As CBFNC is gearing up for Welcome Ride 2021–Capital to Coast–Larry Hovis, executive coordinator, shares a recap of last year’s ride and what the Welcome House ministry is all about.
(This article originally appeared in the January-February 2021 issue of Nurturing Faith Journal.)
Like many kids, I rode a bicycle around my neighborhood as a child. But when receiving my drivers’ license, I traded the bike for a car. Nearing age 50, a foot injury curtailed my walking for exercise, so I decided to try cycling again.
Fortunately, a friend who was an avid road cyclist provided encouragement and support. On my 50th birthday, my wife gave me my first road bike and I haven’t looked back.
As a way of combining this hobby/exercise with my work, I decided to do a multi-day ride across North Carolina —“from the mountains to the capital” — to raise awareness and funds for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s “Welcome House Community Network.”
Based on Matt. 25:35 (“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”), this network is led by CBF field personnel Marc and Kim Wyatt. It is loosely modeled after “Matthew House,” a similar ministry the Wyatts helped found in Canada in partnership with Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. Welcome House works with churches and partner ministries to provide transitional housing for refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers and other vulnerable people.
I was joined on the Oct. 9-12, 2020 ride by Dr. Steve Bissette, my regular riding partner, friend and physician. My wife Kim stayed close by with a support vehicle. We tried to plan every detail, including stops along the way at partner churches. The one thing we couldn’t control
was the weather. Hurricane Delta brought torrential rains to North Carolina that weekend.
Here is a recap of the ride:
Day 1 – Blue Ridge Parkway to First Baptist Church, Elkin
This was to have been our longest day, 68 miles. Unfortunately, we suffered a mechanical issue we couldn’t repair on the road and had to be driven an hour away for the repair. We returned to the Parkway having only skipped eight miles and arrived at Elkin about 90 minutes later than we planned. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day. We would not say that again.
Day 2 – Elkin to College Park Baptist Church, Winston-Salem
This was a shorter day, only 45 miles. But Delta’s rains started soon after our departure and we rode in heavy rain the remainder of the day. We arrived safely, drenched and feeling good about our accomplishment.
Day 3 – First Baptist Church, Jamestown to Hope Valley Baptist Church, Durham
It was a miserable day, chilly and rainy from the start. Hypothermia caused us to abandon the middle portion of the route. We rode the last leg from Chapel Hill to Durham where we were greeted by enthusiastic supporters, but our daily mileage total was only about half of what we had planned.
Day 4 – Durham to Crabtree Valley Baptist Church, Raleigh
The final leg was supposed to be easy: 45 miles on greenways with the addition of a third rider, pastor Chris Aho, formerly of Oxford Baptist Church. Unfortunately, the greenways were not all paved and the surfaces were wet. While riding on a boardwalk over a marsh, my rear tire slid out from under me and I went down hard on my left hip. Steve checked me out, and there appeared to be no broken bones (which was confirmed by X-ray later). But I had a severe hematoma (deep bruise) and, in spite of my efforts to continue riding, was unable to finish the day.
It was anticlimactic but encouraging to limp over the finish line on foot to the cheers of Welcome Home Community Network supporters at Crabtree Valley Baptist.
In spite of the challenges, we accomplished our goal of raising awareness and funds for the “Welcome Home” ministry. Reflecting on the difficulties of the ride, I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in Syria, displaced by war, or in Honduras, living in fear of crime and violence by drug cartels.
I tried to imagine what it must be like to make the difficult, arduous journey to the U.S. in search of safety and shelter for my family, hoping to secure employment and a better way of life for my children.
Assuming I actually could make it to America, like so many immigrants before me, what would it mean to have Christians welcome me with open arms and provide material, emotional, social and spiritual support to my family in the name of Jesus?
Were I a Christian, it would strengthen my faith. If not a Christian, I might be compelled to consider becoming a disciple of Jesus. Such a process might result in me becoming a citizen of two kingdoms, the new land I now called home, and the kingdom of God where I would dwell forever.
The discomfort endured for four days during the Welcome Ride was nothing compared to the suffering that refugees and immigrants endure every day of their lives. And if my brief time of suffering, while doing an activity I love, might help Christians offer the welcome of Jesus to folks who desperately need it, well, it’s a small price to