Punching above our weight – the Gym Outreach in rural Essex
The Gym Outreach which is supported by Epping Green Chapel is regularly mentioned in Rural Ministries' VIBE magazine but we wanted Paul Walker, Pastor at Epping Green to tell us more about this initiative designed to reach out to young men and women.
This summer saw the launch of the Outreach Gym which is definitely ‘rural’ as it was conceived, developed, supported and run through Epping Green Chapel – even though most of the ‘action’ happens in towns. This initiative is aimed at young men and women and provides a general ‘health’ resource as well as takes the Gospel to young men and women from both troubled inner city London and the wider county of Essex. Most villages do not have a fully functioning gym, so a minibus was purchased to pick up young people from a wide area to get them to the Centre. The Centre then provides fitness and gym training with an emphasis on boxing disciplines. It has been an amazing joy to see a couple of young tough boxers give their lives to Jesus actually in Chapel Sunday services.
The outreach is headed up by Chapel member Alan Mortlock, a boxing promoter and trainer, who is also a born again evangelist who was formerly part of ‘Tough Talk’. Alan says he “heard the Lord on his way to Church one Sunday morning, He told him to find a building and open the Outreach Gym and bring the Gospel of Salvation to the Lord’s lost sheep!” And that’s what he did!
The outreach is strongly supported by Christian charity The Toye Foundation, which was set up by long-standing Epping Green Chapel members, Will and Rose Toye. The Outreach Gym also works very closely with Gangs Unite and its founder, Colin James who is a born again Christian, former drug user and ex-violent gang member who works to see young people escape from violent gang culture. Nearby MP Iain Duncan-Smith has become a Gangs Unite patron and a strong team of prayer warriors support the project.
Although we are a small church, the Chapel members are excited to be literally punching above their weight! The Outreach Gym is a real example of rural Christians and varied ministries working together with big effect.