ministry journey together in the New Year. In the meantime, we wish you and your loved ones a 'Happy Christmas!'.

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

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

Thank you!

Photo: Staff Team Christmas Zoom © Feba Radio; Sunrise and Muddy Calves © Bob Chambers (2020)