Despite starting near the rear of around 2,000 cyclists participating in a popular 15 km (a little over 9 miles) around Athens cycling event, a team of Adventist cyclists finished the ride near the front, and with the ability to share their faith.
The ABC or Adventist Bikers for Christ Team is based in Athens and ride most Sundays, covering 50 to 60 km (31 to 37 miles) at an average speed of 15 km/hr (9mph). Their motto is, ‘Every Ride is a Mission’. The club has around 15 members, about a third of them being friends of the church who are receiving Bible studies. Most are Filipinos along with a few Greeks.
The cold but clear sunny morning of Sunday, 14 April was different. By 8:30am the ABC Team had started their ride heading towards the Sintagma Square to participate in the 26th Giros Athinas or Cyclist Encircling Athens event. They joined more than 2,000 cyclists from different Cycling Teams.
While waiting for the 10 o'clock starting announcement, the team took time to pray in one corner. “As a team, we planned as to how we can be recognized as Adventist and of course wearing our uniforms helped, where our team name is printed visibly on the back,” stated Pastor Adrian Fernandez, who cares for the Filipino and International churches in this densely packed city of 665,000 people*. “The problem was we were almost at the rear point of more than 2,000 participants.”
The team developed their strategy and decided that over the 15 kilometers they would gradually overtake other cyclists, two-by-two, so that they could be recognized as a team in uniform. With their regular rides they were in good condition that meant most members of the team actually overtook around 2,000 cyclists.
Reporters and camera men have recognized the team and took pictures, asking them who they were and what they represented.
“It was fun, and we finished it in a great speed,” Pastor Fernandez states. “Upon finishing the race, we prayed and thank God.”
The aim of ABC is to participate in many more rides like this, giving people an opportunity to discover who they are. Fernandez concludes, “We tell them we are Adventist Bikers for Christ and for us, cycling is not for fun but in every ride, it is a mission to make God known to Athens.”
The annual event is organized by the Athens Municipality Cultural, Sport & Youth Organization (OPANDA). It is also part of a Bike Weekend held at Syntagma square, which includes bicycle exhibitions, shows and happenings for children and adults.
*There are 665,000 people living within the city limits (2016) but 3.15 million in the great Athens area. There are 460 Adventists worshipping in congregations across Greece including three congregations in the capital.