Bicyclists from Paradise, Pa., church to raise money for Maine institute

Posted Aug. 03, 2012, at 9:18 p.m.

MONSON, Maine — Six bicyclists were set to leave Paradise, Pa., Saturday on a 653-mile journey to Maine to promote Christian truth through the work of a national apologetics ministry.

Apologists don’t apologize for following Jesus Christ. Instead, they explain why they believe he is the son of God and accept him as their savior.

The six-day bike trip, called Ride for a Reason, will raise money for and awareness about the Areopagus II America or, for short, the AIIA Institute, located in Monson. The Rev. Daryl E. Witmer founded the institute in 1991 as a contemporary adaptation of the original forum in ancient Greece, the original Areopagus (pronounced ar-e-OP-a-gus).

Witmer, who contributed to the Voices columns published in the Bangor Daily News for many years, has said the nonprofit’s mission is “to persuade people from all walks of life of Christian truth, to assist the church in doing the same, and to promote understanding and goodwill between Christians and those espousing non-Christian worldviews.”

The Rev. Tim Rogers, 35, of Paradise, Pa., and his five fellow riders agree with Witmer. Rogers is the pastor of Grace Point Church, which belongs to the Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations, in Paradise, Pa.

Witmer grew up attending Grace Point. His parents still attend the church located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, the Monson man said.

“Several months ago, I called Darryl about sending a work team up to Maine to do some work on the buildings and grounds at the institute,” Rogers said Thursday in a phone interview. “I just started thinking about what it would be like if we grabbed a couple of guys ride to Maine to use as an awareness raising and fundraising project for AIIA. Five of us are just slightly crazy enough to think we can pull this off and we believe in the institute.”

The riders are expected to arrive in Monson on Thursday, Witmer said. A

Friday evening dinner for them featuring Spring Creek Bar-B-Q, a local eatery, is planned, Witmer said.

The other four riders range in age from 37 to 65, according to information on the website promoting the ride. They have been training since late winter, the pastor said, and seeking sponsors to raise funds for the institute.

“Every cyclist has ridden a couple thousand miles this year to get ready for this trip,” Rogers said. We’ve done short trips of 20 to 25 miles to trips of more than 100 miles. Most of us have 2,500 to 4,000 miles on our bikes.”

The pastor said planning the logistics for the trip has been challenging. The team will ride on state and county roads to avoid traffic and stay in motels at night. A support and gear, or SAG, wagon will travel with him.

People will be able to follow their location in close to real time on the Facebook page and blog created for the ride. Maps of their route also are on the website.

Each rider has his own reasons for taking the trip, Rogers said.

“I have never ridden the [northeast], and I have never been to AIIA, even though I’ve heard lots about it,” Doug Stoltzfus, 37, of Gap, Pa., said on the website for the ride. “Seemed like a good time to experience both.”

For information on the ride, visit gracepointparadise.com/ride-for-a-reason. For information on AIIA, visit aiiainstitute.org.

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