It’s safe to say that Lts. Josh and Joyce Downer are quite familiar with the roads between Glace Bay and New Waterford on Cape Breton Island. The pair is coming up on their one-year anniversary as Corps Officers of both Nova Scotia hamlets, logging countless kilometres on those roads over the past several months. Last month, however, they got a little more acquainted with the route, all the while serving as motivation for their congregations.
During the Easter season both churches participated in the annual Partners in Mission funds drive. This drive takes place during the season of self-denial, and all funds raised by the congregations go to helping The Salvation Army continue to carry out its work worldwide, including many countries devastated by poverty, illness and natural disasters. The combined goal for Glace Bay and New Waterford was in excess of $3,000. The Downers quickly went to work coming up with a little motivation to help the fundraising along.“We both love to run,” Lt. Josh admits. “So when we got here and we saw Partners in Mission, we thought it’s always good to have a goal or something to look forward to. Where we have a circuit and we’re so many kilometres apart, why not run between the two sites if they meet certain goals and have make it a celebration service out there?”
The winding roads between the facilities in Glace Bay and New Waterford measure out to just over 17 kilometres, nearly the distance of a half marathon.
The dollars flowed in, totalling approximately $3,300 combined. All that was left was for the Downers to hit the open roads.
The route was tackled as a relay. Lt. Josh took on the first 7.3 km, Lt. Joyce ran the next 5 km, while a pair of Corps members from New Waterford handled the anchor leg of 5 km, joined by the Downers for the final kilometre to the finish.
With cold weather, snow and strong winds buffeting the area in the days leading up to the event, it seemed like the runners would be forced to battle the elements as well as the distance. On the day of the run, however, the sun came out, the wind died down and the mercury rose to a (seasonally) balmy three degrees. Lt. Josh adds, “We have to honest, it was God.”Lt. Josh began running at 3:30 in the afternoon, with the quartet of runners crossing the finish line just after 5 p.m. That’s when the fun began, as over 60 people showed up in New Waterford for a celebration service.
The congregation surprised the Downers by setting up a ribbon at the finish line, and playing the athletic anthem Chariots of Fire as they closed in on the line. They were also pleased about the response from outside the church community. The local newspaper ran a story about the run the day prior, leading to waves and honks from passing motorists as well as people dropping off snacks and saying hello at throughout the run.
“I think the intention was that we wanted the community to see that The Salvation Army doesn’t only provide social services, but that we are a church family,” Lt. Joyce says. “Talking about how we’re supporting other ministries around the world and highlighting to the community what Partners in Mission means is important. It was really just about that awareness. It wasn’t an ask to the community saying that we want money from you for this, just that this is what we do as a church family and I think it was successful in that. It was really a drawing together experience, one that helps to build community.”
Ultimately, that response is what made the event a success, and likely an ongoing project.
“They asked for it next year, so we’re going to do it again,” Lt. Josh says.