For years, Toby Thorpe and his friends Mike Stanley and Earl McMahon have kicked around the idea of cycling from coast to coast.
“I’m 65, Mike’s 63, and I’m not sure about Earl, but he’s close,” Thorpe said. “We decided if we were going to do it, we better do it before we got much older.”
And they decided if they did it, even though they would have a good time, they didn’t just want it to be a joyride — they wanted to have a purpose.
‘A worthy cause’
So Thorpe put his head together with his pastor — Jonathan Blaylock of North Albemarle Baptist Church in Albemarle, North Carolina — and when they realized the 2,897-mile ride would fall over Easter, they knew the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions would be a perfect fit.
“We decided that the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was a worthy cause and a timely cause,” Thorpe explained, noting Stanley and McMahon also are raising money for causes that are important to them.
Thorpe is encouraging anyone who is interested in sponsoring his ride to consider giving a penny per mile ($28.97), a nickel per mile ($144.85), a dime ($289.70) or a quarter ($724.25) to the offering.
The three men will ride a route called the Southern Tier mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association. It starts in San Diego, one of the North American Mission Board’s Send Cities, and happens to pass through two other Send Cities along the way — Phoenix and New Orleans — before ending in St. Augustine, Florida.
“That was totally coincidental,” Thorpe said. “That makes me feel like the Lord might be confirming that we’re doing the right thing.”
Send Cities are places where NAMB focuses on strategically sending church planters to reach largely unchurched populations. Part of the support comes from gifts to the AAEO.
Thorpe said he hopes to be able to connect with church planters in each city along the way and learn about what God is doing there, and Blaylock is praying for that as well.
Blaylock said Thorpe — a deacon at North Albemarle Baptist since the late 1990s — has been “an incredible encouragement” to him and he is praying for God to open opportunities for Thorpe to encourage other pastors and planters in the same way.
“I’m looking forward to following along on Facebook,” Blaylock said, noting the church hoped to have a couple of Wednesday night video calls with Thorpe while he was gone.
Thorpe said the church has been very encouraging and rallied behind him.
He, Stanley, McMahon and a fourth team member — Keith Holloway — headed toward San Diego in a rented RV on March 5. They plan to start the bike ride March 11 or 12, depending on weather and other factors, taking about seven weeks. Holloway will travel along in the RV, meeting them at points during the day for snack breaks. The roads the route uses are mostly small country roads with little traffic.
Thorpe said he and his friends are avid cyclists, but this is by far the longest ride he’s ever done. Since he took up cycling more than a decade ago, he’s taken a couple of weeklong trips — one from end to end on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and one on the state’s annual Mountains to Coast Ride.
This trip will be the longest he’s ever been away from his wife, Kathy, in their 42 years of marriage. He requested prayer for safety and endurance for him and his companions.
He also requested prayer for the AAEO to help spread the gospel all over North America.
“I’d encourage folks who want to know more about what their donation to Annie Armstrong goes for to follow the Facebook page,” Thorpe said. “We just hope we can make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”