How a cross-country bicycle trip helped this Colombian community

Posted at 12:11 AM, Jun 28, 2017

BATAVIA, Ohio -- While members of his congregation spent two weeks in an area of South America ravaged by drug cartels, Emmanuel United Methodist Church Pastor Joe Royer embarked on a separate journey in support -- a journey of 1,430 miles made entirely by bicycle.

Royer's trip from Casper, Wyoming, to his home in Batavia was a two-wheeled, two-pronged mission that functioned as both a fundraiser and a signal booster. Royer, supported by churches along his route, was eager to spread the word of Emmanuel UMC's mission to help the residents of Brisas Del Mar in Colombia. 

"The cartels ruled that area with such an iron fist that if you said, ‘No,' they would just kill you on the spot," mission coordinator Michael Estep said. "There are mass graves all over Brisas where hundreds of people are buried."

Volunteers from Emmanuel have made the trip to this small community for years, attempting to provide "food, water and and a healthy Faith community," according to the congregation's web site. Those volunteers lead prayer services and distribute food to the people of Brisas.

"They're not sad at all," volunteer Emma Swofford said of the people she met in Colombia. "It's the exact opposite. Like, they're so happy and they're so loving to everyone."

Royer's role this year was to tell other churches about the area's needs, he said, and to raise money to facilitate future trips. 

Cheers greeted him when he rolled back into Batavia Tuesday night. 

"Thank you for all your prayers," he said. "Man, that was exhausting."