Nothing But Spokes, on the road to Pittsburgh

Center front: Bishop Peggy Johnson. From left to right in back: Jim White from St. Mark’s UMC in Mt. Joy, Rev. John Pfeil from West Willow UMC, Shelly Trego from Mt. Zion in Narvon, Rev. Jim Todd, Southwest District Superintendent, Jay Horning, Grandview UMC. Missing from photo: Rev. Richard Conner, Calvary UMC in Wyomissing.

Nothing But Spokes begins 335 mile ride for Imagine No Malaria from Washington, DC

It was a perfect day for cycling.  The day dawned sunny and cool, and at 9:00 am on Sunday, June 17, several cyclists gathered with dozens of members of Grandview UMC near Lancaster for a celebratory breakfast and prayer circle for the beginning of Nothing But Spokes for Imagine No Malaria.  The trip has been in the works for the latter part of 2011 and all of 2012, with the cyclists raising funds from fellow church members, friends, family members, and business associates to support the denominational emphasis called Imagine No Malaria.

Southwest District Superintendent Jim Todd was inspired to create the trip after hearing moving stories by Bishop Thomas Bickerton of Western Pennsylvania in October 2011, including one where Bishop Bickerton prayed over a tiny baby who had contracted malaria, only to see her die the following day because anti-malarial drugs were not available in that part of Africa to save her.  The thought came to Superintendent Todd to create a bicycle trip to Pittsburgh, so that those going on the trip could be greeted by Bishop Bickerton at the end of the trip in downtown Pittsburgh.  Most trips between Washington, DC and Pittsburgh go “downhill,” from Pittsburgh to DC, but it so happened that the Rails to Trails Conservancy was planning a reasonably priced DC to Pittsburgh trip at the exact time the group wanted to go.  With professional planners taking care of the details of the trip, the cyclists themselves could focus on getting into shape for the 335 mile ride and raising support funds for Imagine No Malaria.  There are five persons on the trip the week of June 17-24: Pastor John Pfeil of West Willow UMC, Pastor Richard Conner of Wyomissing: Calvary UMC, Mr. Jay Horning, member of Grandview UMC, Ms. Shelly Trego, member of Narvon: Mt. Zion UMC, and Mr. Jim White, member of Mt. Joy: St. Mark’s UMC.  DS Jim Todd had every intention of going; however, he discovered in late May he had a herniated disk in his lower spine, and was urged by the doctor not to make the trip.  He did transport part of the group from Lancaster to the starting point in Georgetown, NW Washington, DC, and rode 33 miles, or one-tenth of the total trip.  Bishop Peggy Johnson, joined by her son Gabriel, met the group at the start of the trip and had prayer with them before they began the ride.

The initial vision was for there to be 50 riders, each raising a minimum of $5000 for Imagine No Malaria.  In the end, there are only five riders, but each of them have come close to raising $5000 each, and by the end of the summer, Supt. Todd estimates that $30,000 will have come into the District and Conference offices in support of the Nothing But Spokes ride.  Other inspiring events are happening in conjunction with the ride.  The Rev. Paul Crikelair, a pastor on the Northeast District appointed to Poplar Valley and Cherry Valley UMCs, had wanted to go on the ride but could not because of schedule conflict.  Instead, he sent a donation from his churches and decided to run each day for the cause of Imagine No Malaria.  This also included him running a marathon on one day of the week of Nothing But Spokes.  A member of Faith UMC in Manheim Township, Mr. Fred Helder, also wanted to go on the trip as one way to celebrate his 70th birthday.  He also was not able to go, but instead is cycling 42 miles each day for eight days around Lancaster County, thereby riding the same distance as the trail riders going to Pittsburgh.  Fred’s church has been very generous in helping him raise funds.  Yet another pastor, the Rev. Rick Rimert, who serves Conestoga UMC, was not able to go because of a previously planned family vacation the same week as the Nothing But Spokes ride.  He plans to ride the same route as the Spokes riders by himself in July, and is also raising money to fight malaria.  Said DS Todd: “Just as I was inspired by Bishop Bickerton to get involved in Imagine No Malaria, so I have been inspired by those who have caught the vision on the Southwest District and other districts to find creative ways to raise awareness and funds for this most worthwhile of projects.  I also want to thank the Rev. David Ryan, who is our District Mission Secretary and who has solicited prayer support for our efforts, and the Rev. Mike Alleman, who has been a great supporter and whose church, Grandview, plans to raise $10,000 for Imagine No Malaria.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to Nothing But Spokes for Imagine No Malaria may send a check in any amount, payable to “SW District,” and sent to: PO Box 271, Bird in Hand, PA 17505.  A thank you card will be sent to acknowledge your tax-deductible gift, and you can be assured that 100% of the funds you send will go directly to the Imagine No Malaria project.  Funds will be used mostly in Africa to supply bed nets, standing water abatement, anti-malarial drugs, and eventually, a vaccine.  To follow the daily account of the group on the trip, search for “Nothing but Spokes” on Facebook and “like” the site.  New stories will be posted each day!