Pastor Bikes Across America

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While missions agencies are seeking news ways to pay the bills, one New York minister is taking a unique approach.

Bruce Overstreet, a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, is riding his bike across the country.

"It's a thing where in my mind I just need to think in terms of, not going across the United States, but I just ride from one point to the next," Overstreet said. "Today, I'm going to Monarch, that's my goal. I just have to get to Monarch."

With each mile he puts behind him, Overstreet is giving life to women and children in one of the poorest countries in the world.

"My pace is generally around anywhere from 13 to 16 miles an hour, average throughout a day. Most of my days have been 70, 80 miles. I've got seven 100 mile days so far and I'm hoping for one, at least one 200-mile day," he said.

His 3,900-mile journey stretches from Eureka, Calif., to old Orchard Beach, Maine.

But his ultimate destination lies across the Atlantic Ocean, in the town of Koutiala, in the African nation of Mali.

He's riding to help this hospital run by the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

It's one of the few health facilities that serves rural Mali.

CMA missionaries built the hospital after five women in a local church died from complications from child birth in just one month.

"It's an area again where some of the toughest things that go in terms of needs for women and children and we're able to minister to that and we're able to show the love of Jesus in a very tangible way by administering medical care and making that available to people who desperately need it," Overstreet said.

The World Health Organization reports that about 25 percent of children in Mali die before their 5th birthday.

Health facilities are so scarce that families with sick children have to travel long distances at great cost, forcing parents to choose between helping a sick child and feeding the rest of the family.

Since 2006, this hospital has helped save hundreds of lives, but now it needs more room to meet the huge demand.

Overstreet, a former competitive racer who still rides long distances, wanted to help.

"You know, I'm just a guy riding across the country on a bike; lot's of guys have done that. I want support for the hospital. It's for the kids, it's for the moms, it's for the families in Mali that don't have a good hospital and we need more room, we need more space for them," Overstreet said.

He's hoping his ride will motivate people to give to the building fund.

The 52-year-old pastor is paying a physical price for his commitment.

High in the Rocky Mountains, his endurance is taken nearly to the limit.

"This is the longest highest pass of the ride. This is pain. We're on a five percent grade, which is really isn't so bad, but we're at 9,200 feet, according to my elevation meter here. So I could use another can of oxygen, I think," he said.

Like the people of Mali's struggle for a better life, it's a long slow climb and success is measured little by little.

"You just have to think of it a few feet at a time. I mean that's all you can do," he said.

"Thinking of the kids in Africa helps and realizing that the money that we raise from this is gonna help them have a better life and have a life at all and that helps me to keep going on days when I'm feeling a little weary," Overstreet said.

At the top, Overstreet takes a brief rest and time for pictures.

Then he's back on the road, running down the dream of a better life for the people of Mali.

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