A “I Want To Live Healthy” cycling club in La Garita in northern Colombia pause on a bridge during their route on Mar. 19, 2023. The event coined as “Hope on Wheels” is part of a series of cycling activities led by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North and South Colombia Unions, drew 480 to pedal in their respective regions to promote a healthy lifestyle Mar. 19-20, 2023. [Photo: North Colombia Union]

March 31, 2023 | Bogotá, Colombia | Laura Acosta y Daniela Arrieta and Inter-American Division

Seventh-day Adventist cycling clubs in Colombia have grown to nearly 500 members thanks to a country-wide initiative to promote a healthy lifestyle. Coined as “I Want to Live Healthy”, cycling clubs have not only engaged church members to become active in the sport but their friends as well. In a recent nation-wide activity, 480 cyclists took to roads in their respective regions on March 19-20, 2023.

Cyclists logged their kilometers through the QVS Colombia group on the Strava App and were able to promote the healthy activity as an Adventist Community, organizers said. The church in the southern and northern regions have been working on promoting the initiative, motivating members to organize cycling clubs and include joggers and roller skaters to join together in promoting an active life as well.

A group of cyclists stop at a bridge near the southern coast of Colombia, Mar. 20, 2023. [Photo: South Colombia Union]

“Cycling has become one of the most popular and successful sports in Colombia, not only on a professional level but also in the recreational and amateur field,” said Pastor Leonel Preciado, health ministries director of the South Colombia Union, who is a cyclist himself.  One of the reasons why the sport has become widely embraced has to do with the geographical features of the country, with mountains and landscapes that offer an ideal challenge for cyclists but also the passion and dedication of Colombians for this sport, he explained.

“Hope on Wheels”

“We have motivated our church membership to join the ‘I Want to Live Healthy’ Cycling Club as an official club with statutes and insurance for its cyclists,” said Preciado.  Last year, there were cycling routes that called attention to the theme “Hope on Wheels,” he said. “On March 19 and 20 we fulfilled a very important purpose where we had a strategy to motivate persons to reach 20,000 kilometers, and we were able to reach that in cities and municipal districts, and in communities where dozens went out with their clubs, on their own, or as a family to reach the challenge.”

A group of cyclists pedal together through the country side in the southern Colombian region on Mar. 20, 2023. Photo: South Colombia Union]

“The 20,000 kilometers reached in two days was one of the demonstrations that we can unite in doing great things to testify that we have a healthy church that with healthy habits and lifestyles,” said Preciado.

The initiative came about from a group of professional cyclists and is supported by both church unions in Colombia.

Pastor Mauricio Buitrago, health ministries director in the North Colombia Union, who has been active in cycling regularly in Medellin and other parts of the northern region, said: “Without a doubt this challenge to reach 20,000 kilometers in two-days is an opportunity to demonstrate the passion for cycling and contribute to promoting an active healthier lifestyle. I hope that this initiative will encourage more persons to join this great adventure on wheels.”

A group of Adventist cyclists smile big after going on a long rout across a city in the southern region of Colombia. [Photo: South Colombia Union]

Expanding throughout the country

At a national level, there was great participation of cyclists in Valledupar in northern Colombia with more than 100 cyclists who completed their route.  A group of cyclists began in 2019 and by the end of the pandemic the group grew to 120 in Bogota, and 150 in Los Llanos. Many dozens more have joined throughout many smaller regions, and the initiative is expanding more and more in the northern region, church leaders said.

“Our churches throughout the South Colombia Union have been getting to each municipal district, every town and city to involve more children, young people and families to take part in a sports activity,” said Preciado. “These types of athletic clubs can bring us together help us organize better with proper insurance can maintain a healthy lifestyle that allows to witness more.”

The recent activity is one more scheduled this year in anticipation for a cycling tour of some 400 kilometers from Bogota in the southern part to the northern city of Bucaramanga, said Preciado. “We expect hundreds of cyclists to participate in this long adventure with us. We want to keep motivating our church members, friends, young people and leaders to each day practice some sporting activity because we know it will improve their health, encourage healthy habits and expand clubs to share Jesus and grow personally spiritually and socially.”

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