Mars’ Hill: What is Sea to Sea?

Terry Barnes: Sea to Sea is a ministry focused on placing people on bikes to bicycle across North America in order to help break the cycle of poverty locally, along the route and around the world. Through sweat and road grime we present the church at work, showing God’s love in service and sharing the hope of Christ. We’ve been doing this since 2005. This summer we will begin our 2017 ride at TWU on June 26, and end 9 weeks later in Halifax, NS.

Our motto—Cycling to End Poverty—is a bold statement, but it points to our goal to support solutions that help people and communities create sustainable local solutions.


MH: What kinds of local solutions do you hope to empower and assist through your fundraiser?

TB: Poverty is complicated. There are many causes, from natural disasters to personal decisions. We know that local organizations have the best understanding of what poverty looks like in their community and the underlying causes. They are most able to apply sustainable solutions that break the cycle of poverty. These include job creation, sustainable farming methods, education, healthcare initiatives, justice and disaster relief. Sea to Sea seeks to partner with global organizations like our co-hosts World Renew and Partners Worldwide, local ministries and churches that are involved in those solutions.

Riders have also chosen ministries in their own communities, like the Mosaic Center, and Association for a More Just Society. We are also in the process of contacting over 800 local churches en route to learn about their poverty ministries and how we might be able to support them as we travel eastward. We trust that God will create the relationships. Through past tours we’ve granted funds to over 100 local ministries.


MH: Tell me a bit about the diversity of cyclists you see on the tour. The Rider Resource Kit (provided to cyclists upon registering for the fundraiser) uses the phrase “grizzled veteran of distance cycling” to describe certain registrants—but I understand you have had inexperienced riders join you on this tour as well. What does this look like?

TB: People who join the tour are motivated by the opportunity to put their belief into action and serve the least among us. They become cyclists as a side benefit. Participants come from all over Canada and the United States and overseas. About 45% of our riders are new to the tour each year and many of them are new to cycling or have never been on a multiple day bicycle tour.  Each year several of our riders begin without owning a road bike. After their first Sea to Sea experience they come back as those “grizzled veterans.” This year our oldest rider is Jim, who is 81 and will cycle the full distance; our youngest is Eve, who is 12 and intends to cycle from Vancouver to Ottawa.


MH: There are 96 riders registered for the tour to-date: do you know of any TWU alumni who will be embarking on any leg of the tour?

TB: Yes, one of our riders is currently a student at TWU and will cycle the full tour.


MH: Are any full-time employees also cyclists in this tour? As tour coordinator, you must have a lot of jobs to get done to ensure this tour runs smoothly—but will you be cycling yourself?

TB: My first experience with Sea to Sea was as a cyclist on the 2008 tour. Since then I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to help make the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and now 2017 tours possible. I’ll cycle a little but most of the days will be spent providing support on the road to our participants. Other volunteer staff who will be cycling include all three of our chaplains.


MH: Understanding a problem is the first step to solving it—and one of the goals of Sea to Sea is to educate. How do you endeavour to provide education on world poverty during your tour?

TB: Prior to the tour we spend time sharing with our participants easily available information on poverty, and ask them to share that with their supporters and churches. We also ask participants to research the organizations or ministries supported by their home church, and what poverty looks like in their hometowns. Lastly, as we reach out to churches on the tour route we ask them to share with our participants; in turn we ask our participants to share with their supporters what kind of poverty is being addressed in that location. Our goal is to have our participants and support circles develop a fuller understanding of global and local poverty.


MH: Tell me a bit about the role of volunteers on the cross-country tour.

TB: Our volunteers make the tour possible. They feed our cyclists breakfast, lunch, and dinner, provide rest stops along the road where riders can resupply, they drive the SAG wagon monitoring the riders who are unable to continue, they mark the turns each day, drive the trucks that carry everyone’s gear each day, and provide spiritual leadership through the role of chaplain. They all work to protect and shepherd the riders as they cycle over 6800 km this year.


MH: What is it about cycling across the country that is effective as a fundraiser?

TB: Cycling across the country is effective because our participants act as spokespersons across the continent for up to 10 months as they prepare and implement Sea to Sea. By the end of the tour we’ve taken people who have a passion to fight poverty and turned them into knowledgeable people who can go home and continue the work for years to come. That’s our true legacy—the people.


MH: Why do you think sport is able to unite a community in endeavoring to raise funds and awareness for poverty?

TB: People know that cycling across a continent is hard. Between the two oceans are mountain ranges, scorching temperatures, brutal winds and busy roads. They see someone willing to commit to the difficult work of raising a large sum of money and then go and complete a very difficult trek. The community admires that willingness to sacrifice for someone in need, and want to participate in maybe the only way they can—through a donation.