Storm Sure: The Battle to Brighton Begins

Fantastic and Frantic, Heartened and Humbled

SEVEN years ago today I was making my way to Gatwick Airport for a trip of a lifetime.

Heading down the home straight of my 20s, I was eager to get through the security line to start an adventure — a journey that would hopefully reach that part of my soul that I was really struggling to have filled.

“I don’t know what I want to do with my life” was my constant drone in the background from receiving my first class degree in Geography in my early 20s, through to boarding that plane at 29 for some unorthodox globe-trotting.

The journey started in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. I really didn’t anticipate the fantastic and sometimes frantic five months that was set before me, starting with a military coup and a rush to the border on day one. 

I was heartened and humbled by Lesotho’s people, and both inspired and challenged by the local charitable efforts to ‘make a difference’ to the young lives of the Basotho people.

A ‘Chance’ Encounter

Seven years later, I find myself in an altogether different life: a wife, a baby, a flat in Southsea, and a diverse working week spanning a business, the local council and two charities. And, thanks to all of that plus a global pandemic for the good part of the last two years, perhaps a few extra inches on the waistline also.

Just before that pandemic introduced itself to our lives, my wife and I found ourselves in a lift in the Google offices in London bumping into some familiar old faces — a couple I had met back in 2014 at the ‘No.7’ restaurant that they were heading up as Chef and Restaurant Manager.

Wayne and Tess had also of course seen a lot of change in that time with their own young family and change in jobs. But also, as Wayne briefly mentioned that evening, they were beginning a new adventure of their own in starting up their own charity.

“Yes, Chef!”

The Catering Hospitality & Education Foundation — or ‘C.H.E.F’ — was born with the hope of being able to help people in Lesotho transition into their own entrepreneurial opportunities in order to build a sustainable living for themselves.

We were inspired by these efforts and — remembering my time in southern Africa and the local people that helped bring the experience to life (including a few who were working in Wayne and Tess’ restaurant) — we were pleased to have the opportunity to help build their chef.gives website a few months later.

Then came the opportunity to take on a challenge in support of ‘CHEF’ – a London to Brighton bike ride. Why not? We were coming out of the pandemic and it was clear I could do with a challenge as well as a bit of exercise.

Finding Focus, Finding Faith

It is now THREE WEEKS AND ONE DAY until this ride is due to take place.

I recently completed my fifth ride around the Isle of Wight to check I was still capable of long journeys on two wheels. We made it – all 70 miles – but the hills seemed to be more of a struggle than they were in the last four attempts in recent years.

With the clock ticking, I need to focus and also raise a least £150. I have managed to avoid both so far. So this three weeks of coverage aims to achieve both.

Part of me questioned whether this is going to be possible. How will I raise the money? Will I find the ride difficult? Can I manage to get back into an exercise routine? How do I even get to the start line in Clapham for 7:30 in the morning, let alone get back from Brighton at the end of the day?

There were enough questions to almost withdraw from the challenge altogether. But as I read through my old blog post at the start of the six months adventure seven years ago, I was reminded of the willingness I had to just give it a go and see what happens!

And a lot happened! I lost a lot; from my passport at Johannesburg airport, to £70 in a Tiananmen Square tearoom. But I also found much; a sense of adventure, inspiration, new experiences and encounters. By the end of it – through some crazy experiences, heart warming moments, faith-filled people, and eye opening preaching – I also found what I believe my ‘soul’ had been yearning for all along; a faith in Jesus Christ, the beginning of a return to a relationship with God.

Being Storm Sure

I was recently given an inflatable kayak by my father-in-law and excitedly blew it up ready for an early morning ride the next day. I woke up the next morning to find a deflated kayak and a small hole in its seam. I was determined to get it fixed as I saw this as one part of my plans for some fitness and adventure. I invested in some ‘Stormsure’ glue and finally found myself in the Solent enjoying incredible views.

Around the time of my successful voyage I happened to come across the story of the disciples and their efforts to cross the sea to Capernaum. A few miles in, darkness had begun to set in, a high wind arose, and the sea began to churn.

They had decided to start this journey without Jesus. Then they saw him walking on the water towards them. Perhaps more due to knowingly setting off without him, than the fact he was walking on water, the disciples were afraid.

But he said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading. — John 6:18-21 (CSB)

I have 21 days to exercise daily, raise money, plan some logistics for this challenge, and cover it all in this blog. As the doubts begun to present themselves about this mini adventure to the south coast, looking back on my journey that started seven years ago provided some much needed encouragement.

God willing, I will see that finish line at the shore three weeks from now. Willing to do it with the Lord on board — however that may look like — I can be sure that any storm that could come will not prevail in this battle to Brighton.