Monday, May 4, 2015

Reflection ... The Rag Man

Reflecting on The Fuller Center and what it means to me, I immediately thought of The Rag Man, and the number of times I have been asked about the rags on my ankle. I signed up to ride with The Fuller Center for Affordable Housing for a very selfish reason: I wanted to ride my bike across America, and this was the cheapest way I could find to do that. My reason changed as soon as I realized what our purpose was, namely helping families in need, and the story of The Rag Man. The nine rags that have been tied to my ankle over the last five years represent and remind me of the hundreds of people I have personally witnessed who have shared their love for their fellow human beings in need. It is the focal point of my continued riding, when it is becoming much harder to ride day after day, week after week, for this year 10 weeks. But there are still over 1 billion people in need of affordable housing in the world, and so I continue to do what I can.

So to recap, it was June 2011 when I first became aware of how The Rag Man story played out in my life. It started with the FCBA van stopping at my house on its way to the start of my first ride, Seattle WA to Washington D.C.

After breakfast at my house, eight of us climbed into the van, pulling the trailer, on our way to Boise and then Seattle. Michael Tiemeyer was driving and I noticed he was drinking from a St. Louis Cardinals cup, so I teased him about “keeping it safe” (me being a Cubs fan) “or it may end up out the window”. A while later after changing drivers, I got a text message: a picture of the Cardinals cup on my bike stored in the back of the van. And, so, another Cubbies vs Cardinals rivalry quickly started between Michael and me (all in good fun, of course).

Well, an accident on the expressway totaled the van and trailer; four riders went to the emergency room; and a lot of fast shuffling was done by a lot of loving hands to get the ride back on track and started on time. I was the only one hurt badly enough to leave the trip and go home (with a separated shoulder). Eight of us waited in a hotel lobby: me for my ride back home, and the other seven to get a ride on to Boise. My right arm now in a sling, with my Cubbies hat hidden, when Michael left the lobby I was able to sneak my Cubbies hat into his duffle bag. Michael opened his bag that night to find a dreaded Cubbies hat in his possession. And so for me, the story of The Rag Man started without my even knowing the story. As I was at home with my arm in a sling, riding a stationary bike trying to stay in shape and rejoin the ride, I learned Michael was wearing my Cubbies hat when he was not biking. I was being supported, encouraged, and loved by a guy I barely knew. And so after two weeks to stabilize my shoulder, one week to rehab, I was able to rejoin the ride. And in thanks for the support while I was gone, I showed up for the ride wearing that Cardinals hat.

For every ride I have been on, Ryan Iafigliola, the originator and yearly participant of FCBA, has read The Rag Man (The Rag Man by Walter Wangerin).  Following his reading we pass around a strip of cloth (a rag) and each person ties part of that rag onto the person next to us. This to me has become symbolic of the love and support I receive and give as I ride my bike across this fine country of ours, helping other people. It represents the love and support between the riders; between the riders and the church members who give us a safe place to sleep and provide great food; between the home owners and the riders; between the local Fuller Center affiliates that have prepared the worksite for us to help; and includes, as well, all the strangers we talk to along the way, who support us and pray for us.

There are now eight rags tied to my ankle, all wrapped together for strength (missing the 2011 one that broke and fell off). I have what amounts to a community of Christ's love on my ankle, reminding me of what is important in life: helping and supporting other people. I look forward to receiving that tenth rag at the start of the ride in June.

Go, Cubbies!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring ride is over ...

The Natchez Trace bike ride is an annual Fuller Center event, this being our fourth ride down the Trace. This time it was scheduled about a month later than the first three times, which made the ride so much more beautiful, with spring “springing”.

Weather report: it rained four of the six riding days, almost all day, but temperatures were much warmer than the last two years, so it was good riding. Still a bit of a hassle having to dry everything each night, but at least we didn’t have to lay on the hood of the van at the rest stops trying to warm up! I did get slightly chilled at a couple of rest stops, but warmed up again once we started riding. And, we had no rain on the work day.

Work day: we split up to work on four projects. I got to dig a ditch, clean up the yard, and then after lunch transfer over to the second project, roofing, to help pick up shingles. With the other two groups working on their projects we were able to help a total of four families, which made for a great day of service.

Biking: I rode the entire distance, no support needed, about 375 miles. I hooked up with 4 other riders and we rode a pace line each day, helping each other. We were an older group, but we pulled along one 25 year old rider. :-) Picked up other riders at times, getting up to maybe 10 riders total with us. In the past I have been mostly riding by myself, because I don’t seem to match up ability wise with many riders, although the double pace line we had last year was fantastic. 

Chocolate malt report:  DISMAL Only managed one, and that was a milk shake, so barely worth rating. 

Food:  we had to cook dinner two times, which was really good, but the rest of the time we had more great food provided by the host churches than we could eat. 

Summer ride: and now, on to the summer ride. I need to get a lot of saddle time, but have been sick this past week with some respiratory issues. Hope this clears up soon, ‘cause since I’ve been back this is now 9 days out of the saddle, and I need to be riding!  

I’m feeling better about the summer ride since the spring ride went so well for me. So, if I can get well soon, I feel I’ll be able to do the summer ride, and be ok doing it, although it is a huge mental challenge for me. So, here’s to health!

Oh, and, I still need donations to help with the summer ride, if you are so inclined.


Friday, February 20, 2015

I think I least I hope I can!

“Your time is a wonderful gift to give” 

And so is your money! I choose to give both while I can.

So, it’s getting harder ... but, I believe we can't grow without challenge!

This will be my fifth year biking for The Fuller Center for Affordable Housing (FCBA). A quick recap: I have participated in four 9-week, 3,600-mile, cross country rides, and three one-week spring rides. In 2012 I biked 7,400 miles, mostly for the Fuller Center. In 2013 I struggled with some health problems, along with saddle blisters, so I used my car and helped support the last half of the 2013 ride. In 2014 Lois and I, using our van, both worked as support, in an effort to give back to the riders and still help FCBA. 

This year I am again signed up for both the spring and the summer rides. This summer we are adding a week (400 miles), to make it a total of 10 weeks and 4,000 miles. I will be 73 when the summer ride starts this year, and am determined to bike the entire distance from Oceanside CA to Portland ME. At my age the total distance is becoming a larger factor, but the mental challenge of 9 or 10 weeks in the saddle again is wearing on my soul. Getting and keeping the will to start and finish this ride is becoming enormous. I love biking! I love even more the fact that the money I raise is going to a great cause. I am blessed to see the action of my riding and all money raised pay off - for the families we help with affordable homes.

So, over these last four years I have now slept on church floors over 250 times. I started early with these arrangements, by finding chairs to place my one duffle bag on so I didn't have to bend over, and having a chair by my sleeping bag to help me get up and down. Not a bad arrangement, considering often the people we are helping do not have a safe place to live.

I believe that we can't grow without challenge. Last year because I was supporting I did not have to raise money for the ride. We still donated to FCBA, and also donated our car and the cost of driving our car for the 3,600+ miles it took to support the ride. Lois and I are happy to donate because we have seen firsthand FCBA headquarters, and firsthand how our money is diligently used.

Each year I have participated I have blogged, but unfortunately the blogging slowed down, last year especially. So, I’ll try to blog again this year, but it will probably be sketchy, as I will most likely not have a computer with me. However, I do anticipate posting on Facebook more this year.

NOTE: The greatest blessing I have gained from FCBA is the joy of living and riding as family with the greatest bunch of “kids and grandkids” it is possible to know. The integrity, faith, and absolute love demonstrated by these riders has been a shining light, opening my heart to the goodness I have witnessed across this great country. I have given a lot to FCBA, but I have gained so much more.