Cross-country biker pedals into Florala

Published 11:59 pm Friday, June 19, 2009

Some 50 youth gathered Thursday night inside the Florala Middle School to hear how one man has dedicated his life to making a difference.

By the time the night was over, he had issued the same edict to them — “No matter where you are, you can make a difference. I tell kids, I’m making a difference by biking for Jesus. They can make a difference by … and I tell them to fill in the blank. It’s up to them to change the world.”

So said Johnny Kelly, a 29-year-old youth pastor and founder of Bike for the Light ministries, who made Florala one of his stops on a nearly 10,000 mile bike trip across the United States to raise money to help support mission trips. He has been traveling the county for six months, beginning in San Francisco, Calif., and will ride to Orlando, Fla. He hopes to be finished in August.

Through sponsorships, Kelly raises money for the ride, and that money is donated to other non-profits and humanitarian organizations.

He has braved snow, wind, rain and now blistering sun to make his way to Alabama — the 15th state on his 16-state journey.

“It has not been a straight-shot trip,” Kelly said. “I’ve kind of been zig-zagging across the country speaking to groups about the Bike For the Light Ministry. I tell people that it’s my goal to see teens reach out and make a difference where they can, whenever they can.

“I urge them to think beyond themselves, which is a hard thing to do for teenagers,” he said. “But they do it, and often will surprise you. I tell people that I try to make a difference by biking to bring Jesus’ message to the world. What others do to make a difference, that’s up to them.”

Throughout his journey, a driver-operated RV has followed Kelly for safety purposes, and that vehicle also serves as a visual testament to the power of Kelly’s challenge.

“Every time I speak to a group, that night at the end, the kids will sign my RV,” he said. “They leave a written testament on how they will make a difference. Some are simple; some very specific, but all of them a great message.”

Kelly said at the end of the Florala gathering, a young girl came and expressed how much is visit meant to her.

“It almost brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “And that’s the exact reason I do what I do. I hope that I made a difference in someone’s life that night.”

Details of Kelly’s journey can be found at