Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why I Ride

While chatting with a Waukegan FCBA board member Friday evening, I was asked why I keep riding year after year. Not a simple thing to answer. I’ll try to explain: I am an introvert, which may raise some eyebrows from my FCBA family, but it’s true. Because I am an introvert, I have trouble meeting people and making friends. The FCBA adventure forces me to meet new people and forces me to relate to them. And, this is only a little painful for me, for the people who ride with me very soon become my heroes -- I can sit back and watch the relationships grow between the riders, and eventually they all seek me out to some degree, and soon we start bonding in a very beautiful way. Almost without exception, they are all younger than I am. They inspire me more and more as the weeks progress, as they are challenged both physically and mentally, while they seek out who they are, and who their God is. They witness their faith, which allows me to grow in my faith. I can encourage them as they struggle up the hills, against the wind, against the cold, against the hot, against the road conditions, against the loneliness when they end up by themselves mile after mile, and when I see the looks on their faces as they reach summit after summit of struggle on this adventure, my heart sings for them. 

Then, of course, there are the people we meet in church after church. Beautiful children of God! Going out of their way to open the doors of their churches, their kitchens, their homes for showers, helping us with transportation to the showers, sharing their faith, cooking meal after meal, etc. Sometimes only doing one of the above, more often doing all of the above. 

And finally, the people that we help. Fixing a bathroom so the homeowner will not have to use the woods, adding wheel chair ramp after wheel chair ramp, replacing an entire roof, helping a young man regain some dignity with an accessible bedroom and bathroom, painting, cleaning up yards, etc., etc., etc. Who benefits most, me or the families we are helping? 

As we meet people on the street I hand them FCBA business cards, explaining what we are doing, and I’m always thrilled by the looks on their faces as they try to comprehend exactly what that means. 

The reaction on our first practice ride in Atlantic City when we were stopped at a light not two blocks from our start was priceless. A couple across the street called out, asking what we were doing, so I rode across the street to hand them a card and explained that we would be riding our bikes to the West Coast. The man asked two times if this was true, and finally shouted out, “You’re not really going to _ _ _ _ing Oregon, are you?” I explained again that we were. He looked over to the group and shouted out to Everett, “Hey brother, are you really going to Oregon?” like he didn’t really believe me and had to ask the only brother he saw. A most delightful experience, and it’s one that’s repeated time after time the entire nine weeks, but usually without the colorful language.

And so I have evolved from a cynical old man sitting at home, signing up for a bike ride across America, and finding out that it was God’s plan all along to put me on my first ride so I could grow in my faith. Once I found out firsthand what the Fuller Center is all about, namely helping people with a hand up to affordable housing, it was no longer about a bike ride, but it was about me doing God’s work, and growing in my faith. A truly beautiful experience! I am blessed to have found this calling. After riding the last three years, being supported by others, I decided to give back to the riders by driving my car as an extra support vehicle this year, with Lois as my navigator, and I am greatly enjoying the experience.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Support Team

The bike adventure is so much more than just biking and speaking and building, although that is what its purpose is. It’s fireflies in Toledo, mayflies in Cleveland, a boat ride on the Maumee River,

an overnight stay at an archery loft in Cleveland, a dedication ceremony at the home of Dee and Roy, removing tree branches and digging out shrubs, tilling garden areas which are then mulched, painting the entire outside of a home, painting the inside of another home … and the list goes on. But, the most wonderful part seems to be the welcoming and offering of help, along with a generous amount of hugs, along with tears of blessing, gratitude, and thanks, both from the bike adventurers as well as from the people we are privileged to serve.

There have been a number of bike issues, along with some accidents. We had six go down on a bridge crossing in a small town, five at one time. Worst injury was to John, some road rash on his face; he is fine, just looks like he lost the proverbial fight. Some other road rash on knees and shoulders, but, all in all, everyone’s doing fine. The bikes took a worse beating, with three needing work, and parts replacement.

It’s been interesting to be support for the trip rather than a rider as I have been the past three years...getting to see the adventure from a different perspective. As support I’ve had the opportunity to go into businesses and/or even private properties arranging support stops that have bathrooms. Today, in the middle of farm country, with the corn much too short, I stopped at a preschool nursery that was closed. I found the owner next door working in the yard of a rather large farm. I explained what we were about, asking her if we could use her driveway to support the riders. She asked if we needed bathrooms, and graciously took me over, opened her school, and shared God’s love by letting us use her facility. The neat thing is that this is not unusual. The same thing happened last week, when I stopped at a large 4-door work building next to a house. The homeowner used the building to store and work on very old cars and army vehicles. He still had a Studebaker from late 50‘s, early 60’s in which he dated the girl he married. As the riders kept coming in, he kept showing off his car and other vehicles, and opening up his home.

This morning at circle up, Leah shared a beautiful poem she had written about her experience with the bike adventure, and then lead us in prayer. These riders keep impressing me with their faith, and their many personal abilities and gifts. It is a delight to experience this adventure with such beautiful children of God.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Finally, some word from the old guy on the FCBA adventure...

On the third day of the drive over we were "profiled" (or so it appeared). Colorado, as most everyone knows, has legalized marijuana, so the adjacent states have been stopping cars with Colorado plates, looking for marijuana. I had been watching my speed, setting my cruise control at the speed limit mostly. On the Ohio tollway (speed limit of 70), far from Colorado, I had gotten brave and set my cruise on 74, four miles over the limit. I noticed a state trooper car parked ahead, as two cars passed me as we all went past the trooper's car. I saw the trooper leave his position, come up fast, with no lights, me in the right lane, he in the left. He got just up to me, then abruptly slowed down, got behind me, and turned on his lights. Up until now I had never heard of a cop stopping a car going 4 mph over the limit. He was very polite, checked my license and registration, asked some questions about what we were doing in Ohio (we gave him a bike adventure card), asked Lois if she was Lois, asked me if my driving record was clean (he never checked before approaching our car?), and told us to stay at the speed limit, and to enjoy our adventure. I guess he smelled no marijuana, so he let us go?

Orientation in Atlantic City was fun, as alway, as we got to know one another (via "train wreck" as we introduced ourselves) and then learned a bit about what's expected on the trip, got chore assignments, etc. We enjoyed a walk on the boardwalk, and I even joined the 10 mile practice ride as a sweep. After the ride we had a great build day in Atlantic City. Lots of mudding upstairs and down, lots of window work. I found a little work I could do, but was mostly transported people and then shopped with Melissa. It was great to see all the progress made on the house by our team, and to help the local Fuller affiliate for the time we were there.

After an early breakfast we all headed for the beach for devotion, followed by the traditional dipping of the back tires of the bikes into the ocean. And, then, the riders were off! 

We overnighted at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Tabernacle and were treated to lunch, bbq dinner, breakfast, and lunch after church. What a wonderful group of folks! It was good to visit with a number of people I had met on an earlier trip.

On the 2012 bike adventure we stopped to help build an accessible bedroom and bathroom for Justin. He and his mom were at church Sunday and I was so glad to visit with them. He is enjoying his new area, which he had painted blue. I asked him why not pink, at which he laughed and said pink was for girls. I brought in my pink bike to show him what I ride and he laughed heartily at me.
I told him I have a picture of him being hugged by two pretty girls and that I was jealous. He remembered with a big smile that it was Kelsey and Kelsey. I'm totally blessed to have helped on his project and to have visited with him again. God continues to work in and thru me. (This picture is from 2012 at the work site.)

Today we helped Shane Claiborne and staff move furnishings out of one building, into another for The Simple Way, to consolidate their offices into one central location. That took the morning and a little of the afternoon, with lots and lots of boxes, furniture, supplies, etc. being moved via 'bucket brigades'. Shane and Katie graciously hosted a cookout feast at their home, and Shane explained the progress made by Simple Way in the Kensington community, a community that works together. They have also started a FC affiliate called Simple Homes Fuller Center. We toured the aquaponics project (awesome); some helped clean garbage from the sidewalk; some cleaned the garden area; some took a bike tour of Philly. A shout out to Shane and Katie, and Mike (as well as his daughter Sumer) for opening their homes to a number of us, and for their dedication to this community!

My buddy Kert, and his wonderful family, have been just outstanding in their support of this ride. About 12 riders stayed overnight at their home on our way to Atlantic City, as they graciously hosted us and provided much more food than we could eat. Today, here in the Kensington community, they have provided more and more and more food for us. It's been so great to spend time with Kert's family, to get to meet his extended family and friends who have been providing so much love, support, and prayers.

Tomorrow we have a long ride to Hershey, PA so we'll be getting an early start with breakfast at 4:30. The adventure has begun, and there are so many neat "kids" and "grandkids" to get to know better as the ride progresses, and many new friends to meet along the way.