In July 2019, Mervyn Smith from Shropshire completed a 6,000-mile round trip to the Arctic Circle on his motorcycle, raising an incredible £10,000 for our persecuted family! He’s now written a ‘warts and all’ book on his adventure, with all proceeds going to Open Doors. We caught up with Mervyn to find out more…
Mervyn also shares his story in his role as volunteer speaker with Open Doors
What inspired you to take on the challenge?
A year after surviving major open-heart surgery, I was at Standing Strong in Birmingham where I heard the testimony of a Nigerian church leader about the levels of persecution against Christians in northern Nigeria. I asked myself the question, “What can I do to make a difference?” And as clear as anything, I felt God answer: “You've always wanted to ride your motorcycle to the Arctic Circle. Why don't you do it for them?” And that's how the ‘Highley to Hammerfest’ challenge was born. Highley is the village where I live and Hammerfest, in Norway, is the most northerly town in the world.
"There was no way I was going to give up because the purpose of the trip was the persecuted church" Mervyn
How long did the trip take you and what weather conditions did you experience?
It took 18 days in total. And it was hot! I encountered one, maybe two, thunderstorms, but the overriding memory was riding in 34°C the day I crossed the Arctic Circle. And I wasn’t wearing summer riding kit because I had been told that, even in July when I did the trip, it was still possible for there to be extreme weather, even a blizzard. So I was kitted up for extreme weather and it didn't happen.
Were there any moments where you wanted to give up?
No, not at all. There were times when I felt physically completely shot, and I had heat exhaustion one day. But there was no way I was going to give up because the purpose of the trip was the persecuted church, and that was the driving factor. And I knew that God was behind the trip all the way.
How did your relationship with the persecuted church begin?
I was impacted by them many years ago and thinking that, as Christians, we don't know anything about the persecution that's going on worldwide. That’s when I started to support Open Doors with monthly giving. And when the invitations came for Standing Strong, I knew I needed to know more and, subsequently, that journey has led me to becoming a volunteer speaker. So my role now is to tell the story. That's what I do now. And the book is part of that.
How did challenge deepen your relationship with your persecuted family?
I thought about them pretty much all the time. Even when I got to hotels, and it had been a really hard day, I knew I had to keep going for them. I also had conversations with people along the trip who asked me what I was doing, including a Christian couple in the Netherlands who are supporters of Open Doors.
All proceeds from the book will go to Open Doors
What inspired you to write the book and what do you hope comes from it?
The vision for the book is massive – I hope it’ll raise as much money for Open Doors as the challenge itself. But I’ve had to put it in God's hands. If it reaches that target, it won't be anything to do with me (because I’m bad at self-promotion!) and everything to do with what the Lord wants to do with it.
Was it always your plan to pen the adventure?
The idea came as I was doing the trip because I was making notes with the thought, “I must record this one day.” The book should come with a public health warning because it's warts and all. My flawed humanity comes through at times and I get crabby. The book is very me! It tells the story of how the challenge came about, what happened on the ride, and what happened with the fundraising because I set a very hard target of £10,000 that was reached. But primarily, the book is a witness to the persecuted church.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of the whole journey for you, from the idea first emerging to producing the book?
I think the most important thing for me now is being a volunteer speaker and telling stories of the persecuted church. The role really came out of that trip. To see the impact that these stories have on people, people who had no idea about the persecuted church, is probably the overriding benefit that has come out of the whole thing.
Above the Circle is available from Amazon.
Last year, almost £60,000 was raised last year by supporters through various fundraising activities. It’s just one of several ways you can get involved with serving our persecuted family. This includes our various volunteer roles, such as volunteer speaker, prayer group leader, events volunteer and advocacy rep.
We're constantly taken aback by the lengths supporters, like Mervyn, go to raise funds for our persecuted family. If you have an idea, or if you're looking for some inspiration, head to our dedicated fundraising page which has all you need to get started, including activity suggestions and fundraising tips.
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Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.