11/2/09 – by Marci Seither
ALTA – Sierra First Baptist Church is a small congregation that is serious about its role in missions.
Last year the 125-member fellowship in Alta sent more than 35,000 pounds of beans and rice to Mexico, packed up their tools and traveled to Montana where they helped rebuild a church, and sent a team of youth on a World Changers project. But when Sierra First Baptist Church reaches out to those in their own community they tend to get a little dirty.
Letting the dirt fly is okay with the 120 dirt-bike riders who converged on Smith Valley, NV recently for the eighth annual Desert Storm Ride.
“This is a great way to minister to people who never plan to go to church,” said Pastor Scott Saunders, who doesn’t ride himself but is one of the 50 volunteers needed to hold the event.
“Last year we had a lady come to Desert Storm who recently wrote a letter to us about her decision to get her life back on track and follow Christ as a result of the ride,” Saunders said. “Those are the things that happen as a result of Desert Storm.”
Helping others see the love of Christ firsthand is what John and Jeanette Farewell had in mind then they planned the first event. They wanted to combine their love of God with their passion for dirt-bike riding as an outreach for sharing the gospel. With the help of their three sons they put in countless hours to make that happen.
Riders can choose one of two routes based on their level of expertise. The “C” loop consists of 44 miles through the rugged desert terrain. The 76-mile “A” loop is for more advanced endurance riders. Riders climb up to altitudes of 8,800 feet and tough out the deep sandy gorges and rocky climbs. Along both routes are checkpoints to make sure riders are accounted for.
The event is free, though riders are encouraged to collect pledges that are divided between a mission in Mexico and a boys’ home in Montana. A raffle of donated items marks the official end of the event before the cleanup crew removes miles of ribbon required to mark the trails. This year more than $9,600 was collected for the two missions projects.
Dean and Shelbie Rue of Orangevale have taken advantage of the unique approach to evangelism and outreach to witness to their family.
“This is a way for them to be around believers in a loving and safe environment,” said Dean, a diesel mechanic who rode his Suzuki DRZ 400 on the “C” loop.
“This also helps to reinforce that Christians can have fun and that we are not alone in our faith,” Shelbie added.
The Rues’ nephew, 29-year-old Marty Deboer along with his wife and their three children, have attended Desert Storm for the past several years.
“The ride is awesome,” said Deboer, who does not attend church. When asked how he feels about the church-sponsored event he enthusiastically responded, “It is great. There are a lot of people riding and we are having a real good time.”
DeBoer rode with his sons, 11-year-old Austin and 9-year-old Christian. “They have been riding since they were four. It’s fun to do this as a family, and with the free dinner and breakfast it’s affordable and something we can still do on a tight budget.”
Ken Carley of Citrus Heights hadn’t ridden a bike since he was 16,
“Now we have about four bikes, and me, my son and my daughter all ride.” Carley said he also enjoyed the early morning “Stormbucks” coffee and fellowship.
“In this day and age life is so rough and hard,” Carley noted. “It’s great that families can come out and spend time with others who live out their faith.”
Spending time together is something 16-year-old Lucas Alverez, who attends Sierra First Baptist Church, enjoys about the annual ride.
“Me and my dad are riding buddies. This is our bonding time.”
Three years ago Alverez broke his arm at Desert Storm in a fall that required surgery, but the teen says that doesn’t deter him from going out and having a good time.
“These are battle wounds!” he laughed as he showed off a scar that runs the length of his forearm.
When the riders return to camp a large dinner is served, followed by a concert. This year Steve Grace, an Australian singer/songwriter who has just released an album of hymns, took the stage with his Bob Dylan and Neil Young-style music to entertain those in the Desert Storm camp.
“This is living the adventure of living for Christ,” said Steve Grace, a seasoned rider who tackled the “A” loop.
Grace gave a sermon in the outdoor sanctuary Sunday morning, encouraging those in attendance to pray for each other and to stay in God’s Word.
“The one thing you learn while riding in a hot place of endurance and exhaustion is that without water your body begins to dehydrate rapidly,” Grace said. “You begin to misjudge critical situations. One bad decision at high speed and you are set for disaster.
“So it is with our spiritual life,” he asserted.
“Without the daily filling of the Holy Spirit we quickly become spiritually dry. Then we become isolated from the plans God has for us and make bad decisions.
When he closed with prayer several hands raised at the invitation to receive Christ as their personal Savior. The following Sunday, two of those who had made a commitment attended Sierra First Baptist Church for the first time.
“We don’t know the circumstances that people are facing when they come out to the ride, but God does,” stated Pastor Scott Saunders. “Sometimes you have to go to where people are if you are going to reach them for Christ.”