- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2009

Call them the cycle revs or the biking Lutherans.

Three Lutheran pastors from West Virginia are staging a fundraiser for world hunger in an offbeat fashion. They are traveling 13,000 miles — riding a three-seater bamboo bike for about 3,000 of those miles — to churches in 65 cities in 100 days.

The “Tour de Revs” (www.tourderevs.org) began May 13 in Chicago and will end Aug. 20 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis. The trio is riding about 30 miles a day and somehow is fitting in side trips to Puerto Rico and Alaska.

“We actually don’t get to ride as much as I’d like,” said the Rev. Frederick A. Soltow Jr., 60, pastor of Shepherdstown Lutheran Church in Shepherdstown, W.Va. “We’re spending more time talking and doing presentations. But I don’t think any of us have lost any weight yet.”

Their goal is to raise $5 million for the ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal — $1 for each pedal stroke of their 5-million-pedal-stroke journey. The bicycle symbolizes the most advanced transportation poor people can afford.

The trio is being accompanied by two men in a van. When I asked a co-rider, the Rev. David A. Twedt, also 60, of Capon North River Lutheran Parish in Wardensville, W.Va., what the biggest miracle has been thus far, he joked, “It’s getting along with five middle-aged geezers in a van.”

“This is something none of us have done before,” he said. “It is like taking a small-time band on the road, living out of suitcases and eating what is put in front of you.”

Lutherans seem to have a burden for world hunger more than other denominations. After all, it was a Lutheran pastor, Arthur Simon, who founded Bread for the World. (Check out www.bread.org for information on the 35th anniversary celebration June 14 through 16.)

All these men have done lengthy bike rides before, including 100-mile treks in France or charity rides for multiple sclerosis. Having biked myself 800 miles from the District to Lexington, Ky., 30 years ago over the Appalachians, I had some respect for their efforts.

“What we are encouraging people to do is make giving to the hunger appeal part of their monthly stewardship,” Mr. Twedt said. “We are trying to have people change their giving patterns.

“There are more than 2,100 verses in the Bible that deal with hunger and justice issues. We pastors get so busy dealing with the everyday operations of congregational life, we have really missed this.”

The trip has been mistake-free thus far, although there was one spill in Chicago where “the most unfortunate part of that incident is no one caught it on tape,” Mr. Twedt said.

The Rev. Reinold “Ron” Schlak Jr., 58, pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, W.Va., explained how they make the hunger issue real to the congregations they visit.

“We distribute five candy bars to five volunteers representing 6 billion people,” he said. “Four go to one person and there is only one left over for the other four people. And one of those people gets less than a 10th of that bar. That shows 20 percent of the people have access to 80 percent of the world’s services.

“People’s eyes widen when they see this. They’ve heard the statistics but they’ve never seen it. Everyone makes the connection. Something is wrong here. And each time, the person with four candy bars shares them with the rest.”

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs Sundays and Thursdays. Contact her at [email protected]

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