In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, when our world was confined to masks and social distancing, two men were craving an opportunity to do something meaningful with their time.
Anthony Kent, associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC), and Torben Bergland, associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the GC, pondered what they could do.
“I called Torben,” Kent said, “and we wondered what we could do for our physical and mental health while sharing our faith. Thus, the ‘I Will Go Ride’ was born.”
On Sunday, May 22, Kent, Bergland, and the rest of the ‘I Will Go Ride’ team set out on a journey of more than 1,200 miles (2,000 km). They will ride from Washington, D.C. to St. Louis, Missouri, and share Jesus with those they meet along the way. They plan to arrive at the GC Session in St. Louis at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 5, where they will be greeted by church leaders. They will continue their journey by riding to the CALLED Convention in Lexington, Kentucky, after the GC Session.
The other six cyclists participating in the ride are Glenn Townend, president of the South Pacific Division; To Phuong Pham Nguyen; Rob Hansford; Brett Townend; Michael Worker; and Russ Willcocks. Though this long adventure will be the first time several members of the team have cycled an extensive distance, this ride is not the first time cycling and faith have merged.
More than a century ago, pioneer literature evangelist Philip Reekie emigrated from Scotland to Australia. Widowed and divorced, Reekie longed for hope and searched for a new life. One day, he was given a book that allowed him to discover wonderful Bible truths that changed his life and compelled him to share his new faith with others.
Reekie left his work as an engraver and jumped on a bicycle. He rode thousands of miles around Australia seeking to “engrave the love of God and His word on people’s hearts,” Kent said. Reekie’s commitment to evangelism allowed him to make disciples of thousands, including Kent’s great-great-grandfather, Thomas Kent.
Thomas Kent, broken after his wife’s passing and left with 11 children, struggled to determine how he would fulfill his wife’s final wish. She requested that their family be reunited in heaven when Jesus would return. One day, as Thomas plowed his field, his work was interrupted by Reekie, who provided him with a copy of The Great Controversy, by Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White. It was then that Thomas obtained the hope he desperately longed for, leading him to share his discoveries with his children and neighbors. This act resulted in the formation of an Adventist church. Since then, many individuals have given their lives to Jesus in that region. Altogether, more than 20,000 people have discovered the life-saving love of Christ in Australia because of one man on a bicycle.
The dedication that led Reekie and Thomas Kent to share the gospel in the 1890s has inspired Bergland and Anthony Kent to do the same today.
Although many of the team’s riders, like Bergland, have been cycling for more than 30 years, the ‘I Will Go Ride’ is not an easy journey.
“Each day, we will be riding for about 100 miles [160 kilometers], and we’ll be carrying literature in our uniforms. We’ll be stopping only to eat, pray, and give literature to others. We’ll also be resting on the [Saturday] Sabbath,” Bergland said.
After months of preparation, prayer, and extensive physical training, several riders will be taking a year’s leave of absence from their work to participate in the ride. This initiative is sponsored and supported by several organizations worldwide, such as Adventist Mission and the South Pacific Division. Nonetheless, riders are paying for their own lodging, food, and jerseys.
Kent said, “Our hope through the ‘I Will Go Ride’ is to see Adventists motivated and excited about evangelism. We want people to ask themselves, ‘What can I do?’ Look to your area. Where can you go? What do you have in your hand that can help you share the lovely message of Jesus and prepare the world for His second coming?” Bergland added, “Our greatest desire is to lead as many people as possible to Jesus and help them prepare for His return.”