GLENDALE, Ariz. When it comes to Haitian orphans, Pastor Monty Patton has a whole new spin on how to raise awareness of their the plight.
Patton, lead pastor of Mountain Ridge Church in Glendale, Ariz., is preparing to embark on a journey with the church's missions coordinator, Dave Kless by bicycle, 2,400 miles to churches across America. Patton and Kless hope the trek will teach them more about missions and offer help to some of the world's poorest people.
The idea for the trip began as the two started biking together in 2007 to get in shape, gradually riding greater distances.
"We were traveling to different states, begging permission from our wives to run off and do these rides," Kless laughed. "We just rode more and more, and then we started to have conversations about riding across country."
When Mountain Ridge Church offered Patton the chance to take a sabbatical, he saw it as the perfect opportunity. But he didn't just want to bike across the country; he wanted the trip to have eternal significance, a desire Kless shared.
"As this idea came together, I thought that if we're going to do this, we need to do it in a way that's missional," Kless said.
The two have formed a plan they hope will do exactly that.
They will set out from Del Mar, Calif, on Sept. 27, stopping at churches along the way to their destination at Jekyll Island, Ga., which they hope to reach by Nov. 4.
As one aspect of the trip, Patton wants to learn from other pastors about how they do missions in their own backyards.
"I hope to interview pastors along the way to see how they're reaching their communities for Christ," he said. "I'm going to blog every day about what I've learned."
While learning about missions is a motivating force for Patton and Kless, there is another reason they are riding that is dear to their hearts.
Since 2005, Mountain Ridge Church has sent volunteer teams to Haiti, which was shockingly poor even before the Jan. 12 earthquake. Kless, who first visited the island nation in 2006, recalls the effect the trip had on him.
"You see things that break your heart," he said. "You see poverty beyond recognition. It's so bad, you can't imagine it happening in our world. I remember riding in a van with 40 other people and seeing tears in their eyes."
During their trips to Haiti, the teams from Mountain Ridge partnered with New Missions, a nondenominational Christian organization. Its mostly Haitian staff operate schools, clinics and food programs for Haitian children. Mountain Ridge has set a goal of raising $50,000 to sponsor 100 Haitian children into New Missions' schools, where they will receive a Christian education, daily meals and medical care.
Patton and Kless hope their bike trip will go a long way toward reaching that goal.
"We felt that it tied together, that we could chase our passion [for biking] while raising money and awareness for a cause that's Christ-centered and doing great things for people of Haiti," Kless said.
The two have been training intensely since May, rising early each morning for a 25-mile ride that extends to 50 miles on Fridays and Saturdays. Most people still can't believe they would attempt a 2,400-mile bike ride.
"They think we're crazy," Kless said. "Then they look at our health; they give us the once-over I don't know if you've seen photos of us, but neither one of us is in biker shape."
They won't be biking alone, either. Friends will join Patton and Kless for different legs of the trip, and they encourage others to join them as they pass through.
"We want to meet new people and have an impact," Patton said.
Patton requests prayer for his and Kless' journey, as well as for their families, who will be home without them. No matter what happens, he's relying God to give the ride eternal value.
"I pray that God would use this crazy idea in some way that He's glorified."
For more information on Patton and Kless' journey, visit www.pedalforhaiti.org.