Father, son bike 10,000 miles for mission

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NEW YORK – A United Methodist father-son team with a track record in mission work is taking their passion on the road.

On the road. Dirk Van Gorp, 48, and his son Bill, 20, will spend six months cycling 10,000 miles around the United States in an effort to educate others and raise at least $100,000 for mission projects.

They will launch “Mission Bike 10,000” with a 30-mile ride on April 21 and will conclude on Oct. 19.

Adirondack Community Church, a United Methodist congregation in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the Van Gorps are members, is sponsoring the project.

Idea is born. The idea for the cross-country trip came from Bill, an active outdoorsman who has made weekend bike trips and has witnessed the dedication of his parents, Dirk and Carol, to mission work.

Although Dirk hadn’t done much bike touring since his college years, he remains an avid backpacker and hiker and felt up to the trip.

After formalizing their plans, Bill approached the church, which decided to make the trip an official mission project.

Mission-minded. Bill said he was first inspired “to try to make a difference with my life” after spending the summers of 1994 through 1996 with his parents in Bosnia, where Dirk served as head of mission for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The pair is using the trip to support United Methodist mission programs related to the issues of HIV/AIDS, landmines, environment, youth ministry and poverty housing.

All donations are being processed through Adirondack Community Church. A few commitments have come for “per mile” pledges as well.

A worthy cause. The Van Gorps decided from the very beginning that 100 percent of all donations and pledges would go to mission, according to Dirk.

He and Bill have worked part-time in construction to cover an estimated $7,500 in expenses, which include the two touring bikes and related gear, publicity costs and on-the-road expenses.

Through contacts with churches, family and friends, they are setting up speaking engagements and finding places to bunk for the night. When no host is available, they plan to camp overnight in a two-man tent.

An organization experienced in cross-country travel has mapped the route for them, averaging 55 miles per day.

“Ninety percent of the roads and the actual route that we’re on is part of this system that they’ve built,” Dirk explained.

The route. The westbound route takes them through parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. The return route veers north to Oregon and Washington and then through Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and back to upstate New York.

Follow the trip. Using a lightweight laptop, the Van Gorps will keep supporters informed of their progress via group e-mails several times a week. They also plan to have weekly updates posted online at www.adkcomchurch.org, the Adirondack Community Church Web site, where more information about the project is available.

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