Seven Bikers is a ministry that uses bicycles as a means of evangelism (Photo: Personal archive)

South America

Cyclists Help Businesswoman Strengthen Her Faith and Mental Health

Taking part in Seven Bikers brought Ivaneide out of her depression and prompted her decision to be baptized

Brazil | Anne Seixas

What can be found on two wheels? And where can these two wheels lead? Ivaneide Reis found health, well-being, friends, and salvation. The businesswoman from Maranhão, Brazil, was at what could be called a watershed moment. 

Ivaneide was living in a new city and trying to heal from a marriage that had ended, in which she encountered all kinds of restrictions. Her mind was not healthy. She arrived in Imperatriz, Maranhão, found a job, and took up a childhood habit again: cycling.

However, the insecurity of covering kilometers alone led Ivaneide to find a group of friends who shared the same hobby. "Cycling lifted me out of depression and anxiety," she says. She also says that when she feels any signs of mental illness, she calls her group and goes cycling. 

That's how Ivaneide started going on sporting outings with the Seven Bikers group, made up of Seventh-day Adventists from the city. "My mother was the pioneer in taking us to the Adventist Church," says Ivaneide. In her teens, she stopped attending meetings, got married, and, after her divorce, felt the desire to visit a church. It was then that she met the leader of the cycling group, who invited her to help run the activity. 

Commitment to God and Sport 

This had a direct influence on Ivaneide’s decision to be baptized. However, it wouldn't be a traditional baptism. "I want to be baptized on the trail. Wherever there is water, I want to take the group, and the pastor will baptize me," she recalls of her request. She insisted on the presence of Pastor Francisco de Assis Oliveira Alencar, who was also a member of Seven Bikers.

Ivaneide chose to be baptized on a cycling trip with her friends (Photo: Personal archive)

Ivaneide chose to be baptized on a cycling trip with her friends (Photo: Personal archive)

What happened in Ivaneide's life proves and affirms the aim of the project, according to Heber Giroto, the national coordinator of Seven Bikers. "I always asked God to enable me to make this a relevant ministry," he explains. That happened in 2018. 

Giroto shares that the starting point for the initiative came when he brought together some people who were already practicing the sport to begin the activities. Gradually, he received information that there were other cyclists in other nearby towns and encouraged them to form groups in those regions, too. 

At the same time, Ivaneide's group in Imperatriz also had the same evangelistic objective. They made contact and unified the brand. The then Ciclistas Novo Tempo team adopted the name “Seven Bikers,” joining the larger project. 

During the pandemic, they grew to 160 groups throughout Brazil and the world. Today, there are 93 groups in 24 Brazilian states and other South American countries. "I didn't believe that God could turn sport into such a relevant ministry," confesses Giroto. According to him, more than 40 people have already been baptized as a result of the project.

The frequency of sports outings varies according to the group, but some requirements are fundamental for those who want to have a Seven Bikers branch in their city. There must be a bimonthly social activity and a spiritual activity among the group. Snacks, small groups, sunset services, visits, and invitations to visit the church are all options for fulfilling these requirements, which strengthen the participants' community spirit. 

Giroto explains that today, 50 percent of the cyclists are not Adventists. "Our purpose is to transform lives through cycling," he stresses. "We became known as the cyclists of the little book." In partnership with Casa Publicadora Brasileira (CPB), they printed the book Viva com Esperança (“Live with Hope”) in pocket format. This way, the athletes can carry the copies in their uniforms and distribute them to other cyclists. 

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.