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You know history is not such a bad thing! Knowing how we got here, what went on to get us where we are today etc.
In 2001, youth workers, Tony Coe and Stuart Griffiths, were travelling to Haven High Technical College, in Boston, talking about the isolation of youth in South Lincolnshire and the increasing difficulties of reaching these young people with the Good News about Jesus Christ. In a throw away line, Stuart said wouldn’t it be good if the church could go to where young people are and not wait for them to come to the church. At that point, the phrase “The House of God on the road” came to Tony.
This conversation lead them to look at other bus ministries including the CYBER BUS (Oxfordshire) and the EDEN BUS (Manchester).
Meanwhile, Stuart took on the pastoral leadership of Boston’s New Life Fellowship and Tony continued his ministry from Holy Trinity Church to the schools and to the surrounding Anglican Deanery. It was here that he experienced the church’s lack of confidence and resources to work with young people.
In 2005, a survey was conducted asking 1550 local young people if they would like to see a mobile youth centre visit there village. An overwhelming 77% of young people said that they would.
In July 2006, Tony asked Holy Trinity Church permission to develop the project as part of his pastoral responsibility to young people in the Boston Area. This was granted and as a result he spent much time developing a Steering Group to move the project forward. After constant set backs, the Steering Group approached Lincolnshire Youth Mission Ltd, with a similar vision to reach Lincolnshire youth, to explore the possibility of affiliating with them and guaranteeing a start to what had been a very exciting journey so far. On this journey, we keep that clear vision before us, that when people see roadHoG going past, they will see the church getting out and going to where young people are.
In June 2007, a small Steering Group of Robert Dring, Armstrong Leworthy, Clare Holden and Tony Coe started the conversation of coming under the banner of LYM Ltd. LYM Ltd would only be interested in the project if it was an expression of many churches working together. Time was spent encouraging a number of local churches if they would become partners and as a result of this the Methodist Church, Boston Baptist Church, New Life Fellowship and the Holland East Deanery (including Holy Trinity and St Guthlac’s) became our partner churches.
In July 2008, the project was officially owned by LYM Ltd.
Tony Coe worked voluntarily to raise funds for nine months and was appointed the project’s Youth Missioner on 14th May 2009.
On 4th June 2009, a bus was purchased from Stagecoach and was then delivered to the coach fitters for its conversion on 24th June 2009.
The bus was launched on Thursday 1st October 2009 and dedicated by the then Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Rev John Saxbee on the grounds of the Giles Academy. None of this could have been done without the work of our partner churches, which include: The Methodist church, the Anglican church, New Life Fellowship, Boston Baptist, Beacon Church, St Guthlac’s Church and Holy Trinity Church.
History in the making in 2013
Since the launch of the project, roadHoG has welcomed onboard over 13,000 young people and have been asked to pray with 800 young people. As history writes itself it is a tremendous privilege to be part of HIS STORY.
End of our first 5 years and the start of the next…..
At the end of our first 5 years we had welcomed nearly 21,000 young people and had been asked to pray with just under 1000 young people. The directorship changed in 2014 with 5 directors leaving and 3 new directors coming on board. We had a new reconditioned engine fitted by Walsh’s Engineering Ltd in Eccles. Tony Coe finished his planned 5 years on the road and the project welcomed Alan King as the new LYM Youth Missioner to take the project forward. Friday 7th November marked the start of Alan’s ministry and our good byes to Tony at a service in Centenary Church, Boston.
So the story continues…
Change in 2016…
September 2016, Alan King felt the need to find other employment. To cope with this, the Steering Group had to metamorphasise to enable it to assume full management of the project, and so the Local Project Management Team came in to being.
The teams on the various routes, have now appointed Team Leaders, and now manage themselves on a daily basis, under guidance from the Management Team. The Management Team itself is now chaired directly by a director of LYM Ltd, with members of the team being responsible for various areas of the project such as organising teams of drivers, bus maintenance, stocking the craft and tuck shop, maintaining the web and social media pages etc.
2018 and onwards…
In December 2017, Tony Coe joined as our Schools Worker. Since then, Tony has received a number of invitations to work in a number of local primary and secondary schools, particularly working with Year 6 students as they move up to secondary school. We thank God for these opportunities to share our faith with young people.
roadHoG works only on an ecumenical basis, rather than with a specific church/denomination alone, so we are particularly excited at being asked to share our vision for outreach amongst young people with Spalding and District Churches Together. We have been invited to make a presentation to them at their next Meeting in March, so that we can seek God’s will for youth outreach in the Spalding area.
Friday 4th October – Supporters from every direction came to recognise and celebrate ten years of youth ministry in Boston and surrounding villages. About 70 people came together in Holy Trinity Church to worship, have fun and mark this land-mark moment. We were privileged to welcome our town Mayor and Mayoress along with our local Member of Parliament. The evening finished with local members of the Club Nite Youth Club coming on board and a fitting “Hog roast” (as well as a veg. alternative) was enjoyed by all.
Monday 16th March the bus travelled into the Haven High Academy to conclude the final lessons about Easter with year 7’s. Little did we know this would be the last time the bus would be out. Before the official lock-down, the Management Group made the decision to suspend the community visits as part of their responsibility and response to the Coronavirus. The closures of schools to the majority of young people (not including children of key-workers who continued to go to school) meant the bus could no longer fulfil the 60 or so appointments that it had booked with local primary and secondary school. To continue the fun, roadHoG provided online thoughts, activities, quizzes and a place to ask for prayer as part our support to young people.
Monday 6th July saw community visits restart. In consultation with the local police and coinciding with the re-opening of pubs and restaurants, roadHoG continued the community visits proving an on-line prayer room and hot chocolate, but not allowing young people on board.
Monday 2nd November saw the second lock-down in England and the project had to close again and on the 2nd of December Boston resumed tier 3 restrictions which meant that the project could not restart. England then went into a third lockdown, which has remained ongoing.
Thank you for your prayers – the project cannot succeed without them. It has been said that the roadHoG Bus is a prototype hybrid vehicle, needing both PRAYER and Diesel to work – take away either and it will fail!! Pray especially as the project faces many challenges ahead owing to the global pandemic.
January 2021 saw the virus second wave and England start of lockdown number 3. The project had to remain closed.
After Covid restrictions were lifted, Monday 19th May, welcomed the return of the our community visits meeting young people outside in 8 different communities. After the final Covid regulations were lifted on the 21st June, we resumed some school visits, where possible taking the bus in but working with children outside or in their class rooms.
We started visits at the Fenside Estate in Boston and Sutton St James in the summer.
We had an incredibly busy first half of the year welcoming a massive 2336 young people before the summer holidays. But during this part of the year, we have started to see our major jobs list grow, the wearing of time and weather and diminish spares availability. The bus needs a new downstairs floor, substantial welding to the chassis and the engine developed a coolant leak through the cylinder head gasket. One of these three jobs were sorted through the summer break. A new business plan was written taking information from 250 school children, 6 partner schools, 9 partner church leaders and 3 partner authorities. The results were conclusive that roadHoG must continue and funding for a new bus must be found. Watch this space……
2023 – history in the making
2023 saw the Management group fund raise for an anticipated £100k to replace our aging bus. By the Grace of our wonderful God this was reached in March 2023, only to find that quotes were coming in at £160k. Our funding gap was bridged at the end of April 2023! During this time the Management Group were taking ideas from data gathered from young people and bus volunteers as visits and quotes were gathered from around the country. With the funding gap closed, the Management Group awarded Blackpool Design Coachbuilders as their chosen coach builder to convert the bus. Also, in April 2023, an ex-London Wrightbus Gemini was purchased and shipped to Blackpool. The bus conversion started at the end of August and by October 2023, the bus had welcomed just over 44,000 young people which has included 3387 young people this year alone. Watch this space for how the launch of our new bus …..