SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (BP)–It was a first for the International Mission Board — using a bike race as an outreach strategy in Tanzania.
The 44-mile race — which drew 95 competitors and thousands of onlookers in the city of Maswa — was spearheaded by Southern Baptist missionary Terry Jones in conjunction with Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo.
Second Baptist minister of communications Vic Almen and member Phil Harris coordinated and participated in the July 4 bike race, which covered rough terrain with large holes and dry riverbeds. Jones, knowing that Almen and Harris were avid cyclists, asked them to organize and ride in the race as the culmination of six weeks of mission work in the city by church members.
“I saw the majority of people riding bicycles and saw the opportunity to use a bike race as a means to open doors to the gospel,” Jones said.
Second Baptist funded the race and provided prizes of two new bicycles, a camera and cash. Seventy-one finished the race, including Almen and Harris, who rode with the Tanzanians as encouragers and not as competitors.
Almen said the race made national headlines in Tanzania. The people of the villages recognized Almen and Harris from the promotional race posters. “The people opened their hearts in friendship and encouragement,” Almen said.
Six college students from Second Baptist spent six weeks teaching English to Maswa high school students. Twelve schoolteachers and medical professionals from the church also spent two weeks in the city.
“The work of the people from Second Baptist has moved my work two years ahead of schedule,” Jones said. “The people now know who I am and know that I am here to help meet their physical and spiritual needs.”
Mission teams from Second Baptist also have traveled this year to Nicaragua, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, China, Korea, Nepal and India.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TREKKING THRU TANZANIA.