BELLEVILLE – Shared faith and bicycles is what recently brought a caravan of 60 cyclists more than 300 miles through the Appalacian mountains to Belleville.
The five-day event, Ride for Missions, is a fundraising effort to support Rosedale Mennonite Missions, the mission agency of the Conservative Mennonite Conference.
Wayne Yoder, of Columbus, Ohio, said the event started in 2006 with one man’s idea to ride his bike to the conference’s annual gathering, held every year at a different location throughout the United States. Yoder said the first ride traveled from Goshen, Ind., to Plain City, Ohio, and raised about $26,000. There were 17 bicyclists participating that year, he said.
Since then, the ride has grown to include cyclists from 11 states and one Canadian province. Routes change annually and average 300 to 400 miles, he said.
Although the ride itself is funded by corporate sponsors, Yoder said cyclists are left to their own innovation to raise funds for RMM. He said some riders are sponsored by the mile while others are sponsored for the ride as a whole.
This year’s event marks the eighth Ride for Missions and the first time cyclists have crossed the finish line in Belleville. Yoder said the ride began July 27 in Waynesboro, Va., and ended as cyclists pedaled their way through the parking lot at Belleville Mennonite School on Wednesday.
Joe Showalter, of Columbus, Ohio, president of Rosedale Mennonite Missions, said the organization funds short-term international outreach by young adults and long-term outreach by people in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He said missions include anything from humanitarian work to teaching Christian theology.
Yoder said the 2013 Ride for Missions raised at least $115,000 for RMM.
CMC’s Annual Conference 2013 began Thursday and continues through Sunday at Locust Grove Mennonite Church in Belleville.
For more information about Rosedale Mennonite Missions, visit www.rosedalemennonitemissions.org. More information about the Conservative Mennonite Conference is available at cmcrosedale.org.