Gary Bomhof, pastor at the First Christian Reformed Church, is joining the fundraiser Sea to Sea 2017, which is hosted by Partners Worldwide and World Renew. The group sets out from White Rock, B.C. on June 26th and completes the trek Aug. 31st in Halifax.
“If you’re passionate about ending poverty but the ride is not for you, consider joining the vital efforts of our volunteer squad,” notes an information pamphlet about the ambitious trek.
For Bomhof, the 6,759 km journey is certainly an important one for that very reason, and part of the funds he raises will go to the Mustard Seed ministry here in Red Deer.
Another reason he signed up was to honour the memory of his late wife JoAnn, who passed away in 2015.
Gary said that JoAnn’s kind and generous heart inspired him to join Sea to Sea; he’s calling his coast-to-coast trip ‘JoAnn’s Ride’.
Since 2005, Sea to Sea has raised $5.4 million to support the work of poverty relief organizations. This year, the goal is $3 million.
“Basically it’s a fundraiser to help alleviate poverty,” he said, adding that World Renew is involved with a number of aid agencies and organizations domestically and internationally. “Every rider has to raise a minimum of $12,000 - that’s the goal.”
Gary, 67, said that he had also decided to retire this year, and, “No sooner had I made that decision then I found out about Sea to Sea.”
He felt it was an ideal event to plan for this milestone year, so he started training.
“Now that I’m on my own, I don’t feel like going on a cruise by myself or a trip by myself - but this is a way in which I can see the country with a whole lot of other people, and it’s for a good cause,” he explained.
“My wife was also someone who was really concerned about the other person - that was just her character. And I thought it would be a neat way of honouring her memory, too. She was such a giving person - so it just really suits her character and her values.”
So far, Gary said 104 cyclists from across Canada and the United States have joined Sea to Sea 2017.
The riders will cycle six days a week, dropping below the Great Lakes on the fourth leg of the trip, from Grand Rapids, Minnesota to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
“I’m looking forward to the camaraderie,” he said, adding that it will also be a wonderful way to begin his retirement.
Each day, the vision will simply be to get on the bike and enjoy the journey without that sense of ‘the tyranny of the urgent’. Indeed - it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in his life - where he can spend time relaxing, volunteering in the community and being with his children and grandchildren that much more.
Meanwhile, Gary and JoAnn had been married nearly 39 years at the time of her passing.
They had also been partners in ministry for that entire time, pastoring in Ontario, then in Lethbridge, then back to Ontario. It was in 2006 they settled in Red Deer. And even though he’s retiring, he’s certainly not stepping back from ministry opportunities altogether.
“I tell people I’m retiring - I’m not quitting. I hope to serve churches here and there, and I’m going to look into volunteering.”
For now, Gary is focused on prepping for Sea to Sea. That includes spin classes at the Collicutt Centre and getting out on his bike here in the City as weather has permitted.
“I think once I’m in Calgary, then I believe I’ll be able to say to myself okay, I can do this - once I’ve gotten over the Roger’s Pass,” he said, chucking.
As to the funding, Gary said that the World Renew organization encourages Sea to Sea participants to partner with local organizations. He approached staff at the Mustard Seed and they were immediately onboard.
Anyone is welcome to support Gary on this venture. Just click on www.seatosea.org, hit ‘donate’ and under ‘choose your recipient’ type in his name. For this event, he’s using his given name of Gerrit Bomhof.
He noted also that when he was first considering joining the ride, he didn’t know what kind of reaction he might get from friends and family.
“I prayed about it. And people were saying, ‘That’s a great idea. That’s a fantastic idea!’ It was one piece of encouragement after another. I took that as a sign that it was a green light - so we are going to go for it!”