Coast to Coast: Ride for Compassion

BY: Sidhara Udalagama

It has been just over a year since nearly 25 riders and support crew embarked on a gruelling journey across the Nullabor. Through this ride, the team made a significant impact in the lives of children living in poverty.

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Ride for Compassion 2022 was a one-month, 4,200km journey from Perth to Newcastle between September and October 2022. Cyclists rode from the beautiful beaches of Western Australia, across the rugged Nullarbor, to the bustling east coast city of Newcastle.

The journey was anything but easy, yet the result was nothing short of extraordinary. Their goal was to help raise money for vulnerable children living in poverty, including those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global food crisis.

The team raised an incredible $964,342 and prompted 182 new sponsorships.

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For Mike Jeffs, a keen amateur cyclist and businessman from Queensland, who has also served on the Board of Compassion Australia for 28 years, the ride was a special one.

“In the lead up to it, [I had] 29 months of doing 1,000 kms a month in training. I was fit and I was ready, but I still had lots of fears and reservations about doing the ride,” says Mike. “I’ve never done that amount of riding per day in my life, so that was the great unknown. But I stepped into it in faith and got to the other end in one piece!”

Talking about his experience of the ride, Mike says it was one of the most challenging times in his life.

“It was demanding physically, mentally and in the end spiritually for me. It was a mixture of emotions.”

He says, “I felt with the preparation I had done I could handle it physically, but when we were going across the bottom of Australia, we hit some strong headwinds and crosswinds. I’ve never experienced anything like that, and that really challenged us all, particularly me. I went from a physical challenge to a mental battle to a spiritual moment. And that was quite special and significant.”

Mike says there were a lot of highs and lows across the journey, but he says it was the camaraderie of the team and the unity with which they came together that helped them get through.

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“Often, when riders were struggling, I would just get alongside and sit beside them, and we’d have a little chat and pray together,” says Mike. “There was a lot of opportunity to do that. And I remember having a particularly challenging day and people got around me and supported me to get through it. So it was a great team effort.”

Mike says that God’s strength and grace was evident in each day.

“Personally, I felt the presence of God the whole way along. It was more like having these ongoing conversations with Him as I was riding,” he says. “We had devotions every day and they were really meaningful, and I found some to be very powerful.”

“Right through, there was just God’s presence,” says Mike. “We all sensed Him speaking to us individually.”

“You step into adventure, not knowing what lies ahead and you find that God is in the midst of it all.”

“He is speaking through people or through the devotion of the day or through a church service at night,” says Mike.

While the ride was a challenge, for Mike and the team it was worth all the effort to see vulnerable children and their families impacted by the funds raised and the support given.

“For a small team of about 25 riders and support crew who raised just under a million dollars and sponsored so many children, it was an amazing achievement,” says Mike. “I don’t think anything like this has ever been done before at Compassion.”

And while their incredible effort has impacted the lives of many children around the world, the global food crisis is far from over. Right now, 258 million people around the world don’t have food to eat today. Intensifying global events like conflict, increased costs, climate issues and the aftermath of COVID-19 have all contributed to rising food insecurity among the world’s most vulnerable populations. Children have been particularly affected. As food prices climb, so do hunger and malnutrition.

The challenges faced by our global neighbours are still having a devastating impact on millions around the world. With the conflict between Russia and Ukraine showing no signs of slowing down, food prices remain elevated even after decreasing from their record highs in early 2022. Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s largest exporters of wheat and other crucial crops, and as they enter a second year of conflict, many vulnerable countries around the world still face heightened food insecurity.

While much has been done and many lives have been impacted in a number of countries around the world, for so many facing the reality of food insecurity, hope is still hard to come by.

There is still a long way to go but we can be part of the answer. For anyone who wants to support Compassion’s local church partners, by either fundraising or advocacy, Mike has this encouragement to give:

“Give it a go,” he says. “If you’ve sensed God lay something on your heart or you sense a need to do something, just do it. In our church, we’ve got small groups of people making cards for Compassion.”

“It doesn’t have to be this fantastic adventure, like riding across Australia. It can be just as simple as making cards for Compassion and doing things the Lord lays on your heart.”

Mike is passionate about the work of Compassion because he has seen its impact firsthand.

“Going to the field and seeing the fruit of the ministry in the children’s lives and the impact that it’s having, there’s not a ministry like it in the world,” says Mike. “It also has an impact in the community in which they live. There’s a ripple effect in churches and families, and the towns and communities.”

“Compassion is an amazing ministry, and it is an amazing model. God has got His hand on it, and it works.”

Mike’s passion led him to produce a documentary about Ride for Compassion that will air on GOOD. “It will be a great memory for us all who are on the ride, and it will bring out a lot of emotions,” he says. “We’ll re-live a lot of things when we see the footage, but I think it’s also a legacy for all those who were involved in the ride and the impact that it has had.”

For Mike, the ride was a life-changing experience and one that he will treasure forever.

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“There were some challenging moments for us all. I don’t think anybody could have done that ride without being impacted in some way,” he says. “It was intense but crossing the finish line at Newcastle and seeing all the Compassion family waiting for us, cheering us on… it was quite emotional for me.”

“It was a wonderful experience, one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

You can watch the Coast to Coast: Ride for Compassion documentary on GOOD. There is still a great need to keep bringing practical help and the hope of Jesus to people facing hunger. You can find out more and join the effort to answer hunger with hope today.

Words and images from compassion.com.au