TEXARKANA – More than 35 cyclists. Grueling hills. Daily rides often longer than 70 miles a piece. An adventure in faith from Beaumont to Texarkana.
It’s Bike Out Hunger. And at its heart, participants said, it’s not about any of this. It’s about people coming together across the state to do something to help others in the name of Christ.
“It’s a great way for folks to come together that have a passion for cycling and a passion for reaching out for people, to put those two things together to eradicate hunger in Texas and in the United States and all over the world,” said Matt Robb, minister of instrumental music at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler.
Working together, the amateur cyclists from across the state rode across East Texas in an effort to raise funds for the hungry through the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger and raise awareness of the hunger needs in Texas. Gifts continue coming in strong as a result of Bike Out Hunger, but more than 300 sponsors already have given more than $20,000. A portion of the funds raised by riders from The Heights Baptist Church in Richardson also supported the congregation’s Uganda water project.
“People are worth it,” Charity Stephens of Waco said of the effort needed to ride. “People are worth my time. They’re what motivate me. I think the need is so great. It’s the least I can do.”
Along their roughly 400-mile, six-day trek, the riders – mothers, ministers, professionals and students – visited with those they encountered, sharing information about the ride and the gospel when they had the opportunity.
A Dairy Queen employee hugged one of the riders when she found out why he was riding. She had received some food assistance in the past and was grateful that the cyclists were trying to help others. A Hindu gas station employee engaged in a discussion about the hope of Christ. A Christian gas station employee shared his struggles and desire to feed 25 local hungry children.
At a gathering at Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Emily Prevost, director of community ministries at First Baptist Church Marshall, shared she recently encountered a young boy who was sent to her after hitting someone during the church’s Wednesday night activities. For a snack, the church provided each student with half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As Prevost visited with the boy, she discovered that would be all the food he would have that night. He was trying to get another sandwich to eat and acted out.
“Everyone we come into contact with, we are ambassadors – not just for the ride, but for the cause of Christ,” Robb shared with the cyclists one morning of the ride. “Today, I pray we have spiritual eyes – that we won’t care about our speed or who gets finished first. Care about the people you meet and sharing about the ride and what Jesus is doing.”
Michele Dixon, one of the riders from The Heights Baptist Church in Richardson, knows first-hand what it means when someone takes being Christ’s ambassador seriously. Her mother died when she was young, and she went to live with her brother, who struggled with addiction issues. She vividly remembers being hungry but finding only water and ramen noodles in her kitchen. She was embarrassed of her situation and became shy in school. Eventually a drill team coach discovered her need for food and his church provided food for Dixon’s family.
Years later, she’s in a position to help others like that coach once helped her. She encourages people to look for the hunger needs around them.
“It really touches my heart because I know what it feels like when you’re starving and there is no where to get the food,” she said.
The cycling journey taught the riders about themselves, the fight against hunger and the God they follow, several participants said. The hills of East Texas proved to be an obstacle that required the cyclists to work together, encouraging each other, drafting off each other and occasionally giving another rider a helpful push. When a rider got one of the more than 20 flat tires that group suffered, several other riders stopped to help a person change it and help everyone pull back together as a group.
In a similar manner, Sammy Elliot, pastor of First Baptist Church in Levelland, said God is calling Christians to work together to help the hungry. Each person is to play the role God is asking him or her to play. Together, the body of Christ to share the hope of Christ in action and words.
“Not one of us on our own can stomp out hunger,” he said. “It’s clear in Scripture that Christ has a heart for the poor, hungry and disenfranchised. If we are Christ followers we should have the same heart. We should be proactive in helping those less fortunate and hungry.”
To sponsor a cyclist or see more reports and photos from the ride, visit www.bikeouthunger.org.