by Roger Kaufmann
At 08:00 am on December 9, 1984 a small group of committed Christians set out from the Gymea Baptist Church in Sydney to ride their bicycles to Melbourne. Included in the group.was Bob Forrest, a 50 something christian who had been seriously bitten by the bicycle bug and had become a bicycle nut. He had a deep love of Christ and saw his health and love of cycling as a gift from God and looked around to see if there was some way that he could use this gift to further God’s work. He struck on the idea of undertaking marathon bicycle rides seeking sponsorship and so to raise money to promote God’s word.
Bob approached the Bible Society with his idea and so Bike for Bibles was born.
Bob, together with his son David and Wayne McCamley, successfully completed that ride and raised $3,000.00 for the Bible Society. At the start of this ride Bob, David and Wayne were supported by a blind cyclist, John Ansell and John Holland – who acts as “captain” for blind John on his tandem.
On December 6 2008, a Bike for Bibles team that includes Edna and I will set out to reneact that first ride between Sydney and Melbourne. I will be riding, at least part of the way as captain for John Ansell who is now in his mid 60’s.
In 1996 at the sprightly age of 48 I completed my university degree at the University of Canberra. I had spent seven years studying and as a result my health had suffered. I was even more portly than I am currently and was concerned that I was at risk from all those things that treaten middle aged fat men. The old Malven Star came down off the shed wall and I started pushing my way to and from work in Dickson. It wasn’t too long before my general fitness and well being started to improve and it was about then that I too was seriously bitten by the bicycling bug.
Some may recall the Ellery family who then used to worship with us here at Kippax. June, Graham and family were, at that time, involved in the Bike for Bibles movement and it did not take much persuasion to see me, of a Saturday morning, riding with June and Graham starting what has become a routine of long training bike rides in preparation for an annual Bike for Bibles marathon.
In 1996 I first joined the Bike for Bibles family with a bike ride from Glen Innes in the north of NSW to Sutherland Uniting Church in Sydney – about 1000 km. It was here that I became bitten by a serious secondary bug related to cycling.
Each Bike for Bibles ride has a core of committed Christians who are involved with the planning and the administration of the ride and there are also many other riders who may not be as committed but are attracted to the rides through their love of cycling and the opportunity to be a part of an organised and well supported long distance ride. The ages of those involved range from early teens to late 60’s.
The opportunity for quiet witness as part of a Bike for Bibles ride is extraordinary. I soon found that there was huge need for Christian witness amongst participants of the ride. Men of my own age who started their involvement as merely cyclists and who after their ride experience have found Christ and become Christians.
An additional opportunity for witness is in the many communities through which we pass during a ride. These range from tiny country towns and hamlets to cities. There is also opportunity to witness to the many thousands of road users that we encounter along the way.
The experience is very much a two way street and I have found great joy from being part of the Bike for Bibles family. Friendship, fellowship and support that is given to Bike for Bibles rides by townsfolk and church communities visited along the way has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Around the year 2000 I no longer had to train alone. Edna got her first “serious” road bike and joined me in training and her first ride with Bike for Bibles was the 2000 km ride from Brisbane through Canberra and up the south coast to Sydney. We shared a very memorable 30th wedding annivesary in Dubbo on a rest day with the Bike for Bibles team. Edna and I have ridden together ever since that time.
At a personal level what does Bike for Bibles offer us?
membership of a wider group of Christians who come from many different traditions and who have many different points of view;
the opportunity to witness for Christ
the opportunity to interract with young people and to act as a mentor particularly when the stresses of achs, pains and extreme tiredness rear their heads;
the opportunity to, in our own small way be part of the wider christian mission effort
an opportunity to enjoy our chosen sport with a group of like-minded people and in a Christian environment
the opportunity to join with other members of our Kippax family in this mission adventure. In particular we have been joined by Ashley Hillsley and Eric Mobbs as “roadies” or members of our road support crew and also by Trev Lawrence who has joined us on his bike.
Since 1984 Bike for Bibles has raised over $8 million for Bible Society projects worldwide. This has enabled many thousands around the world to learn to read using God’s word.
Edna and I are still in training and we are to embark upon another 1000 km ride commencing on Saturday 27 September. This time we are riding a loop that starts and finishes in Goulburn and takes in Orange, Grenfell and West Wyalong.
We brought along one of our new road bikes to show you. These are called “recumbent” bicycles and as you can see are quite different to the conventional “diamond” framed bicycle. In some ways these are easier to ride in that they are not as hard on the body. Not as much weight has to be carried on our hands and arms (which is great for arthritis sufferers) and the place where “bod meets bike” is a much broader patch reducing saddle soreness. They are also much easier to ride into a head wind. The down side is that they are a little more difficult to ride smoothly and it is not possible to get up out of the saddle to assist in climbing very steep hills.
This year our project is to raise money to enable the Bible Society to support the Wontulp-Bi-Buya Bible College which is situated in North Cairns in Queensland. This Bible College has almost 100 students drawn from all over Queensland and its surrounding islands. The college is aimed at training aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders and equipping them to go back in to rural communities to lead and teach. The target for our ride this year is to raise $100,000.00 which is a similar figure to that which the group managed to raise in 2007.
I have some difficulty in viewing what we do as a “passion” but it is a very significant part of our lives that demands significnt commitment of time, effort and endurance in terms of physical discomfort.
If there is something that I have said that strikes a chord for you never be afraid to come and have a talk to either of Edna or I. We would be most willing to help in any way we can through advice, coaching or encouragement. There are many opportunities to get on your bike with a purpose. Age is not a barrier. We have riders from the age of 13 right up to 70. The last time Bob Forrest rode with us he was over 70 and some of the younger ones had some difficulty in keeping up with him.
I would like to share with you what I would like to call a Christian cyclist’s reflection:
CYCLING WITH GOD
At first, I saw God as my Observer, my Judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, deciding whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.
But later, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride on a tandem and God was on the back, helping me to pedal. I don’t know when it was he suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since..
When I had control, I knew the way It was rather boring and predictable. I took the shortest route to travel between two points. But when God took the front seat, He knew delightful paths: Up mountains, through green gullies, through rocky places and all at break neck speeds. All I could do was to hang on. Even though it looked ‘like madness, He said, “Pedal”
“Where are you taking me?” He smiled and didn’t answer I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into an adventure. When I said “I’m scared! “, He’d lean back and touch my hand. He took me to people who had gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, OUR journey.
And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away, they are extra baggage too much weight. So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving, I received and still our burden was light.
I didn’t trust Him at first, in control of my life. I thought He would wreck it. But He knows bike secrets. He knows how to balance, take sharp corners, how to avoid sharp rocks. And I’m learning to shut up and to pedal to the strangest places and I’m learning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face. and when I’m sure I can’t do any more, I can feel His smile and hear Him say: “Pedal!”
We have three major rides planned in the future.
The first is the 25th anniversary Sydney Melbourne ride in December.
The second is a ride from Cairns in Queensland to Melbourne that will take place in April of 2009.
The last planned is a Ride from Perth to Sydney that is planned for September, October 2009.
There are three bible verses that we as Christian cyclists keep in mind. The first is for when we are out on a ride and are visible to the rest of the world including the knockers. It is from Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
The second is when we start to think that it is all too hard and that we would like to give up the training and the long kilometres. It is from Corinthians 6:19:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
And the last is the one we think of at the end of a tough challenge. It comes from 2 Timothy 4:7:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.