If you want to know how little a person truly needs to survive, ask the Rev. Johannes Myors.
On his road-worn recumbent bicycle, Myors carries a tent, two sleeping bags, a week’s worth of clothes, a first aid kit, a set of toiletries, five days worth of food, a small set of bicycle repair tools, a radio, computer, and a Bible.
“What you see is what I have on this earth. Altogether, about 100 lbs,” he said. “As in backpacking, ounces matter. I’m constantly shedding things I don’t need.”
The cycling evangelist has been pedaling across the United States since February of 1993 in true “sell your possessions and follow me” fashion, seeking out disaster sites and helping victims recover.
“I’m out here on faith,” Myors said. “Whatever happens, happens.”
Coming to America
This marks Myors’s third visit to Tupelo, but he was raised near Munich, Germany. The son of holocaust survivors, Myors grew up Jewish before converting to Christianity in 1975.
“More like ‘completion’ than ‘conversion,’” he said. “In reading the New Testament, I accepted the fact that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews were waiting for. But my parents disowned me the next year for abandoning the Jewish faith.”
Myors got his first taste of America in high school, when he spent a year in Ohio as a foreign exchange student. It was then he completed his first cross-country bike tour, from Northwest Ohio to the Mississippi River and back, around 1,000 miles.
“I was hooked,” he said. “After finishing high school, I moved back to the U.S. in 1979 and became a citizen in 1984.”
Once back in the States, Myors worked in various areas of social work all over the country, growing a heart for youth and the homeless. In 1993, while living in Portland, Ore., he was “called on the road.”
“Well, I didn’t have much stuff to begin with. I just heard the call,” he said. “I didn’t have a direction, so I just headed toward warmer weather.”
By March, he had made it to sunny Santa Monica, Calif., but dog-legged east toward Miami to help clean up the destruction of category five Hurricane Andrew.
Since then, he has seen the wake of Los Angeles’s 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the Mississippi River flood of 1995, and more recently, Hurricane Sandy, which struck new Jersey in 2012.
His stop in Tupelo is en route to Moore, Okla., bludgeoned by a tornado earlier this year.
Life on the Road
Myors lives on what he calls “road mana,” his term for spare change he finds. He also accepts online donations on his website, pedalprayers.com.
He finds his way with a compass, maps, and his Bible.
Many nights he sleeps in his tent, but if the weather is brutal, he will ask a nearby church for a roof to rest under, but no more. Occasionally, the church will request him to speak to the congregation on his ministry.
“I’m careful never to ask for anything. That way, they have honor, and you have honor,” he said.
Myors was ordained in 1998, but shrugged off denominational distinctions.
“I’m not trying to put God in a box, but be open to what he wants me to do,” he said. “I do what I do because I believe if you say you’re a Christian, you should show it. Faith without works is dead.”
In his 20th year on the road, Myors said he has a thorough perspective on the condition of the American church as a whole. What bothers him most, he said, is the church’s lack of reverence and the indulgence of materialism.
“Most churches I see are either social clubs or stake shows,” he said. “It’s sad how people see materials as more important than what they are, when not once have I seen a U-haul behind a hearse.”
The cure can only be true charity, a mentality of help. Christians must break the consumer mindset, and give to others with no strings attached.
“When you give, it should be for the gift,” he said. “Don’t make this life a land-grab.”
Though he has faced mishaps and injuries along the way, Myors said he is determined to follow the call.
“And I haven’t heard God say ‘stop’ yet,” he said.