Without Sparing Their Own Bellies
M o s c o w – The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists’ cycle “expedition” from Germany to Vladivostok on the Pacific is proceeding as planned. On 6 July the 3rd team of cyclers took over as scheduled in the West Siberian town of Tiumen. Increasing distance has even lead to higher speeds: constant speeds of 40 km/h are no longer rare. The group set a new record for itself in the region of Chelyabinsk/Ural: the cyclists covered 210 km in less than seven hours, makiing for an average speed of 33 km – or 20,33 miles – per hour.
But the physical challanges have also risen. Cyclists have needed to give up before the end of their stage. Shortly after the Ural Mountains, Siberia`s heat arrived with brutal force and temperatures soared over 30 degrees Celsius – 86 Fahrenheit. Near Kugan, on 4 July, the group was attacked by almost larger-than-life flies. Being that the black, Mercedes SUV, which had been along already in Germany, is without air conditioning and has to drive with opened windows, the support staff remained within full range of the airborne critters. Three days later near Zavodoyukovsk the area’s primary motorway turned full of potholes. Even the hardened Russian cyclists were struck by the abject poverty of the region.
Since Moscow, a mammoth Kamaz lorry has been leading the parade; the flag-studded Mercedes, which had been out front in Germany, is now on the rear. The new lorry, paid for by the Dutch “Dorcas Aid” relief agency, is to be used later as a mobile church and missions station.
In the saddle since Varel on the North See (that was the beginning on 13 May) are the team leader and former national cycling champion Vladimir Skovpen (Klintsy near Briansk) and the dentist Levon Sarkisov (Krasnodar). The Moscow Baptist Victor Kabachevski has been along since Brest on the Polish-Belarus border. Eight new riders took to the road in Tiumen – they are to be replaced in turn by the 4th and final team in Irkutsk near Lake Baikal on 27 July. This 4th team is then scheduled to arrive in Vladivostok on 2 September.
Fortunately, the exhausted cyclists are not usually primarily responsible for evening festivites, which usually take place in a church. The support staff are not only responsible for medical aid and some cooking – they also do the evening programmes. Due to a cool reception among adults, the team is concentrating increasingly on children`s work. Specialists for children`s work from the German-sponsored “Light in the East” missions society in the distant, sourthern city of Vladikavkas have been along for longer stretches. They are heavily engaged in puppet theatre and their excellent and widely-known children`s magazine “Tropinka” (The Path) is finding hundreds of eager takers. Orphanages and schools are visited regularly.
In a conversation with the Christian radio station „Teos“, Union President Yuri Sipko deluged the cyclists with praise: “I am especially delighted by the fact that our youth is capable of such heroic feats. They are willing – without sparing their own bellies – to fight their way through on foot or on bicycles to reach even the most remote village and the most despairing persons in order to bring them the message of God`s kingdom. And they do this so that Russia might be awakend to new life.”
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 10 July 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-20, 562 words.