The idea came to KR Mele in prayer.
He would ride thousands of miles across the country on a bicycle to build a worship center for his Penns Valley congregation and to help orphans in far-off Zambia.
Now all he needed was a bike.
“I didn’t even own one at the time,” Mele said of the early planning stages of his trip.
But what the pastor of Family Life in Penns Valley church lacked in equipment he made up for in drive. He’s immersed in a training program for his journey, which begins in April and will take him from California to Florida, more than 3,000 miles.
Along the way, he will spread the message of his church. And with money he raises, Mele hopes to build an orphanage in Luanshya, Zambia; to dig a fresh water well at another location in the African country; and to help his own congregation build a church.
So how did a pastor from a rural Penns Valley church, one who didn’t even own a bike, decide on this journey?
“Last summer, I had heard of a pastor walking across the country, and I said, ‘That would take too long,’ ” Mele joked. “I thought (going by) bike would be a little easier.
“But I didn’t want this to be some crazy idea of mine,” he said. “I didn’t want to do this unless the Lord confirmed it in my heart. I began to see this as a mission trip.”
But Mele knew he couldn’t go alone. He was planning to bring a second biker, but he didn’t know who.
Mele said he was at a gym training for the event, and reading a book about cross-country biking, when the answer appeared in the form of longtime acquaintance Harold Morgan.
“He knew nothing about (my plan),” Mele said. “I showed him the cover (of the book) and he said, ‘You and I should do that.’ ”
It was an unexpected offer, especially considering Morgan will turn 75 during the estimated six-week journey. But Mele said his riding partner is more than up to the task.
“I’m 47 and I’m thinking, ‘Am I going to be able to keep up with him?’ ” Mele said.
The pair expect to ride 80 miles a day. The trip, which begins in Los Angeles and ends in St. Augustine, Fla., is expected to take between five and six weeks to complete.
Mele has set a goal of $1 million, and according to his website, he has raised $15,000.
The money will help his congregation build a church without having to go into serious debt. The congregation owns land but rents a building to hold its services. Now, after 10 years and with a growing membership, the church is ready for its own building, Mele said.
The money also will be used to help orphans through Haven for Hope Ministries in State College.
Mele said that 10 percent of the money he raises will go toward building an orphanage in Zambia.
“It really clicked in my heart that this is where I want to help,” he said.