John David Smith has been an avid biker for the past six years.
This year, he turns 50-years-old.
To celebrate the milestone, Smith challenged himself to ride 100 miles — the highest he’s ridden is just under 90 — near or on his birthday, which is Aug. 12.
“I plan to ride a 100 miles,” he said. “It’ll be the first ever I’ve accomplished that feat.”
At first the desire was self-drive but recently, he said, the goal took a more serious tone.
Smith is the executive director of the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) in Conway.
He said BMA partners with missionaries all across the globe and he decided to couple raising awareness and money for them with his ride.
While they do have American missionaries they work with, Smith said he decided to specifically target those missionaries who planted in their own countries.
“We take it very seriously, I always stress that this .. that we have partners,” he said. “We do stuff with them, not for them.”
Smith made it clear that BMA is invested in these groups and coming alongside them, working together with the missionaries who are doing amazing things already.
“We see that as very important,” he said.
Most of the groups they work with are compassion ministries: ones that build schools, create feeding programs, help domestic abuse victims and more.
Smith spent 12 years as a missionary in West Africa so he said he knew firsthand what that support felt like; how encouraging it was to know that there were people who supported their work.
He said the past two weeks he’s been challenging people on Facebook to sponsor his ride and contribute $100.
So far, Smith has raised more than $7,000 but said he has a friend who pledged to match anything that he received, putting that total at more than $15,000, currently.
“Of course, I’d like to see that go way more than that,” he said.
Smith said everyday the momentum is growing; on Wednesday, he received a check for $750 in the mail.
While he wishes he would’ve come up with the giving aspect sooner, he said, in the short time period he’s been fundraising, he’s alrady seen a lot of support.
“Not sure what it is but people have responded really well,” Smith said.
Included in that, is one church in Mississippi that he visited; by the time he left he was given a gift of $1,100, which wasn’t a corporate donation, but one collected by the several individuals at the church.
“I was really overwhelmed by that response,” he said. “I think the response will continue to grow.”
The ride is schedule for Aug. 8, but because of thunderstorm forecasts, Smith said they may have to push it back a day or two but no formal decisions have been made.
Whatever day is chosen, Smith said he planned on doing several Facebook live videos to promote the ride and tell testimonies of some of the missionary groups he plans on giving the money to.
For more information, visit bmamissions.org/changemaker100 or the organization’s Facebook page at BMAA Missions.