Every year, a statewide cycling event is held in Iowa where participants pedal 400-plus miles across the Hawkeye state—just for the fun of it.
Darren Young is one of those registered riders this year. But when the pastor of Ferguson Bible Church signed up, he didn’t just see an opportunity for a good time. He saw a chance to tell others about Jesus.
“Most folks probably do it because it’s a fun, social thing and they love cycling,” Young said. “I love cycling, and I love the Lord so [I wondered] how can I combine the two to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”
His solution is something he’s calling the Ride of Hope, and as a My Hope volunteer, he is working with local churches to promote the evangelistic films in overnight cities along the course. During this year’s ride, which takes place July 24-30, these churches plan to either show films from the My Hope collection or hand out individual copies to riders as they pass through. For that to make sense, some background on the bicycle ride itself is in order.
The event is called the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, RAGBRAI for short, and it has been going on for more than 40 years. It’s a ride, not a race, so participants can relax as they travel from one side of the state to the next, stopping in various towns along the way. Seven cities are marked as overnight stops, where bicyclists can cool their heels before starting the ride again in the morning. For those unfamiliar, Young said, it’s basically like riding your bike from one state fair to the next. With 10,000 or so of your closest friends.
It’s a lively, social time. The perfect time, Young said, for sharing the hope that Jesus can bring.
“I’m extremely grateful for [the churches’] partnership,” Young said. “I’m grateful for anything that the churches would do. I really wanted to give those churches in those communities, give them the opportunity to get involved in outreach; to encourage people to share their faith when the opportunity presents itself, and they definitely have the opportunity next week.
“We can evangelize together.”
Young has always had a heart for evangelism. The Pennsylvania native spent seasons of his life as a youth pastor, a senior pastor, a wilderness guide and now he’s back to pastoring again. He first participated in RAGBRAI in 2015. It seemed like a natural way to show his 70-member congregation that evangelism doesn’t need to be limited to knocking on doors and handing out tracts. That year, he raised money for missions.
This year, his mission field is his fellow cyclists, the volunteers and other members of the town as they either stop and watch the My Hope videos or simply take their own copy with them.
“We’re just praying that the Lord will prepare hearts in advance,” Young said, “That they might be in a place in their life where they’re open to spiritual things, and they would learn what it means to accept Christ and follow Christ.”
Christ Point Church in Shenandoah, Iowa: This church is offering riders an opportunity to come in, cool off with a cold drink and enjoy one of the My Hope films. Church staff plan to show a different film every hour and a half. There also will be music and testimonies between films. Copies of My Hope films will be available to riders.
Crest Baptist Church in Creston, Iowa: This church will offer a free shower station and also will have copies of Value of a Soul for anybody who wants one.
Leon Bible Church in Leon, Iowa: This church will hand out copies of My Hope films.
Albia Road Baptist Church in Ottumwa, Iowa: This church invites riders to come and enjoy a showing of a My Hope film and popcorn in the evening.