Praying and ‘Biking across’ Canada
Rev. Darren Roorda, director of Canadian ministries for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, is praying for each CRC congregation in Canada as he “passes” them in a virtual bike tour across the country.
Since mid-December, Roorda and his wife, Beverly, have been pedaling on stationary bikes in the basement of their home and logging their hours and kilometers to determine where they would be if they were bicycling across Canada.
Each week, Roorda sends an email to the pastors of the churches in communities he expects to “pass” that week. He lets them know about the project and asks for specific prayer requests or items of thanks to bring before God as they ride.
Roorda said he has been dreaming about a cross-Canada prayer event of some kind for a while, as part of his role serving Canadian churches. He enjoys cycling, and noted, “I have always wanted to do an entire Sea to Sea event, but have only been able to do small portions on one of the rides.”
Roorda prays regularly for Christian Reformed churches in Canada, and his virtual ride this winter and spring helps him to continue that habit, he said, and to give it “a theme, motivation, and purpose.”
The Roordas started, virtually, on the western side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia in December. And by the end of March, they were nearly in Saskatchewan, he said, about a quarter of the way through their “cross-country” ride.
The goal, said Roorda, is “to increase ministry success at the local setting. I can do that by praying, by connecting with local leaders, increasing my own and others’ awareness of the needs and importance of the local church.” His correspondence with pastors along the way, he added, helps him to sense how the pandemic is affecting local places of ministry.
Ministry leaders have been appreciative of Roorda’s efforts to connect. Some gave “weather reports” of the area he’d be “cycling through.” Others expressed gratitude that a denominational leader would show interest at the local level. Many prayer requests reflected the challenges to ministry presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions placed to try to contain it.
Rev. Curtis Korver of Alberni Valley CRC in Port Alberni, B.C., asked that Roorda join in giving thanks for patience and cooperation through the pandemic. He reflected, “No one likes the restrictions, but no one has ever complained or suggested that we’re doing it wrong. We are committed to everyone’s safety and to finding ways beyond Sunday morning to be the body of Christ.”
Rev. Steven Berkenpas of Living Hope CRC in Abbotsford, B.C., shared, “To give a snapshot from Living Hope . . . it has had its challenges. I’ve been trying to do my rounds calling people, and I hear the same strain in different people’s voices as they try to put their finger on what makes this year challenging. Still, there are signs of grace in the midst of it, as people are responding with a patient perseverance that comes from being seasoned in Christ.”
Some pastors shared specific requests for family members, congregation members and leaders, ministry initiatives, community collaborations, and other details of ministry and life in their congregations.
Other church leaders asked for prayers for discernment in making decisions about the space where they regularly meet for worship, how to move on after changes in leadership, and how to maintain a feeling of fellowship and connection with scattered congregation members and families.
Many pastors noted things to be thankful for, such as new connections made within their communities, successful fundraising campaigns, time for reflection, church renewal plans, and the ability to use technology to continue or even grow ministry.
Rev. Kenneth Vanderploeg of Rimbey (Alta.) CRC compared Roorda’s virtual bike ride — free of the “adventures of flat tires, wind resistance, the high speed going down the slopes from Banff to Cochrane . . . the temperature fluctuations, the rain or the snow or whatever” — to the virtual worship services many churches have relied on during the pandemic. He continued, “Just like missing out on the in-person experiences of worship at church when the house is full, this season of lockdowns and social distancing is making us miss out on the sense of community.”
Rev. Michelle Kool of Covenant CRC in Edmonton, Alta., echoed other pastors in the “ongoing grief of lack: lack of gathering, lack of celebrating milestones, lack of being able to grieve losses together, and so on.” She also expressed appreciation for Roorda’s effort in reaching out and praying for congregations across Canada, adding, “We lift you in prayer as well: for strength to endure this difficult time of leadership, patience as you bear others, increased love between you in your marriage and family relationships, good friends to lighten the load, and wisdom from the Spirit to discern the journey ahead.”
As he and Beverly continue on their virtual journey, Roorda notes, “So far, I have been delighted in what I am gaining from it all. I am enjoying another way to hear from pastors across Canada and learning of their churches again.”