Covid-19 has certainly tested the Word Riders motor cycle team’s resolve to take Bibles to Grade 7 children at some of South Africa’s most remote rural schools.
Last November, against all odds, the team completed their historic 10th annual mission during the week of the 200th anniversary of their parent ministry, the Bible Society of South Africa, despite pressure to abandon the trip in the midst of Covid uncertainties.
Faced with school terms changed because of the impact of Covid and the possibility of a third wave of infection later this year, the team decided to seize a window of opportunity to take 5 714 Bibles to 73 schools in parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal this week.
And even then, the pandemic dealt them a blow, as six of the regular Word Riders — and their bikes — had to withdraw from this week’s mission because of riders testing positive for Covid-19 or coming into close contact with infected people. This left a smaller team comprising 30 motorbikes and 46 people to distribute a record number of Bibles.
But the Word Riders, who are leaders in their various fields of work, who love the Lord, love children and love the Bible, are people who thrive on challenges and are able to make a plan on the move, said team leader Francois Sieberhagen in an interview.
The week started in the Mkhondo (Piet Retief) area where emotions have been running high since the murder of two brothers on a farm a month ago. The team had to trust God that they would carry His peace into the area — and inspire young peacemakers to arise at schools. And indeed that is what they experienced when they called on schools in the area on Monday. At one of the schools a group of children asked a team member to pray for the Lord to help them to be able to forgive people.
Navigating treacherous terrain is another challenge that Word Riders are ready to face. There were several motorbike spills this week but by the grace of God no serious injuries. The oldest rider, Burger van der Westhuizen, 77, a former school principal, fractured his tibia in an accident and has had to return home. But he said he will be back next year, said Francois. “Not on a motorbike but driving a support vehicle.”
The team hands out a Bible to each Grade 7 learner individually and seeks to engage personally with each of the children — a daunting challenge when faced with the numbers. This year many children were blessed to receive a new Zulu Bible that was only released last year.
Francois said his most abiding impression of the tour was travelling deep into rural areas and witnessing the great depth of poverty which communities face. Even in the midst of abject circumstance they met children who dreamed of become pilots and doctors.
He said he hoped the children would reach their dreams but he also worried about their prospects of rising above such disadvantaged conditions.
This year’s mission will end in Ermelo on Friday where team members will share an evening celebration together. Then at sunrise on Saturday they will mount their bikes again to ride off in different directions to their various home towns across SA.
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