Pastor bikes across state in support of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
LAWRENCEBURG — David Simmerman encountered numerous hardships during his five-day, 500-mile bicycle ride.
Searing heat, loose gravel, relentless hills, unexpected potholes, heartless headwinds — all were working against Simmerman as he made the journey from Mountain City to Memphis in an effort to raise awareness, and money, for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.
But Simmerman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Leoma, said the obstructions were ultimately the most significant aspect of his mission. It was the challenges, he said, that truly expanded his perspective on what he was doing — and why he was doing it.
“As I rode along, I spent a lot of miles thinking about the kids, specifically the kids at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes,” Simmerman said. “They are the ones who are fighting the headwind. And not for a hundred miles, but for every mile of their lives. They are the ones who have the flat tires, the ones who have to deal with obstacles. And that’s what kept me going during my ride.”
Simmerman’s journey started on Monday, June 24, in Mountain City. By the time he reached Memphis five days later, he had accomplished both of his objectives — logging over 500 miles and raising more than $5,000 in donations to the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.
“David’s personal sacrifice in pushing himself on this journey is a testament to the value he places on caring for children from hard places,” said Greg McCoy, president and treasurer of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, Inc. “I was excited to hear about his plan, and I am amazed when I think about the reality of him pedaling 500 miles in five days.”
Prior to the trip, Simmerman met with McCoy to determine the best way to ensure that all of the donation money from the ride went directly to TBCH. It was decided that donating through the TBCH website — and earmarking the donations under the heading of “David Rides” — would be the easiest and most efficient way to go about it.
Simmerman’s mission was then promoted via several social media outlets under the name “DRAT” (Dave’s Ride Across Tennessee). His journey was chronicled on social media throughout the five days so that his supporters could pray for him on each leg of the trip.
STAYING THE COURSE
During each day of the trip, Simmerman would mount his bike each morning around 5:30 a.m., and he would ride until roughly 1 p.m. With his brother following behind him in Simmerman’s truck for most of the way, Simmerman logged 100 miles each day during the course of the five days.
At night, Simmerman and his brother would either find a hotel that was on the route or they would stay with family members and friends.
Although he’s an experienced cyclist, Simmerman admitted that the task was daunting.
“I had a few doubts before I started,” he said with a slight laugh. “I mean, I’d done 100 miles in a day before. But that had been in group rides — and that’s a different sort of thing. In a group ride, you can draft behind other people and you can save a lot of energy that way. But when you’re out there by yourself, getting all the headwind on you, it’s a different deal. But you know what? God just gave me a confidence about the whole thing. And we got through it.”
One of his favorite stops along the way came after the third day of the trip, when his route took him to his own house in Lawrenceburg. He was able to see his family and sleep in his own bed that night.
That was also the day when he was most tempted to call it quits. Suddenly, the idea of just staying home seemed very appealing.
“I woke up on the morning of Day 4 at my house in Lawrenceburg,” he said, “and I started thinking about the 100 miles that I was going to do that day — from Lawrenceburg to Savannah — and I just thought to myself, you know, I just don’t want to get on this bike this morning. My legs were sore, and I was tired.”
But Simmerman ultimately decided that he would, as they say, get back on the horse. And at that point, the objective became very simple. “Just keep pedaling,” he said.
“I knew a lot of folks were praying, and that made a huge difference,” Simmerman added. “There are a lot of times when you hear people say, ‘I felt your prayers.’ And I truly experienced that. I really felt people praying for me those last two days, because at that point, my body really wasn’t agreeing with my decision to get back on that bike.”
MAKING IT COUNT
Simmerman’s idea to raise awareness for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. His connection to the TBCH runs deep.
Simmerman and his wife had their first child 22 years ago — a son. After that, the couple was told by their doctor that they weren’t going to be able to have any more children, which prompted them to begin to explore adoption.
The Simmermans then adopted a child, a daughter, through Bethany Christian Services. Two months later, Simmerman’s wife became pregnant — with twins.
“We had three new babies in nine months,” he said. “So that was crazy.”
Simmerman has maintained a passion for the TBCH’s ministries in the years since his daughter was adopted.
“The adoption process for us was just a storybook type of thing,” he said. “It’s a great example of God’s providence and His goodness. So, as a result of our own experience, adoption is something that is very near and dear to us. And the TBCH does such an amazing job of putting kids in their forever homes.”
Fittingly, Simmerman stopped by two of the TBCH campuses during his 500-mile bike journey. He was greeted with cheers and sent off with prayers from those sites.
“The Chattanooga and Millington campuses were super excited about his arrival and we are thankful to the Lord for keeping Pastor David safe as he accomplished his goal,” said McCoy. “We are so thankful for his family and friends — as well as the church family from Leoma Baptist — supporting his ride.”
FOR A BIGGER PURPOSE
Simmerman said he first started thinking about biking across Tennessee several years ago. He then started getting more serious about it as his 50th birthday loomed on the horizon.
“When you get to your late 40s, and you start thinking about turning 50, you start kind of thinking about things you’ve always wanted to do,” said Simmerman. “And for me, I’ve always loved riding my bicycle. In the past, I had some friends that I would go riding with, and I talked to them about possibly riding across Tennessee someday.”
Although the idea never completely came together with his friends, Simmerman never let go of his desire to ride from one end of the state to the other.
“I started talking to my brother about it, and we decided it could work,” Simmerman said.
Simmerman started training for the journey about nine months ago. While doing so, he felt called to turn the trip into something more meaningful.
“I realized that I needed to do this for a reason; for something that was bigger than me,” he said. “I began thinking that I should really do this as a way to raise awareness of a ministry — and since the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes is an organization that has always been near and dear to my heart, that seemed like a great fit.”
Not long after that, Simmerman started mapping out a plan for the trip. And soon, his vision became a reality, and the dates were set for his journey. “David’s Ride” was ready for launch.
After preaching at his church in Lawrenceburg on June 23, Simmerman and his brother drove to Simmerman’s mom and dad’s house in Jonesborough. They drove to Mountain City the following morning, and Simmerman officially started the trek at 5:30 a.m. that day. Five days and more than 500 miles later, he arrived in Memphis. Mission accomplished.
The following day, he loaded up and once again headed back home — in a car, this time. It was a enjoyable ride, aching joints and all.