July 25 2012 - An atheist who turned to God and his local church after suffering a mental breakdown is gearing up for a 150 mile cycling challenge for Christian Aid.
Brett Hall, 30, an avid follower of the Tour de France since childhood, is also drawing inspiration from Britain’s first winner of the race, Bradley Wiggins, as he trains for the Cathedrals to Coast bike ride.
The father-of-two from Somerset, whose wife was a regular church goer, had never shown interest in the Christian faith until he took athlete’s foot medication prescribed by his doctor.
He said: ‘I always thought of myself as an agnostic atheist. I went to the doctors with athlete’s foot but within two days of taking the medication I was having suicidal thoughts, bouts of depression, anxiety and panic attacks.’
Despite coming off the medication the mental anguish continued. In desperation, Brett turned to prayer.
‘During that time the only thing that took the edge of it was saying the Lord’s Prayer. It became a bit of a mantra. I was saying it up to 150 times a day.
‘After a while I realised I needed more of this and my wife, Becky, suggested I come with her to church. It was brilliant. I found strength, courage, love and friendship and church has become a big thing for me. I met some great people and I put my recovery down to the love I received from God, my church and my community.’
After seeing fellow Christians at Castle Cary Methodist Church raising money for Christian Aid he decided he wanted to do something to highlight the good work of the Church.
He said: ‘I had a look on the Christian Aid website and the Cathedrals to Coast bike ride jumped out at me.
‘I’ve been mad for the Tour de France since the 80s, much to the annoyance of my wife.
‘I got into cycling through my Dad who turned to riding a bike after a collapsed vertebra in his back stopped him from running.
‘I want to give something back and doing this bike ride to raise money for an important cause is a great way to do that.’
The Cathedrals to Coast ride takes place on September 22-23 and will see cyclists travel from London through the New Forest to Weymouth, en route passing cathedrals in Guildford, Winchester and Salisbury as well as Mottisfont Abbey, Corfe Castle and Lulworth Castle.
Thanks to his new found faith Brett said his family are much closer.
He said: ‘I feel wonderful. We now go to church as a family. My eldest Joseph, who’s three, is in Sunday school and we also have Sofia, who’s 15 months.
‘My depression kicked off as my wife was pregnant with Joseph. She has been amazing and had to put up with being pregnant for the first time as well as my illness.’
As a recent Christian Brett is constantly struck by new discoveries on his walk of faith.
‘I have a childlike awe of it. Often I find my breath taken away. Becky’s been a Christian since she was a child and she keeps telling me this is all part of it.
‘I am still careful about getting too emotionally up and down and I can tell if I’m close to another episode, but it doesn’t affect me like it did.
‘In the past I had preconception of church as a cold, grey building with a guy pointing at me telling me how bad I was. But it hasn’t been anything like that. People were so welcoming and now I want to give something back.’
To join Brett and sign up for the two day ride visit www.christian-aid.org/cycling or call 0207 523 2248.
To sponsor him visit www.justgiving.com/BHall.
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Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in 47 countries. We act where there is great need, regardless of faith or nationality, helping people to build the lives they deserve.
2. Christian Aid has a vision of an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report Poverty Over explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty. Details at www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 125 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at www.actalliance.org
4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire
5. For more information about our work visit www.christianaid.org.uk