Toby Thorpe had bicycled in the mountains many times before. But when he headed out from San Diego on the first day of a cross-country bike trip, he realized something: The mountains of California are different from the mountains of North Carolina.
“Back home you’ve got transitions in landscape that slowly build toward the mountains,” he noted. “But in California we came out of San Diego and there was no transition. We immediately hit mountains. They’re rocky, they’re more rugged than we are used to, and I was honestly laying in bed that night wondering what I’d gotten myself into.”
Pedaling with purpose
That memory stuck with him. Thorpe, 65, and two friends, Mike Stanley and Earl McMahon, planned the trip with the intention of raising money for causes dear to their hearts. Thorpe picked the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
And as he rode he thought about the church planters that the offering supports — those in largely unreached cities who might find the ground rocky or have days when they wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into.
Along the way Thorpe met some of them and recorded their stories to share with his church, North Albemarle Baptist in Albemarle, North Carolina. He posted them on his Facebook page, Pedaling for Annie.
“We tried to make people who were watching the video aware of the specific challenges these pastors are meeting,” Thorpe explained.
The first was Jeremy Aylett, teaching pastor at Mesa Church in San Diego. Next was Alex Dennis, who planted Asante Church in Surprise, Arizona a suburb of Phoenix. And the third was Bobby Williams, who planted Next Level in Christ Church in New Orleans.
All three are Send Cities, places where the North American Mission Board focuses on strategically sending church planters to reach largely unchurched populations. Part of the planters’ support comes from gifts to AAEO.
Thorpe said he was challenged by their stories.
“Bobby Williams’ unique challenge, for instance, is that he’s trying to plant a church in a party town,” Thorpe related. “Not only that, Hurricane Katrina hit right after they planted, and then they faced COVID, too.”
A long journey
Thorpe’s 2,897-mile route — called the Southern Tier and mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association — started in San Diego and ended six weeks later in St. Augustine, Florida on April 25. Another friend, Keith Holloway, accompanied them, driving their rented RV from destination to destination.
Before he left North Carolina, Thorpe encouraged anyone who was interested in sponsoring his ride to consider giving a penny, a nickel, a dime or a quarter per mile to the AAEO.
So far he’s raised more than $12,000.
“It’s not about me — this is about God and what He’s doing through church planters,” Thorpe declared. “We had a great trip, but it wasn’t about us.”