Eleven Baptists have embarked on a 16-day motorbiking journey from Texas to Nicaragua to help raise funds for a youth sports ministry that serves over 2,000 at-risk children in the Central American nation.
The trip, which launched on Good Friday out of Midway Baptist Church in Pilot Point, Texas, features riders from three different states — Texas, Missouri and Wisconsin — and was organized by Midway elder Bruce Walker.
For the last few years, Midway has partnered with and given some of its mission dollars to Brian Weed, an independent missionary affiliated with Baptist Bible Fellowship International who has helped plant 12 different churches, a medical facility, a feeding center and a self-sustainable farm since moving with his wife to Nicaragua in 1997.
When Weed visited Midway for the church's last annual missions conference, Weed and Walker went on a motorcycle ride and came up with the idea to do a fundraising journey to benefit Weed's ministry and help it construct a number of sports complexes that will give at-risk kids a safe place to stay out of the sun and out of trouble.
As a term of the trip, each rider had to purchase Honda XR650 motorbikes (or similar) with the intention of not only driving them down to the city of Managua but also with the intention of donating their bike to Weed's ministry once they arrive.
On top of that, each man is responsible for raising an additional $10,000 to donate to Weed's youth sports ministry.
"The idea is that we are hoping to build upwards of five and six [sports complexes], if the money were to come in, at these church properties," Weed told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
Weed explained that there is currently one sports complex being built at one of the ministry's church's properties. He added that one church that is designed more like a multipurpose center is also being used as a sports complex for kids. However, the demand requires more.
With the riders set to fly home on April 30, they need to ride at a pace of at least more than 160 miles per day as they trek through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Walker told CP that the group rode over 300 miles on Monday.
"I personally was attracted to the adventure component of it. There is no getting around that," Midway Church member Jeff Atkins told CP, adding that he had a quadruple bypass surgery last year and was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2015.
"The Lord, I think, was telling me, 'Jeff, you are not going to be here forever.' None of us know how long we have here on Earth but at 57, and my health concerns, it makes you look at your life through a different lens," he said. "It motivated me to act in a way that benefits somebody else. In this case, under-privileged kids in Nicaragua that Brian can get off the street, love on and mentor."
Weed explained that most of the bikes that are being ridden from the United States through Central America will actually be sold to buy more bikes to provide to pastors affiliated with the ministry so that they have transportation to complete their ministry work.
"For instance, one of these KLRs can buy about two-and-a-half to three motorcycles down in Nicaragua," Weed said. "They have better fuel efficiency, it's easier to get parts for them. Basically, we sell them to buy more. Some of the bikes are being sold to missionaries that needed bikes as well."
Weed compared the trip to the annual 150-mile, two-day MS 150 bicycle fundraiser that raises millions for research on Multiple Sclerosis.
"Looks like we are going top out at a little over $300,000 by the time some donors and donations come through," Weed said.
Not only is Weed's ministry providing safe places for thousands of at-risk children, it is also developing some of these children to become the next generation of church leaders. At least three children who have grown up with Weed's sports ministry have became pastors.
"Three of Brian's pastors at his churches, he met as boys and literally took them off the street, mentored them, got them saved, sent them to seminary in Nicaragua and they married local women and now they are pastors at three of his churches," Atkins said.
"He has mentored and discipled and trained these kids who were running around causing havoc on the streets in Nicaragua and he has made a difference in their lives," Walker added. "Now these kids are his leadership team that is leading like the largest sports ministry in central America. These kids are now his go-to team."
Although each rider has a goal to raise at least $10,000 to give to Weed's ministry, Walker admits that they still need to raise more to fulfill their goal.
The trip's website, RideExtreme.org, explains that only $35,000 has been raised for the cause so far.
"We are committed to not half-baking this cake. We are going to bake it all the way," Walker assured. "If it means that I got to go back and finish [fundraising] myself or just out of my own checking account, we will get it done."
Online donations can be made to the RideExtreme cause by visiting the donation website.
According to the last update on the RideExtreme tracking page, the riders were just to the East of Mexico City on Wednesday afternoon.