Congratulations to the Rev Canon Stuart Lloyd who has once again conquered ‘Everest’ by climbing Slemish Mountain 50 times in succession. (Check out the photo gallery below).
In doing so Stuart, retired rector of Ballymena and Ballyclug, has raised thousands of pounds for mission work in Nepal, a country close to his heart.
Stuart began his challenge on June 19, and over the course of the following week completed seven ascents – and descents – each day, with an extra climb on the Wednesday, scaling a total of 30,000 feet which is a little over the height of the world’s tallest mountain.
The ‘Everest via Slemish’ project aimed to raise awareness and support for mission bodies in Nepal, where Stuart’s niece Deirdre Zimmerman and her husband have been serving for more than 25 years. All funds raised will support Church Mission Society Ireland (CMSI) and their involvement in Nepal and Nepali NGO Koshish.
The project is being sponsored by St Patrick’s Church, Ballymena, where Stuart was rector prior to his retirement in 2015; St Patrick’s Church, Broughshane, where he currently worships; and St Patrick’s Church, Coleraine, where Stuart assists.
Stuart received good support along the way, with 25 people representing all three parishes joining in the climbs and four completing a total of seven ascents. For some, including the Rev Canon Mark McConnell, rector of Ballymena and Ballyclug, and the Rev Dr Andrew Campbell, rector of St Patrick’s, Broughshane, it was their first time up Slemish.
“While both found it very strenuous, Andrew did get second wind and managed a second ascent!” Stuart said.
“The challenge all went well in that noone fell, there were no mishaps, the weather most of the time was good for climbing, except the Thursday when we got soaked! We were blessed in being enabled to do the 50 ascents, being kept safe and having company on about half the ascents.”
On the Wednesday, Stuart did an extra ascent in the evening, leading 20 Cubs and Scouts from Broughshane up the mountain. Jenny Smith and Roger Thompson from CMSI joined him on the last day for an ascent.
“Each time the summit was reached, we had prayer for some aspect of mission in Nepal and a short video was posted on Facebook each evening,” Stuart said.
Supporters organised a barbecue for the walkers at the end of the first and last days of the challenge.
Climbing the height of Mount Everest on the more easily accessible Slemish is not new to Stuart. He has accomplished this feat twice before, and in June 2008, he climbed (and descended) the 30,000 feet over a three-day period, raising funds for a church in Kathmandu which he and his wife Jane have supported for many years.
Stuart can’t say at this stage exactly how much has been raised for CMSI and Koshish, but he has received more than £3,600 in direct donations, and money has been coming in in other ways too, including electronically.
“Donations have been many and some very generous,” Stuart said. “Some were offered by strangers on the mountain. There is no total as yet as money has to be gathered in from the three parishes and the JustGiving site and CMSI has also collected some money. I certainly have been very encouraged by the response.”
Stuart added: “Altogether, I was very encouraged by the interest, participation and response.”
Donations can still be made via JustGiving.
CMSI supports three areas of mission in Nepal. One is outreach by the church in Kathmandu which offers a ‘friend’s service’ to those who are referred to the city for health care from rural areas, providing hospitality and support for as long as these patients are required to stay in the city.
The Christian NGO, the Human Development Community Service, oversees an international school especially for mission children, runs a school for children with mental and physical disabilities and through radio stations, provides all wellbeing information.
The third area of mission is nutrition promotion, and this is the work Stuart’s niece Deirdre, a CMS associate partner, is engaged in. Many Nepalis have poor diets and this impacts especially on women of child bearing age. Deirdre and her team provide training for locals which allows them to facilitate nutrition workshops.
Nepal is far behind Ireland in providing mental health care and Koshish is spearheading that work through advocacy with the Government and the training of local leaders. Many suffering from mental health issues are locked away or thrown out of homes because of lack of understanding. Among other things, Koshish seeks to rescue these people and runs a refuge home for them.
Speaking in advance of his challenge, Stuart said: “All of the various bodies that are being supported are immediately engaged as part of their work with the challenges of Covid. Like India, Nepal has been hit by a second wave, and for a time hospitals were overwhelmed and real hardships were being faced by so many.
“Nepal is very dependent on India and had hoped to get its vaccines from that source. This has been cut off and now they are struggling to find other sources. The needs of those whom CMSI and Koshish has been catering for have thus increased greatly and any support from others will be greatly appreciated.”
Thanks to all whose photos appear in the gallery below – these are shared with Stuart’s permission.