HE became a member of the church to help people.
Now trainee priest Ben Bradshaw is hoping others will take a leap of faith in him as he launches a fundraising challenge.
The 24-year-old is on a mission to raise £5,000 by next January.
Ben, who is training to be ordained at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, hopes to use the money to help refugees in Zimbabwe get their own church built.
The Mirfield man was moved to help the thousands of people living in limbo after he spent a month travelling around the southern African country.
Ben and a group visited as part of their training with his tutor, Father Nicolas Stebbing, who was born in the country.
Ben said: “It was part of our training to go there and experience what church life is like out there.
“I was with a parish priest and experienced how the people there live a very different life as I moved around the country.
“I really enjoyed it. Everything is so different to anything I’ve seen in this country, from the church services to the culture.
“I spent some time in the capital city, Harare. There were very regular power cuts and you had to get water from a borehole because there was no running water.
“Faith is very important to people there. Around 90% are Christian and on Sunday mornings the streets are empty as they are all in church.
“Hundreds of people pack into the services and they are all singing and dancing. It’s amazing to see.”
One of the most moving experiences for Ben was visiting a leper colony around 40 miles out of the city.
The site also housed elderly and disabled people and Ben was moved to see the smiles on their faces and the fantastic job staff were doing.
A visit to a refugee camp in Tongogara proved the inspiration behind Ben’s mammoth fundraising task.
He said: “I was taken there by another parish priest. It was miles down a dirt track in the middle of nowhere and there were around 5,000 refugees living in the camp in very basic huts they have built themselves.
“They had come from places like Congo, Sudan and Rwanda and seen terrible things like murder and violence but have found themselves stuck because the Zimbabwean government won’t allow them to become citizens. They are living in isolation and have nothing, but they were so joyful and welcoming and it was very humbling to meet them.”
The refugees’ faith plays an important part in helping them through such difficult times but a tiny basic church they have is crumbling and not big enough to house the many people who gather there to pray.
Ben and his church back home have now launched an appeal to raise the £5,000 needed to build a basic brick church for the people.
He said: “The current building is made of sheet metal and crumbling down and half the people have to stand outside because there is not enough room for them to worship together.
“We hope to build a basic structure, which won’t really cost that much but will mean everything to them and is all they’ve asked for.
“They have seen some horrifying things. Some of their families have been murdered and it’s their faith that keeps them going.’’
He added: “I wanted to become a priest because I had a calling and wanted to help people with their faith.
“This church would mean so much to these people and, hopefully, we can help them with that.”
Ben – who urged people to say a prayer for the refugees today – is running the fundraising appeal with Father Nicolas and they have already raised around £1,000 with the help of family and church members.
They hope to raise the rest of the cash by the time Father Nicolas next visits in January.
To make a donation send a cheque made payable to Community of the Resurrection Zimbabwe Fund to: Ben Bradshaw, College of the Resurrection, Stocks Bank Road, Mirfield, WF14 0BW.