Atlantic rower speaks live to HTB congregation

    Monday, 16 January 2012: 8.59am

    Atlantic rower Julia Immonen spoke live from her boat in mid-Atlantic to the HTB congregation at the 6.30pm service at Onslow Square last night.

    The HTB member is one of the 'Row for Freedom' all-female crew of five rowing 3000 miles across the Atlantic from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Barbados as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Race.

    Speaking from the tiny cabin at one end of the boat, she said, 'I'm in this 30 degree heat cabin which you probably can't relate to in the winter in London.

    'I've just come off a two-hour shift. We've got about 350 miles to go. We've had incredible winds more or less the whole way. Some parts of it have been really tough. We are now surfing 20-30ft waves.

    'I can't tell you how much I have missed you all.'

    To laughter, Nicky Gumbel asked her why she and the team were doing it. 'It sounds terrible. Why are you doing this?'

    She replied, 'Row for Freedom is about using sport to raise awareness of this whole injustice of human trafficking. It is something that God has put it on my heart to do.

    'There are 27 million people in slavery and what we are going through is nothing to what these victims of human trafficking have to endure.'

    She continued, 'We have been rowing two hours on, two hours off, the whole way.

    'We are due to arrive next Saturday, God willing. We have been working really hard and I can hardly believe we are now in the home straight, but it is really for real.

    'Thank you for all your prayers at HTB which have been overwhelming. They are really what have kept me going.'

    Nicky and Pippa Gumbel were joined on the stage by Julia's sister Joy. Pippa prayed for Julia and the team before the congregation gave a huge cheer to encourage the team on their way.