Bicyclists will climb mountains to raise money for Ukraine

Bicyclists will climb mountains to raise money for Ukraine

Steve Wheeler and John Redmond plan to bike from Tennessee to North Carolina to help people in Ukraine.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- Two staff members of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church are raising money for Ukraine by bicycling 102 mountainous miles from East Tennessee to Western North Carolina.

The plan is for Steve Wheeler, 73, and John Redmond, 43, to arrive in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, a few hours before the Holston Annual Conference begins its June 5-8 session.

“I like a physical challenge,” said Wheeler, Munsey Memorial’s mission director. “It seemed like a perfect opportunity to marry a physical challenge with a cause.”

Wheeler said he and Redmond share a passion for biking, although they have never ridden together before. In 2017, Wheeler wheeled with another Munsey staff member, Andy Nelson, from Johnson City to Lake Junaluska to raise money for school supplies in Liberia.
Munsey promotes the fundraiser on social media.

The tragedy in Ukraine, where Russian aggression is causing death and suffering, was an obvious motivator to undertake a June 4-5 road challenge, the two bicyclists said.

Redmond currently serves as Munsey Memorial’s director of young adult ministries. From 2014 to 2018, he served as pastor of the English Speaking United Methodist Church in Prague, Czech Republic.

In Eastern Europe, Redmond said he worked closely with Czech pastors who are now transporting supplies to war victims as well as housing refugees from the Ukraine. Donations from the bike ride will go to support those pastors as they help their neighbors.
“I am confident that the money will be well spent, knowing the people serving and doing the work,” Redmond said. “They are very frugal with their money and will not waste it away. I suppose it helps me feel like I am doing something.”

So far, Munsey members have given $1,400 to support Wheeler and Redmond’s pedal effort. The goal is to raise $5,000 or more.

“Whatever is raised, let’s get it directed to where it will do the most good,” Wheeler said.
Steve Wheeler with his bike

A former college history teacher and mountain-bike racer, Wheeler said he’s apprehensive about the physical challenge of the journey. (“We would be foolish not to be.”) On Saturday, June 4, the bike riders will depart Johnson City at 6 a.m. and head toward the toughest part of the journey, the ascent to Sam’s Gap near the Tennessee-North Carolina border, elevation 3,700 feet.

On Sunday, June 5, they will proceed from Asheville, N.C., to Lake Junaluska Resort and Convention Center, where the Holston Annual Conference will meet in person for the first time since 2019.

“Neither one of us are satisfied with our level of training right now, but it’s not a race. We just have to get there,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to suffer, there’s no doubt about it. But our suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of the people in Ukraine.”

Wheeler said he will ride forth while relying on Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Give online to "Bike for Ukraine."

Did you like this story? Sign up for a free weekly subscription to The CallHolston Conference includes 850 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia.


Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.

Related News

The Rev. Barry Kidwell and other Holston United Methodists are aiding Ukraine by helping friends in neighboring countries. Here, Kidwell (center) is pictured with Romanian pastor, the Rev. Samuel Goia and his wife Diana Goia during a 2018 mission trip to Romania.
Mission trips provide avenue to aid Ukraine

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- What’s the best way to help the people of Ukraine? For United Methodists who have developed mission friendships in countries such as Romania and the Czech Republic, the answer is obvious. Knowing their friends are already ...

The Rev. John Redmond serves in Prague with his wife, Denise, and their two children.
Holston embraces new ministry in Czech Republic

  ALCOA, Tenn. (Aug. 17, 2016) – Eleven years ago, the Johnson City District started a ministry in the Czech Republic.  Earlier this year, the Holston Conference Missions Team decided to embrace the Czech ministry as one of its own. The invitation ...