By Melanie Ave
The Rev. Kent Pierce spent much of his summer on a bicycle, pedaling for a higher purpose.
Pierce, campus pastor at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and chairman of the Lutheran Campus Mission Association (LCMA), rode 3,671 miles across the country to raise awareness about the importance of campus ministry.
“I’m concerned for the souls of the young people from our churches,” Pierce said. “There are so many students, faculty, staff and visiting internationals who are going through this life without any relationship with Christ. I think campus ministry has a tremendous opportunity to reach out with the saving Gospel of Christ. When I think about the difference campus ministry can make in those terms, that’s a tremendous thing.”
After dipping the wheels of his touring bike in Puget Sound, Pierce left June 2 from Anacortes, Wash., with his wife and three young children accompanying him in a pickup truck with a camper attached. He ended his journey at East Lyme, Conn., making stops at LCMS congregations and the homes of friends and family along the way.
He dipped his wheels in Long Island Sound Aug. 1 to mark the end of his journey.
Pierce’s effort has so far raised more than $10,000 for the LCMA.
Jon Jensen, executive director of the Lutheran Campus Mission Association, thanked all the churches and ministry groups that supported, prayed for and hosted Pierce.
“We praise God that He has kindled fire for ministry to young adults,” he said.
The LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM) was one of the sponsors of Pierce’s ride.
ONM Executive Director Rev. Bart Day praised Pierce’s dedication to spread the word about campus ministry, which is receiving a renewed focus by the LCMS.
“College campuses are the greatest mission field in North America,” Day said. “The church must vigorously engage students in the academic world as they are the future of the church. I am thankful for Recognized Service Organizations like LCMA that are sharing the Gospel, keeping our LCMS students in the faith and opening doors on campuses to the unchurched.”
Pierce views the end of the ride as the beginning of a longer-term effort to raise the profile of campus ministry.
He said 18 million students are pursuing postsecondary degrees on college and university campuses across the country. While many of them have faith that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of a lost and sinful world, “many — that is, millions — do not,” Pierce wrote on his blog.
Pierce said his “Bike Ride Across America” combined his enthusiasm for building up the body of Christ in campus communities with his love of cycling. He averaged 75 miles a day (he didn’t ride on 12 days of the trip) and his longest ride was 163 miles in one day.
He kept followers up to date on his ride through Facebook and a personal blog at www.campusbikerideusa.org. One follower wrote: “Well done, good and faithful servant! What an amazing accomplishment! Thanks be to God for guiding you along your journey!”
Wrote another: “What a wonderful thing you and your family have done to get the word out about campus ministry. I would have liked to join you part way, but at 82, the mind is willing but the flesh is weak. We at St. Luke’s think of you often.”
Pierce lost about 10 pounds on his journey, endured temperatures ranging from the upper 30s to well over 100, a hailstorm, an Achilles injury, four new back tires and about eight flat tires including one caused by a fishing hook. Oh, and there was one bear sighting in the middle of a Wisconsin road.
The family made fun stops at parks and museums. They met up in the evenings at an agreed-upon destination.
Pierce, who is on a three-month sabbatical from his church, scheduled stops in cities and towns with LCMS congregations. In some churches he preached; in others, he visited with members.
“Pastor Kent’s bike ride was a great witness about the outreach importance and opportunities of campus ministry across the country,” said the Rev. John Voelker of Lutheran Campus Ministries of Kent, Ohio, who Pierce visited en route. “It shows how campus ministry is important all around the country and that the Good News of Jesus Christ is far-reaching and that we need to be more intentional in our outreach to students across the country.”
The Lutheran Campus Mission Association, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization, was originally formed in 2004 as a mission society with the purpose of supporting campus ministry in partnership with LCMS World Mission.
Pierce said campus ministry is deeply personal to him. Being a part of Peace Lutheran Campus Center in Stevens Point, Wis., as a student at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, changed his life, he said.
It was something he had not planned. But after four years of Word-and-sacrament campus ministry — which included Bible studies, worship, leadership training, mission trips and friendships — the Holy Spirit worked to change his direction and priorities, he said. After graduating with a degree in resource management, he chose to attend Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
He also met his wife through campus ministry.
After seminary, Pierce spent five-and-a-half years as a campus pastor at Kent State University in Ohio. In 2005, he started serving the campuses of the University of Missouri, Stephens College and Columbia College at Campus Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., where he remains today.
Pierce encouraged congregations to pray for campus ministry and hold special campus ministry Sundays and special services to “send off” high school graduates to college. He also encouraged LCMS members to use the LCMA “StudentConnect” services available on the LCMA and LCMS campus ministry websites to connect young people to a campus ministry near their college or university.
To learn more about the Lutheran Campus Mission Association and the work of the LCMS in campus ministry, visit www.lcms.org/campusministry.
Posted Aug. 10, 2012