Nathaniel Boyd, class of ’09, is going to spend 24 hours on a bike in the heat of the Sierra Valley Desert to reach the lives of troubled youth. He’s one of the 84 bikers that have signed up so far to participate in the 2019 Agony Ride on July 26th and 27th.
Boyd is the Executive Director of Christian Encounter Ministries, a ranch that reaches out to young adults with broken lives and shows them the love and power of Christian community. Agony Ride is one of their largest annual fundraisers. Riders will bike for as many miles as humanly possible in one day with the support of donors who pledge to give a certain amount per mile. This year will mark the 37th anniversary of the day-long bike-a-thon.
It isn’t going to be a leisurely ride.
On the Agony Ride website, riders can announce how far they’re going to try to go and how much money they are going to try to raise. Bob Bayley, one of Agony’s participants this year, hopes to reach 300 miles. Sounds fairly straightforward. But if Bayley hopes to reach his goal, he will have to consistently ride at 12.5 miles per hour—and that’s not accounting for sleep, meals, or breaks.
With the ride only a week away, dozens of riders like Bayley have set the bar high, pledging hundreds of miles in what will be a brutal fight against lactic acid, heat, and exhaustion. Boyd himself has pledged to ride 235 miles and hopes to raise $8,000 in the process. It’s going to hurt, but to these riders, it’s worth it. After all, it’s for the ranch and, more importantly, for the kids that find their way there.
These kids have suffered. They have experienced personal tragedy, abuse, substance abuse, emotional and spiritual darkness—the list goes on. As they grow into young adults, these patterns of brokenness, if left unaddressed, can reap devastating results. The ranch is for young adults who might know they need to grow, but don’t know how or where to begin the process.
Through discipleship, work programs, and counseling, Christian Encounter helps its students find the emotional healing and personal development that many of them desperately crave. As their website states, they aim to “overcome the cycles of brokenness, one story at a time.” On average, students stay for about 14-18 months, receiving mentorship and tutoring built from the foundation of the Word of God. The love and grace of Christian community is powerful, and Boyd and the leadership at Christian Encounter know it can do amazing things for people with staggering needs.
Boyd has been hearing about the power of the Gospel for a long time. Back at Patrick Henry College, he majored in the Classical Liberal Arts Degree with an emphasis in education. Like Christian Encounter, Patrick Henry College believes the beginning of education starts with the Bible. After graduating, Boyd would later go on to earn an M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary, furthering his knowledge of God, His Word, and His people. He’s surrounded by people who are constantly striving to see it work in the people around them. He’s actually not the only PHC alumnus to work at Christian Encounters. Jensen Near, a 2010 graduate, works for the ranch as the Director of Student Life and Intern Director.
As Boyd gears up to face down Agony Ride, he knows he’ll be doing it to see the renewing power of the Gospel in the lives of others. Boyd, alongside the other cyclists on the desert road will use every ounce of their cycling capabilities to bring the Gospel and hope to young adults who desperately need it.
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Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.