Stranded motorists found refuge in a Methodist Church hall in South Anston as a result of extreme snow and dangerous driving conditions.
With the onslaught of the adverse weather last week, the A57 was blocked with jack-knifed lorries and stranded cars, leading to a 2-day police and mountain rescue operation to clear the road.
Within hours of being alerted to the need, the South Anston Methodist congregation had rallied volunteers and were providing free hot meals and hot drinks, setting up camp beds and donating duvets and sleeping bags.
The whole village, near Sheffield, quickly became very involved. About 100 motorists benefitted from the warm reception and roughly 40 stayed overnight on makeshift beds until they could return to their vehicles.
It all started when one of the lorry drivers found Rev Colin Barrick’s phone number outside the church: 'I received a phone call from an Iranian lorry driver early Wednesday morning and he said that the situation had really deteriorated.
'We were both worried about the possibility of loss of life. Once we had established which village he was in, I started ringing near-by members, as I was stuck in another village at the time.'
'At first we envisaged that it would just be some teas and coffees to keep people warm but soon loads of people were involved and it was an astonishing community effort.'
Church member, Val Hinchliffe, said: 'When I got a call from Colin, I was straight on the phone to other members in our church to see who could get down there and open up the church, while we dug ourselves out of our home. One lady dragged her shopping trolley full of bread and milk for 4 miles from Tesco to the hall.”
The Methodist Church hall became the relief centre and the hub of the whole village and the search and rescue teams and police conducted their operations from the upper room of the same building.
The local school had everything ready to cook the Christmas dinner, but because it was closed the cooks went ahead and cooked the dinner and served it to the drivers instead. The Cricket club opened up their pavilion so that drivers could shower and Rotherham social services provided blankets and temporary beds.
Colin Barrick told of how that Church hall had been refurbished last year: 'We didn’t think we would get the money for it, but it all came in. As a result the church members made a commitment to God that the facilities would be available to anyone who needed help and there to serve the community, whatever God sent their way. Well, they proved they were ready and I am so proud of them.'
'It was an extraordinary situation and everyone, old and young, was just getting on with whatever needed to be done. Lives were probably saved as a result of the spirit of co-operation. “
The Iranian lorry driver was so impressed with the kindness he received he contacted Colin Barrick again and expressed a wish to return that Sunday to join the service.
Joanne Cox, Evangelism in Contemporary Culture Officer for the Methodist Church and a leader on the Hope Together leadership team, said: 'This community demonstrated care and kindness to those in immediate need.
'This response could not be planned in advance as part of a project but their quick action made a real difference. Showing God’s love to our communities through our words and our actions is exactly the sort of practical Christian discipleship the Methodist Church is encouraging, long term, through the Hope Together initiative, which has a local focus and a vision to bring hope to each village, town and city.'