SAN DIEGO – For three men, a bucket list item, bike riding from coast to coast, has transformed into an opportunity to serve those in need. Toby Thorpe, a member of North Albemarle Baptist Church (NABC) in Albemarle, N.C., is using his ride to raise awareness for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions.
“I went on a mission trip in 2019 with some folks from my church to Haiti,” Thorpe said. “It was a very sobering experience to see just how good and how blessed we are compared to folks in that part of the world.”
That experience changed his life. As he and his friends, Mike Stanley and Earl McMahon, began discussing what causes they would want to support, Thorpe spoke with his pastor, Jonathan Blaylock, about how best to support missions.
“We looked at the dates and saw that since the ride was going to take place around the same season as Southern Baptists collect the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering,” Thorpe said, “we thought we should use it to promote what the offering goes toward and also raise funds for it.”
Thorpe, a deacon and Sunday school teacher at NABC, has served his church faithfully as Blaylock has led the congregation through the process of revitalization.
“Toby has always been a wonderful encourager for me as his pastor, and I’m excited that he is going to be able to meet and encourage some of our NAMB church planters along his journey,” Blaylock said. “Revitalizing NABC has brought a new emphasis on seeing our members be sent on mission, and Toby has really embraced that idea.”
The three riders and a driver, Keith Holloway, have been driving West this week from North Carolina to San Diego in an RV before Stanley, McMahon and Thorpe will pedal east along the southern border of the U.S.
Known as the Southern Tier Route among cyclists, the crew will ride from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., and Holloway will follow along in the RV and provide a “home base” when the group needs to rest.
When Thorpe noticed that the route passed through a number of cities the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has identified as Send Cities, he decided to start reaching out to missionaries in those cities to see if schedules might align so he might meet and encourage them personally.
“What I want to do is maybe get with those folks and talk with them a little bit … find out what the Annie offering means to them and how it benefits what they’re doing to try to spread God’s love to others and to make Christ known,” Thorpe said.
Their trek will cover nearly 3,000 miles, and each rider has selected different groups to support. Stanley will raise awareness and funds for Crossnore Communities for Children in Crossnore, N.C., and McMahon will support Conquering CHD, a group that exists to eliminate congenital heart disease, the most common birth defect.
“We had resolved that we were going to try and ride coast to coast, but we all had decided that we had some ways we would like to give back,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe has put together a Facebook page, Pedaling 4 Annie, that he will update throughout the trip.
“We take for granted sometimes that people around us are OK, that everything is well. Not only might they have physical needs, but they have spiritual needs as well,” Thorpe said. “While one person’s contributions won’t change the whole world, one person’s contributions and witness combined with those of many others will reach more of the world than they might think.”
This year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal is $70 million. For church resources and other information about the offering, visit AnnieArmstrong.com.