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CMS Selling soup for Sinai - Jan 07

Bernice Middleton thought up a tasty way to raise funds for her sponsored desert challenge

“What’s the soup today?” It’s a question Bernice got used to hearing from her colleagues, even though as a database manager, her job has nothing to do with cooking.

Bernice started her ‘mini-soup kitchen’ at work in order to fundraise for the opportunity of a lifetime – to trek across the Sinai desert and raise money for mission work in the Middle East.

“I got the idea when our office canteen closed,” she recalled. “I made soup and bread at home, brought it to work and charged £3 per portion. It became a small phenomenon – I always ran out!”

Selling soup is one thing, but how does a 50-something mild-mannered office professional get the idea to do a six-day journey on foot through the desert?

“I received an e-mail about a Sinai challenge to help raise money for CMS mission work in the Middle East,” Bernice said, “And it just jumped out at me.  I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

Bernice said she’d long considered doing a sponsored challenge, but hadn’t found one that was right for her. “I’m no marathon runner,” she laughed. But the CMS Sinai trek seemed to fit the bill. “It was a reasonable level of difficulty and the project was something I could see my church wanting to get involved in.”

Deciding the adventure would be even more meaningful if she could do it with a friend, Bernice invited her rector’s wife, Diane, to join her. Diane was intrigued, but she had reservations. “She was nervous about asking people for sponsorship money,” Bernice said. “I told her we could do things to raise money together.”

“Fear of asking people for money is common,” says Joseph Steinberg, CMS Fundraising and Marketing director, “but when you feel strongly about an issue and want to raise awareness of it, you naturally want to involve your family and friends.  Believe it or not, raising money for the right cause – like mission work – can be fun.”

Bernice and Diane found many creative ways to put the ‘fun’ into fundraising: hosting dinner parties, putting on a concert in their village hall, and of course Bernice’s soup service. Between these endeavours and gifts from individuals, the dynamic duo raised around £8,000 for CMS mission work in the Middle East.

Then came time for the trek itself. “As Diane and I waited at Heathrow, we thought, what have we got ourselves into?” Bernice recounted. “But once we got to Sinai and began walking, I felt a surge of confidence.”

Not that the trek was easy. “Sometimes the sand was flat enough to walk on and other times it seemed to swallow our boots – it was like walking through treacle.” And the climbing was definitely taxing.

“Yet, as we walked, I sensed the history of the place, remembering that for centuries people had navigated this hostile terrain. I realised that by comparison, my life has been pretty easy. Stretching and challenging myself this way was exhilarating. It was just what I needed,” Bernice said. 

“Getting to the top of Mount Sinai was an amazing feeling. As I looked around this beautiful, quiet place, I thought of people in the past who had stood where I was standing and all the people who had helped me get there and all those whose lives would be changed as a result, and I cried.”

Asked if she had any advice for those considering similar challenges, like the CMS Mount Kenya climb in September 2007, or the Nepal Mountain Trek in January 2008, Bernice said simply, “Do it. You’ll love it. It’s worth it.”

CMS Sponsored Challenges 2007-2008

Challenge:  Mount Kenya
Difficulty: High
5-15 September 2007
Raising funds for leadership training in Africa
Challenge: Anapurna, Nepal
Difficulty: Moderate, suitable for all ages.
12 days in January 2008
Raising funds for mission workers from the Global South
Challenge:  Ben Nevis
Difficulty: Moderate, suitable for all ages.
Long weekend in April 2008
Raising funds for leadership training worldwide
Challenge:  Great Wall of China
Difficulty: Moderate, suitable for all ages
12 days in May 2008
Raising funds for mission work in countries where such activity is limited /restricted

For more information on any CMS sponsored challenge, contact Peter Ashcroft at or call 020 7803 3328.

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