Church team pedalling a way to Brazil

August 20, 2007|By JANET HEIM

BOONSBORO - Pastor Rob Welty and parishioner Ernie Best anticipated flat tires and other mechanical problems along the way, but said it's all part of the experience.

Instead, though they were able to dodge the rain, mud was a big factor.

They are two of the dozen cyclists from Boonsboro Bible Church who participated in the church's Brazil Missions Bikeathon fundraiser.

Early on Thursday, Aug. 9, with their bikes and gear loaded onto pickup trucks, the group left the church parking lot, headed to the start of the C&O Canal in Cumberland, Md.

They rode the 184 1/2 miles from Cumberland to Georgetown, Md., in three days - Cumberland to Hancock, Hancock to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., then Harpers Ferry to Georgetown. They averaged about 60 miles each day, reaching the end Saturday afternoon.

Each cyclist made arrangements for overnight accommodations, whether it was at the bunkhouse in Hancock or a hotel room in Harpers Ferry.


Ernie Best, 58, an avid cyclist who has been riding for about 10 years, came up with the fundraising idea about two months ago. He had ridden many miles on the canal over the years, but never the entire trail from start to finish. Neither had Welty.

Welty is nursing some bruised ribs and another rider was injured when he wiped out recently, but both still rode. Best doesn't let having a pacemaker slow him down.

The 12 cyclists - some who rode the entire way, others just riding a portion of the route - raised money by asking for pledges, either by the mile or a stated amount.

Next year, 12 church members anticipate going to Brazil on the church's annual mission trip, at a cost of $2,500 per person. Welty said the goal is to raise all the money through the church.

The idea took shape about two months ago. To prepare for the long ride, the cyclists began meeting on Saturdays at 7 a.m. for training rides. First it was 30 miles, then the rides increased in distance to 50 or 60 miles.

"For the most part, everyone is in pretty good shape," Best said.

Not only was the ride to raise money, but the group saw it as a witnessing tool, as they would speak about their faith with others on the canal. It also was a way for the church cyclists to stay fit and build even stronger bonds among themselves.

Welty himself has lost 130 pounds since March. When his last visit to the doctor showed signs that poor eating and exercise habits were catching up with him, the 41-year-old former Navy man decided to take action.

Through portion control, better food choices and an intense exercise program, the weight has dropped quickly. Welty is pleased that he is inspiring other parishioners, who ask if they can join him when he goes for a run or out cycling.

"I'd get behind the pulpit and talk about moderation in everything. I wasn't practicing what I was preaching," Welty said.

Welty said that now instead of food-related fundraisers, the church is trying to come up with things that encourage activity instead of eating. He did admit that there was a spaghetti dinner as a sendoff for the cyclists, who would be burning a lot of carbohydrates.

A new ministry will begin in the fall called "Lose it for Life," which will encourage changes in lifestyle.

"As a church, we help meet the spiritual needs and needs we have right now - to be healthy," Welty said.

Now that the ride is complete, Welty estimated that enough was raised to cover the entire mission expense for one person, but added that money is still coming in.

Welty said he'd like to offer shorter rides for those who are interested, as well as hikes on the Appalachian Trail. The cyclists are also exploring how to become a "spoke" in the International Christian Cycling Club.

For more information on Boonsboro Bible Church, call 301-432-6154 or visit their Web site at

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