With sunshine blazing over the water, 135 cyclists dipped their front tires into the Atlantic Ocean at the Halifax (Nova Scotia) Harbor, marking the end of the largest-ever cross-country bike tour in Canada.
The Sea to Sea tour, June 23-Sept. 4, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Christian Reformed Church in Canada and at the same time raised money for church planting.
It was a triumphant conclusion as the cyclists gathered first at All Nations Christian Reformed Church in Halifax, then cycled together to Pier 21, the place where many of the earliest members of the CRC in Canada first stepped ashore after emigrating from the Netherlands. Fans young and old lined the route with signs and balloons, cheering as the cyclists pulled in.
At nearby Point Pleasant Park, the cyclists lined up a few meters from the water’s edge and waited until everyone arrived. They recited the Lord’s Prayer together on the beach and then, amid cheers, tears, and hugs, simultaneously dipped their tires in the Atlantic Ocean, officially completing their tour.
Rev. William Veenstra, from Ancaster, Ontario, was one of the small group of people who dreamed up the idea of the cross-country tour. He flew to Halifax with his wife to see its end. “I’m wordless. I’m just stunned by the accomplishment,” he said. “I find it a very moving moment.” The Veenstras’ 23-year-old son, David, from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, was one of the cyclists who pedaled all the way across the country.
Ninety-four cyclists pedaled for 10 weeks, 7,125 kilometers (4,275 miles) from Vancouver to Halifax. Another 63 cyclists cycled one-third of the tour as part of a team. Together, the cyclists raised more than $1.1 million to plant new churches in Canada. Spurring church planting was one of three tour goals.
While the cyclists pedaled, members of Christian Reformed churches across the country prayed for them, following a devotional book produced especially for the tour that included a map of each day’s route. Others logged on to the seatosea.org website and read blogs written by some of the cyclists. And more than 11,000 people attended celebration rallies held on successive Sundays as the cyclists made their way from west to east.
Such involvement indicated that the tour’s other two goals, celebration and unity, were also met, said Ben Vandezande of Christian Reformed Home Missions.
Harry Drost, 56, cycled from Guelph, Ontario, to Halifax, the Atlantic portion of the tour. Drost, a member of Fredericton CRC, New Brunswick, said a highlight for him was visiting Holland Christian Homes in Brampton, Ontario, to shake hands and say thank you to some of the oldest members of the CRC in Canada.
The lasting impression for many of the cyclists has been how diverse the CRC in Canada is, and how generous its members are. Randall Boessenkool, 26, a member of First CRC in Toronto, enjoyed meeting people across the country. “I learned a lot about community and how willing people are to participate and give time and effort—and pastry!” he said.
Dora Vander Woude, a 42-year-old cyclist from Hebron CRC in Renfrew, Ontario, said she found that the CRC is moving ahead but still unified. “We’re starting to get a little freer in our worship. That was nice to see,” she said.
For John DeJong, 49, from Williamsburg (Ont.) CRC, the trip also affirmed his love for Canada. “It was totally awesome,” he said. “People from one end of the country to the other are just so generous, so kind. Canada is the place to live.”
$ raised for church planting: 1.1 million
ilometers traveled: 7,125
Average kilometers per day: 118 (70 miles)
Flat tires: 556
Days cycled: 61
Average age of cyclists: 40
CRC communities on the tour route: 88
Oldest cyclist: 74
Youngest cyclist: 18