FORT ERIE, Ont. (INS)—For many Canadians, bicycles are for recreation and exercise, while cars are their main means of transportation. Overseas, it’s a different story. Cars are beyond the financial reach of most people. In many developing countries travel is primarily on foot. Public transportation is infrequent, expensive, or nonexistent. So the bicycle becomes a vital form of transportation.
Bicycles are vital for indigenous missionaries. With a bicycle, a missionary can cover more ground with less fatigue. He or she spends less time in transit and more time doing what he or she has been called to do: preaching the Gospel, teaching new believers, and ministering to churches in remote areas. He can visit more places in the same amount of time. He has a way to transport his clothing, books and equipment.
In fact for him, a bicycle may be preferable to any other means of travel. He can manoeuvre it down a narrow dirt path. He can carry it across bamboo or rope bridges—impossible with a motorcycle! He can hoist it onto his shoulder and ford a river, where a car would be useless—or even haul it in a boat. A bicycle can even serve as the family vehicle, when family members climb on to get to the next meeting.
Here is one example of how bicycles have made a big difference to a Kenya-based indigenous mission partnered with Intercede International: before, Cornerstone Evangelistic Ministries missionaries travelled on foot. Today some of them are using bicycles provided through Intercede. They can cover a much greater area because of them. One CEM missionary in northern Kenya was given a bicycle by Intercede several years ago. By the next year, when an Intercede representative visited him, he had planted 15 churches. What a difference one bicycle can make!
Reaching Remote Places
Intercede partner mission Kenya Evangelism Team also appreciates how bicycles accelerate its ministry work. “Having received a call to witness and proclaim the Word of God, each KET missionary trusts the Lord to meet his or her needs for safety, food, shelter and transportation,” reports KET. “Lacking vehicles, they use expensive, slow and exhausting rides on trucks or buses—if they have the fare. Some workers walk 16 to 24 km a day in relentless heat. Bicycles or motorbikes enable missionaries to reach places they otherwise could not go…. Thank you very much for you have indeed provided bicycles to many of them.”
“On behalf of all KET members, we highly appreciate all the support you have given us to make us reach this far,” wrote KET leader Sylvester Okang’o to Intercede last year. “You are of great encouragement to our ministry and through you we have achieved a lot: The Gospel has reached far into both interior remote and urban places and many souls have been won to Christ because you sent a missionary there. Churches have been built, you have bought motorcycles, bicycles for transport to our missionaries, you have built homes to the displaced, you have sent relief aid to the needy, supported the needy children especially those in high schools and colleges: many, many other things you have done so we cannot mention them all—but we humbly say to you and all our donors, thank you very much and may the Lord our God, Maker of heaven and earth bless you all.”
KET requests prayer for more bicycles for its missionaries.
In Colombia, missionaries with Intercede partner mission Vineyard of Colombia spend several months a year traveling from village to village holding crusades. At each location where a number of villagers have accepted Christ, a worker stays on to continue visitation and hold Bible studies. Sometimes he must travel long distances to cover the territory under his care. But gradually he adds to his flock until their numbers are sufficient to plant a church. Bicycles are helpful for making these journeys.
When Vineyard of Colombia holds its annual convention and other conferences, some of the missionaries and church members travel for three days each way to attend the three-day gathering. Some of them come along steep paths from the border with Venezuela and the edge of the Amazon jungle. They come by foot, motorcycle, bicycle, boat, and horseback to be blessed and have fellowship with one another. They must travel through regions infested with communist guerrillas, drug lords and bandits, where rivers overflow and flood the plains in winter. Guerrillas, kidnappings, vengeance, death and extortion are regular occurrences that VOC missionaries witness in their missionary fields.
VOC missionaries Libardo and Maritza are responsible for the tribal area of the Planas River in the department of Meta, Colombia, reports the ministry. They are ministering to seven tribal communities that speak Tiwiwi and Sikuani. To reach these communities from Puerto Gaitan Meta they spend seven to ten hours on dangerous paths covered with mud, water, dust, sand and jungle trails. The means the missionaries use to travel are bicycles and motorcycles, because the roads have no bridges over the rivers and at the streams of water there are piranhas and venomous snakes.
Also, three VOC missionaries are ministering at four tribal villages along the rivers Meta, Tomo and Caño Grande at Vichada Department. To reach these villages the missionaries use bicycles, motorcycles and walking. They spend up to a day to go from one community to the other to minister the Word of God.
“Dear brethren, thank you for blessing us with your prayers and missionary offerings, so we can bless and support the costs of food, transportation and missionary equipment, such as bicycles, to develop the work and mobilize our missionaries,” reports VOC leader Luis Guerrero. “They are taking the glorious message of salvation to the lost in marginalized regions of Colombia, where many are unwilling or unable to go due to weather difficulties and inhospitable places. Also, there is neither electricity nor communication with mobile phones. But with your support we are taking the light of the Gospel and teaching the Good News in Jesus Christ.”
VOC missionaries could devote more of their time to the Lord’s work and less to travel if they had good means of transportation: bicycles, or horses, or boats, depending on the area and the season of the year. The terrain they travel is rough, with little public transportation except on the river, where boat fares are expensive. In 2006, a Children’s Sunday School class at Bethel Bergthaler Mennonite Church in Winkler, Manitoba, partnered with VOC by raising enough money to buy four bicycles for VOC missionaries.
Around the world, bicycles are helping indigenous missionaries speed the spread of the Gospel.
Photo: This Vineyard of Colombia missionary and his family greatly appreciate their new bicycle.