Skip to content

Cycling for Christ’s sake: A thirteen-day journey through South Africa for the persecuted (slegs in Engels beskikbaar)

Adriaan van der Westhuizen (60) has been an avid cyclist for fifteen years. He has participated in multiple road and mountain biking events, including:

  • the 94.7 cycle challenge (ten consecutive times),
  • the Cape Argus (five times),
  • the 3-Day Sani2C from Underberg, to Scottburgh on the Natal South coast (five times), and
  • the 9-Day Joberg2C from Heidelberg in Gauteng to Scottburgh on the Natal South coast (two times).

In April this year, Adriaan decided to partner with Open Doors in a huge undertaking. Using his gifts and talents to cycle through South Africa to raise support and awareness for persecuted Christians in Israel and Gaza. As part of Open Doors’ sports division, 4THEM, Adriaan took on the challenge of cycling from Johannesburg to Jeffreys Bay (mostly on dirt or gravel), by himself, in 13 days.

Here is his testimony, in his own words…

“One afternoon, after one of my training sessions for the cycle challenge, my beautiful wife asked me why I wanted to do this. I said: ‘I wanted to see if it would be possible to trek across the country with my entire kit on my bicycle, without a backup vehicle accompanying me.

“I guess it’s an old army thing. I’m still in contact with my platoon and we tend to test our physical capabilities from time to time. Christelle shrugged her shoulders and said: ‘I think it’s rather selfish of you to try and prove a point and then go through all the trouble of training, planning, and riding. Why don’t you consider doing this for a charity?’

“I phoned a friend of mine who’s been doing the Cape Epic mountain bike race for CANSA but I quickly realised that there wasn’t enough time left to make all the arrangements with them.

“One afternoon, on my way from the office to a site visit, I drove past the mosque near the Killarney intersection on the M1 motorway through the centre of Johannesburg. Huge Palestinian flags, draping from the towers, were blowing lazily in the autumn breeze. And just there I decided to find something that could benefit civilians caught in the crossfire in Gaza. Then I remembered Thys from Open Doors, with whom I’ve done some fundraising campaigns before.

“I emailed him and told him my idea to cycle across the country. I sent him my itinerary with the routes, the overnight places, and approximate distances for each day. Thys was excited and assisted with the fundraising administration. I created a WhatsApp group, called “1200km Bible ride” and registered a campaign on with the same name. Then I made a video of the route and posted it on the WhatsApp group and Facebook. After this, I realised that there was no pulling out now. ‘Die koeël is nou deur die kerk.’”

Adriaan then set out to raise R120 000 while cycling 1200km for persecuted believers in Israel and Gaza. His 13-day journey started on the 19th of April 2024.


Strapping my kit to my bike.

Journey to Parys

“I woke up early, went through the last of my emails, and then loaded my luggage and bike in the car, ready to roll. While drinking my coffee on the patio, a feeling of doubt came over me. It reminded me of a specific day back in 1982, when my platoon and I were embarking on a five-day ‘Vasbyt’ hike, with a full kit and a bunch of other equipment.

“I prayed, asking God to help me through this and then sent a message to my army comrades, asking them if they could remember what it felt like minutes before we started walking because that was exactly how I was feeling!

“Their response was immediate and positive, saying things like ‘You’ve got this, Wessie, jy’s ‘n vasbyter’. They had more confidence in me than I had in myself. At 10h15, my friend, Alberto Gaiti, arrived and we departed to the starting point of my journey. I strapped my kit to my bike, and greeted Alberto, who took my car back home, mounted it, and started my journey…

“The scenery was simply beautiful, and once again I was reminded of this splendid country God has given us. After what felt like a lifetime, I reached the tar road and the last twenty kilometres was fast. I phoned Christie, my friend by whom I was sleeping over, to let him know that I was about half an hour away. Christie and his wife, Marietjie, jumped in the car to intercept me.”

“In Parys I felt like Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France. The hospitality was simply amazing. I was greeted with fancy bottles of mineral water and energy bars on my bedside table. We enjoyed a carbo-loaded supper of meat and pasta and sat talking till late. My riding clothes were washed, and I enjoyed the catchup session. After a good night’s rest, I prepared for the second leg of my tour.”


Allenridge flamingos.

Viljoenskroon, Odendaalsrus to Bultfontein

“I arrived in Viljoenskroon around noon, a town in a state, with roads badly eroded. A huge Afrikaans church poises majestically in the centre of the town and one can see the tower from miles away. (I noticed this to be a typical feature in all these small ‘plattelandse’ towns.

“The road to Odendaalsrus was flat and quiet and I was able to maintain a fairly healthy speed (22km/h average). I arrived at Odendaalsrus fairly early and was able to rest my legs.

“The Bultfontein community is a strong one, with everyone bending their backs to get work done. Hannes Vorster, a varsity friend of my brother and farmer, showed me around and took me to the local Dutch Reformed Church, where I met some of the members.

Die kerk en die bar is langs mekaar.

We had a very nice braai and they told me about the church’s history. Most of the churches in these small towns in the Free State and old Western Transvaal were built approximately a hundred years after the Groot Trek (our forefathers got tired of British oppression and left the Western Cape in 1837. They established small towns as they travelled north, like Bultfontein, Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom).

“Most church buildings in those years all had the same architectural design. They were big, built with red-brown clay bricks, high towers and tower clocks.


Bloemfontein, Edenburg, Bethulie, to Steynsburg

“The route to Bloemfontein was monotonous. I spent the evening with my army friends, Peter and Jannie Nel and talked about the good old days, the changes in our country since our military days, and the upcoming elections. Jannie told us about his outreaches to homeless people, and shelters and realised once again how much we need God. Pieter, Jannie, and I agreed that we need to turn back to God because South Africa needs a miracle like never before.

The next day was day 6 of the race, a 4.3km journey towards Edenburg.

“Before long, I was on a smooth quiet dirt road. Edenburg itself is the second smallest town that I passed through on this journey. The people are poor, and I get the feeling that they can’t afford to stay anywhere else. I also mistakenly didn’t book accommodation in this town. I was able to secure a room with a clean bed and hot water, as well as a hearty meal from the pub next door.

Day 6 was a big day. I was going to reunite with another army buddy that I hadn’t seen for 42 years. I met up with Jan de Beer and we had breakfast together in Stofberg.

“United Mining Services’ CEO, Digby Glover, who’s been following my progress with the rest of UMS, was going to call me into the monthly status update Teams meeting for a progress report. And I have to say, it was fun to report on cycling instead of progress on mining projects. I felt blessed with the whole of UMS cheering me on.

Bethulie was another pleasant surprise, with its beautiful gardens, green field, and gigantic trees.

“Day 7 was the most difficult day of the tour. I left beautiful Bethulie with all its abundant water masses and headed for Steynsburg. As I crossed the Orange River into the Northern Cape, the wind started picking up.

“By noon, the wind was gusting, jerking me around on my bicycle. The roads were very quiet, but badly corrugated caused by massive cattle trucks. I experienced the sensation of being completely alone, but not once did I feel lonely or afraid. I reached Steynsburg after seven and a half hours, exhausted but satisfied.”


Cradock, Pearston, Jansenville to Kirkwood

“Leaving Steynsburg to Cradock, I had to cross through Hofmeyer, where I decided to have breakfast. I noticed a few adventure bikers entering the town just as I was preparing to leave town. I rode over to them to find out where they were going. ‘Hogsback and Rhodes, and you?’ the scrubby biker with a dust-covered kit asked. I told them that I was from Johannesburg and heading for Jeffreys Bay. They looked at me in disbelief when one of them asked: ‘Is that an e-bike?’, to which I responded: ‘No, I’m not vegan.’

Not the ideal road sign to see on the 2nd last day.

“Day 9 was the most scenic part of the tour, but also amounted to the most climbing, going over Swaershoek Pass. I felt close to God and close to nature. The climbing seemed to go on forever, but when I approached the apex, I saw someone walking down the pass with his dog following him and recognised Graham Meaker. It was good to have some company on the mountain. After a very long climb up the second part of the pass, I was rewarded with an aggressive downhill that took me to Pearston, which was the smallest town on my journey.

“Day 10 was like a rest day compared to the previous day. Most of the route was dirt. but Jansenville itself was a breath of fresh air. The open Eastern Cape landscape soothed my soul, and I realised that my journey was slowly approaching its end. I met a couple busy with their morning stroll and stopped to chat with them. They farm in Noorsveld. Simple hard-working, salt-of-the-earth-people who keep this country’s agricultural wheels turning. I once again realised how important these people’s work is. We really ought to pray more for our farmers, our communities, our leaders, and our country.

“Eventually, I reached the end of the dirt road and realised that the end was near. There were no more dirt roads scheduled for this journey. Cycling-wise, it was one of my longest cycling distances for one day, and there was still a long road ahead of me to Kirkwood.

“On entering the town, I remembered a request a school friend of mine had, asking me to have a moment of silence for her dad, who passed when she and her three sisters were still very young. He grew up in Kirkwood. I stopped at one of the pack houses and sent her this photo while confirming that I was praying for her and her family.


Jeffreys Bay

“I experienced the last day as a kind of an anti-climax. Also realising that all the messages of support and prayers would also come to an end. My WhatsApp group had almost four hundred members, some from Germany, New Zealand, and, of course, Brazil. The idea, however, of sleeping late the next day without having to mount my purple steed, was also very satisfying, I might add. The last twenty kilometres felt like a lifetime to me. It was windy and the traffic was bad, but the end was in sight. I had a reception waiting for me at the Spur on the main beach.

“Needless to say, it was an amazing adventure.

The end of the road.

“A total sum of R137 000 was raised for Christians in need in Israel and Gaza. I never thought that this adventure would become such an enormous success. I am truly blessed with good friends, work colleagues, family, good health, good weather and stunning scenery.

“People are already asking me what I’m planning for next year. I’m racking my brain… be patient…”


Lessons learned

  1. We have an awesome God. (We tend to forget it when the going gets tough).
  2. We have an awesome country with awesome citizens. (Take time and explore it).
  3. We have a very, very bad government. (But it can be fixed by prayer).
  4. United Mining Services (my employer) has the best coffee in South Africa.
  5. When using anti-chaffing cream, always go for the tub instead of the tube. It reduces the risk of mixing it up with one’s toothpaste in the dark.

Wow, what an example and what a journey! Thank you, Adriaan for going the extra mile (literally) for our brothers and sisters in Israel and Palestine. Your journey showed us how much we truly need the Body of Christ and how they need us too. It is an eternal community.

Are you inspired? Take on the challenge and get active for Christ’s sake. Click here to register for Challenge 1000.

Back To Top