For more than two decades, a Virginia woman has led missionary trips across America on wheels.
In ancient Israel, Jesus walked, but in the United States of America, Judy Bowman bikes. For more than two decades, the born-again resident of Lynchburg, Virginia, has led mission trips across the country on wheels.
“The purpose is to bring Christians, and we come together as a body of believers to go out and be a witness for the Lord,” she said. “Jesus gave us a command: Go and make a disciple of all nations.”
Biking for Jesus is not entirely uncommon in America. There are groups in at least a dozen states, affiliated with various organizations and denominations. But though the juxtaposition of bicycles and Christ is somewhat funny—it’s like when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, just faster!—it’s also a reminder of what lived religion actually looks like. For many, faith is not reducible to church services on Sundays and Wednesdays, with Bible study as a box to check in the daily slog of a week. People find lots of creative and surprising ways to live out their faith, including riding bicycles all over the country to talk to people about what they believe.
Over the past 20 years, Bowman said, more than 1000 people have joined her on trips spanning 1.8 million miles, including 12 from coast to coast and 25 smaller trips ranging from Missouri to New England. In 1995, when her group pedaled the length of Florida, they earned a bemused write-up in The Dayton Beach News-Journal: “It’s not unusual for visitors to pass through town during the winter while on vacation,” the reporter wrote, “but one group of visitors arrived in an unusual way and brought a message with them.”
Bowman got the inspiration to start her ministry in 1991, after she had already been married and divorced, had multiple careers, and raised a son into adulthood on her own. She was working as a trip leader for a secular bike company, and as one trip progressed, she felt more and more strongly that she had to talk with people about Jesus. When the head of the organization asked her to tone down the evangelism, she decided to start her own group: WHEEL POWER Christian Cyclists, which stands for Witnessing, Helping, Evangelizing, Encouraging, andLoving as we Press OnWard to Eternal Rewards. (Hey, it’s tough to make long acronyms hang together.)
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