Christian ministries to refugees and asylum seekers are about to receive their annual boost from the annual Ride for Refugees.
The ride, run by International Teams Australia, is a family-oriented event where people of all levels of skill and fitness can take part, with sponsorship money they raise going to a variety of ministries around the world that support asylum seekers and refugees in direct ways.
“Our focus as an organisation is to help churches help the poor and oppressed,” says Ride 2015 director Abby Bishop, also a member of St Paul’s, Castle Hill.
“Ride specifically is kind of a way for people to dip their toes in the water, ride together and have fun, engage with the issue, and raise money for specific projects. We want people to engage with God’s heart. He cares for all people but he does remind us also that he has a special concern for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner.”
The Sydney event took place at the Sydney Equestrian Centre, moving onto the M7 shared path before reaching a turnaround point. The basic route was 121⁄2 kilometres long, but the fitter or more daring riders completed the course a number of times up to 100km.
A separate course for kids meant the whole family was welcome, with drinks and a lunchtime BBQ providing plenty of time to chat and meet other riders.
“I’ve got kids ranging from four to nine – and they were all much younger when my husband and I first decided to bring the family for the Ride – so it’s the kind of thing where we’re very focused on making it family friendly,” Mrs Bishop says.
“The kids’ track is nice and easy to ride, and it has points along the way where they can read and look at things, trying to imagine what it would be like to live without a home and that sort of thing. For kids and adults, the idea is to just have fun with it, take it at your pace and have time to connect with the needs of others in other places and in our own neighbourhoods.”
Christians across Sydney from a variety of denominationswere involved. The rector of St Stephen’s, Belrose, the Rev Michael Aitken, rode for the first time last year. St Stephen’s has had a long-term concern for refugee issues, particularly through its partnership with microfinance organisation Bridge of Hope. Mr Aitken says the involvement of himself and others at his church was a natural extension of that.
“I love riding, and as a church we’ve been involved with International Teams and missionaries involved in anti-trafficking and refugee ministries,” he says. “I figured getting involved with this was a good way to do both. Another guy here at church and I have been riding to build up kilometres......good enough to do a 50km ride this year.”
He believes the Ride can be a particularly valuable experience for families.
“I think one of the big things about it is it’s a family event. I have young adult children now, but a few years back we went to Uganda together, and they saw the effects of war and the lives of refugees there. I think being aware of those things lays a foundation for later in life, and events like the Ride help to do that.”
There will be a second Australian ride this month in Brisbane.