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Once tires had been pumped with air, gears had been checked, water bottles filled with cold Gatorade and helmets secured, 25 Bike Out Hunger riders gathered at 7:30 a.m. under a tree at Buckner Child and Family Services in Beaumont to hear a word of truth and prayer from a fellow rider.

The riders came from across Texas to be joined in their passion for cycling but also in their even deeper love for the Lord and the things of His heart.

“Jesus has made it clear in the gospel that he has a special place in his heart for the poor,” said Gary Singleton, pastor of the Heights Baptist Church in Richardson, as he opened the Bike Out Hunger ride with a morning devotional.

“Jesus here isn’t talking about the unrighteous poor – those who refuse to work or gamble all their money away or drink it away. He was talking about those who work, who try to make a living. Those for who it is hard to make a living, for those it’s hard to get by. My heart goes out to those who struggle, for those who need a helping hand.”

Singleton challenged his fellow riders to remember what Bike Out Hunger is all about – seeing the hungry in our state and being moved to do something about their situation, not out of shear justice, but out of compassion from the Father flowing out of them.

“Our desire is the desire of God,” Singleton said. “That is to see the people in Texas who have much to help those who have less so that those who have less have enough and those who have much won’t have too much. And that’s exactly what we are riding for – to say our heart is joined by with the heart of God. So when we go out and ride today, I think we are going out to join our hearts with God. “

As the riders prayed, dedicating the ride to the Lord and to those who are “in need and lacking,” some were excited to be participating in Bike Out Hunger for a second year while others were slightly nervous, never having completed a 70-plus mile ride in a day.

The cyclists rode in four pods according to riding speed, but all made it to Beaumont in some form or fashion. By the end of the day, the team had pedaled 79 miles from Beaumont to Woodville with a slight, unplanned detour in between.

Though the weather was quite hot and humid today and a few cyclists dealt with popped tire tubes, the team pushed on, knowing that their struggle up and down Southeast Texas hills was just a reminder of what hungry families endure.

In the counties that the team rode through, most have about a 20 percent food insecurity level, give or take a little. Jefferson County, where Beaumont sits, has about 53,100 people who are food insecure. Hardin County has 9,240 people who are food insecurity, and Tyler County has 4,390 individuals who don’t know where they will find their next meal.

Throughout the day as the cyclists pedaled through small towns, they and the support team of sag wagons and water trucks were stopped by curious individuals wanting to know about Bike Out Hunger, leaving a great opportunity to share about the hungry in Texas and why the team is riding. Some shared generous donations to help the Bike Out Hunger cause, the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, while others offered a word or cheer and encouragement.

The first pod of cyclists arrived at the hotel at 12:30 p.m. and the other three groups continued to arrive in Woodville until about 4 p.m. The riders had some time to rest at the hotel before going to a dinner provied by First Baptist Church of Woodville.

The group plans to start ride preparations for Tuesday again at 6:45 a.m. and hit the road by 7:30. Tuesday’s ride will take the team through Lufkin and on into Nacogdoches.

Track the ride at www.Twitter.com/TexasBaptists and use hashtag #bikeouthunger to view the conversation going on about the ride.