On August 19, seven Disciples congregations traveled to the Great Allegheny Passage in southwestern Pennsylvania.
But this event was no ordinary outing. This was “Wheels of Compassion.”
Inspired by a nationwide fundraising ride taken by a California minister and her husband earlier this year, United Christian Church of Coal Center, PA, wanted to expand that idea into a regional event with many moving parts: a coordinated bike ride fundraiser, with sponsored rest areas, Vacation Bible School mission projects, and fellowship-promoting festivities.
One of the priorities of the event’s creator, Lisa Constantine, the mission and outreach coordinator at United Christian Church, was to make sure it was an event that could be open to participants “of all ages and skill levels.” So, the bike-a-thon had three distance options: 39 miles, 22 miles, or a third option of going “as far as the rider wants to go and then turn around.”
Most participants rode around 14 miles. Altogether, the group rode a total of 375 miles.
Between sponsorships based on miles ridden, additional donations, and mission projects conducted during Vacation Bible School activities, the event raised over $4,000.
The beneficiary of this regional event is Week of Compassion, the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.
Selecting that ministry was an easy choice for United Christian, Constantine said.
“[O]ur congregation knows, appreciates, and supports WOC year-round…Our church understands the importance of ‘pray, stay, and donate,’ in which we often have offerings at times of critical need.”
Her congregation has found other creative ways to support Week of Compassion, too. Last year, their “Bowls of Compassion” event, with hand-painted ceramic bowls made by congregation and community members paired with a soup and pasta dinner, raised over $1,200.
“As a small church in a small town about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh, I’m pleased to say that Week of Compassion is kept at the forefront of our hearts and offerings, for we know that through this ministry we can be present in times of critical need.”
Of course, United wasn’t the only church to participate in this year’s bike-a-thon.
Her team recruited six other churches from the Pennsylvania region, and they all found different ways to participate. Some sponsored and staffed the rest areas along the trail, providing water, snacks, and encouragement as riders passed.
Others raised money towards the event’s total during their Vacation Bible School programs.
Still others hosted the potluck picnic to encourage other congregation members who weren’t riding to cheer on those who were. The event provided food, games, and fellowship for all who attended.
The event’s organizers are already looking forward to next year’s Wheels event, ready to improve the event and include more congregations.
As Constantine has learned, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for this focus on mission.
“Our local congregations are hungry to join with neighboring Disciples to offer something that can benefit the world.”
To learn more about ways you and your congregation can achieve support that kind of worldwide relief, visit Week of Compassion online.