The end of New York

New York wrapped up this morning after about an hour of riding. The weather was cool and the sky was overcast but no rain was actually falling out of the sky although I was prepared with my windbreaker for it to start.

Stephanie and myself were riding along at a good clip and joining other groups for bits and pieces of the road for about the first 50 kms. At that point the road split and the planned route continued flat along the river and the other road went up a hill accopanied with a sign that said “No Trailers Longer Than 102 ft”. Well that seemed like quite an invitation so we pulled out the map and made a detour up and over the mountain instead of continuing straight and flat. The detour paid off and even though we probably added more than 1000 feet of climbing and about 4 miles to the day the view from the top and the great descent made it totally worth it.

The campground had 2 showers and enough hot water for about 20 people… But I was one of the early ones and did get my 30 second splash in the warm water. I then took a 3 hour nap which wasn’t supposed to be 3 hours long but that’s just how it turned out.

The meeting this evening included a bit of sharing from a few riders as well as celebrating communion together. Pastor Len shared a revised version of the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s description of the parable. I’m sure you can imagine that the modification was one where some riders began out at the Pacific Ocean, others joined in the Mountains and still others caught hold of the tour near the Grand River. Well the point of the story is that the celebration is the same for us all, that we’ve each in our own way ahd the opportunity to work in God’s field and gratefulness is the response not bitterness. There has been a significant amount of effort being poured into making the end of this bike ride end on a high note rather than a low one. It’s tough to see things winding up but at the same time we have so much to be grateful for and happy about that the sadness that will come with the end of cycling is going to pale in comparison with the joy of seeing this journey through to completion.

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Across to America

The celebration in St. Catharine’s was quite an event. From 2 pm until 4 pm we huddled under the pavilions at Queenston park and ate peaches as the rain poured out of the sky. At about 3:50 the rain let up to a drizzle and we made our way to the natural amphitheater and stage. By the time the service had begun the rain had stopped and by 4:05 the sun was shining. Brian Walsh spoke concerning the fruits of the spirit and many of us agreed that his message was one of the best this summer. His invitation to us was to bear fruit with our lives as is instructed in scripture:

  • Be fruitful and multiply.
  • I will make of you a great nation that will bear much fruit.
  • Obey my word and you will be fruitful in all your ways.
  • You shall share the fruit of your labours, and the poor will glean from your fields.
  • Israel is a vineyard and the covenant God is the vinedresser.
  • In exile you are to be fruitful and multiply.
  • I will make the wilderness bloom and bear rich fruit.
  • They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Convincing isn’t it? Fruit bearing has been a part of day to day meditation this summer and I kinda felt like it would have been great to have had had these words spoken to me 8 weeks earlier. After a bit more thinking though I came to the understanding that where the rubber actually hits the road isn’t on the bike tour. Things need to be thrown into action in day to day life… even more than they do while riding a bike across America because that’s where I’ll be in 7 days. So, while 8 weeks ago would have been nice, this week was more appropriate as these thoughts will likely stay fresher in my mind longer into September and I suppose that’s what counts like I’ve already said.

Another bit that stood out to many of us was his use of the word generosity rather than goodness. It’s a preference of translations from the original epistle (NRSV vs. NIV) but it was the source of our best conversation on the bus on the way back to the school where we were staying. I might relay a bit of that conversation at a later date when I figure it out more and have more time to type.

The departure from St. Catharine’s was a quick one as our group made it’s way towards the escarpment. The temperature was cool and the pace was really blazing as we made our way through the first 30 kms towards the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. We even drafted a tiny tractor for a few hundred yards. Marc took a video which you can find here. If we thought the border crossing into Canada was smooth this one was way better. They just opened up three lanes and waved us through. No passport necessary as we had all been approved.

After checking out Goat Island on the American side of the falls we set out for Byron. We had a stiff cross-tailwind for the day and the effort to maintain mid thirties was negligible. The scenery of New York State thus far has been mostly farmland and quite comparable to Ontario but the hills seem to be getting slightly longer even though they’re not very high.

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Who was Wilma Walinga?

My grandmother passed away last evening (Monday).

Growing up Grandma lived halfway across the country, meaning I didn’t see her as frequently as might have otherwise been possible. It did mean that when we were together we were spending lots of time together.

Grandma was someone whose influence in my life was one of caring and giving. For years and years we’d have dozens of jars of pears in our pantry, she’d get Pake to pick them from the tree in the backyard and can them and send some of them out west for us. She’d have fruitella in her purse for the grandkids all the time. When her eyesight was getting poor enough that she knew that her days of knitting were limited, she began an ambitious project to knit an entire afghan for each of the grandkids (10!). When her husband of more than 50 years had progressed in his battle with Alzheimer’s to the point her needed to move into a home she moved in basically across the street and would pay visits religiously to spend time with him, talk, and eventually feed him his meals.

When in early elementary school I skipped around between friends at school, not always satisfied by my situation. When complaining to mom at one point during that time she told me that Grandma prayed every day for me, that each day good friends were on the prayer agenda for Joshua out in Calgary. It was something I thought about on and off throughout the next many years. Grandma prayed individually for her family each day of our lives. Eventually I think I forgot that story from mom but when making profession of faith in 2003 I received a card from those grandparents… in it was written a bible verse…

    “Ever since we heard about you we have never stopped praying for you”

That verse reminded me of what I had forgotten during the ~8 years. I had someone reminding God to look out for me on my behalf each day of my life.

When Grandma passed away yesterday it was certainly her time to go. Her health had rapidly declined and the period of suffering was kept brief. It doesn’t mean she won’t be missed. I was able to speak with her 2 weeks ago on the phone, the conversation was short as anything more than a sentence at a time took a lot of work. Even so she didn’t leave me without a blessing for this summer’s ride and the subsequent return to school.

I will not be leaving the seatosea bike ride to attend the funeral. Grandma is no longer there to visit, the rest of the family can be visited at a later time, my situation this summer is one that does benefit from a sense of continuity and there is a loving community here alongside me at this time. Also the prospect of getting from the middle of Nebraska to Ontario is a tough one. I will connect with the service this coming Friday via phone.

I’ll catch up with news from the road another day. Two of us are doing 6 century rides in a row this week. Today’s took 4:56 gun time with a total of 4:48 with the wheels turning.

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A third of the way

Saturday is now winding up. It was long and hot and a large majority of the group had success today. Some fools (a bunch of 19 and 20 year olds who went out for pancake breakfast in Ogden at 7 am) were on the road at quarter past 5 this morning. They pretty much had to start biking with winter parkas because it gets cold in the desert overnight, then carry the jacket for the rest of the day. Each to their own I suppose. I rolled out of camp soon after 7 am anticipating that Nathan and Tyler would catch me in about half an hour (they were leaving 5 minutes after me) and I would appreciate the longer warm up. I ended up riding the first hour alone and still no sign of the boys. By that time we were entering the town/city of Bountiful. The road was tree lined and in the shade, the hills were gentle and rolling and the pavement was excellent. With beautiful roads like this it’s no surprise that there were locals out for a Saturday morning ride as well. I opted to ride with some of them for a few stretches. It meant that I was cruising along at 25 mph (40 kph) for a solid 45 minutes and really meant that Tyler an Nathan were never going to catch me. On the flip side it did mean that I did get to have a few more fantastic conversations about the tour, the local cycling scene, my church, poverty and the like. That was far better than finding those guys anyways. It was fantastic and by the time I had reached the outskirts of Salt Lake City I decided to just finish with the push into town and forget about joining up with any other tour-cyclists for that portion of the ride. I plugged a song in my head an hammered down for another 45 minutes, reaching SLC with an average speed of 29 kph.

    Great is the Lord and worthy of glory,

    Great is the Lord and worthy of praise,

    Great is the Lord,

    Now lift up your voice,

    Now lift up your voice;

    Great is the Lord!

    Great is the Lord,

    He is holy and just,

    by His power we trust in His love.

    Great is the Lord,

    He is faithful and true,

    by His mercy He proves He is love.

Upon entering SLC my route was blocked by a parked train and a friendly Harley Davidson rider informed me it could be parked for anywhere between 5 minutes and an hour, I opted for the detour and by the time I was back en-route there were other cyclists who had opted to wait who were already ahead. So be it, I had guaranteed that my day would exceed 100 miles now an I didn’t have to do the extra mileage on any big climbs.

First CRC in SLC hosted us for refreshments in their basement before the climb began as we headed out of town, I didn’t get the order of my stops in town correct and went there first, I should have made my stop at the Mormon Temple first and the church second, it would have been shorter. Oh well, more mileage again. The stop at the temple was kinda what I expected, some really well kept gardens, some fancy buildings and plenty of tourists walking around with cameras around their necks wondering why there was some dude decked out in spandex walking around. It would have been better I’m sure if I’d gone on a tour but the aforementioned spandex and more than 5000 feet of climbing still to do that day dissuaded me from that notion.

I returned to the church, now guaranteeing myself more than 170 kms on the day and found Nathan, Eritia and Hilena just getting set to roll out, I joined them for the climb which really just meant we left at the same time and agreed to meet up at the top. Hill climbing is really and every-man-for-himself kind of activity and by the time we had left the city we were already spread out over a couple hundred meters. Nathan is only 160 lbs and no-one could stick with him up the hill.

The first climb was called emigrations canyon and was more of a steep valley than a canyon but that was OK with me, it gave us the ability to see where we were going which is something I am more and more realizing that I appreciate. Lots of the other cyclists say how much they hate it when they can see how far they’ve got to go, I think it’s the best thing we could get. The grade was very manageable and we had patches of share and the ends of the driveways to the half million dollar homes along the road. It was very obvious that we were entering a rather affluent part of the country. Besides Bountiful earlier that morning and a couple of rich suburbs of Boise we really haven’t seen a whole ton of wealth this summer. When we talk about poverty so many times each day the wealth of an area is something you quickly notice from the seat of your bike. We make jokes sometimes about our campsite looking like as refugee camp with 150 people lined up bowls in hand to get dinner. Really though more often than not this week our patch of town has been the wealthiest, thousand dollar bikes in the fields and hundred dollar tents set up amongst them, often clotheslines can be seen with more than a thousand dollars worth of cycling shorts hanging on them (that’s only 10 pairs of bibs if you were wondering how long these clotheslines are). Really though, we’ve spent a lot of time being wealthy in surroundings that are less so. Today was the polar opposite.

Oh yeah, Emigrations Canyon, that’s where I was at. This road was also chock full of recreational cyclists flying up and down the hill, well mostly flying down the hill because they’re locals and are smart enough to climb up in the morning and come downhill in the afternoon when it’s getting hot. There must be a huge shop in town that sells only specialized because it was certainly the majority brand out there. There were a couple really sweet bikes spotted too, people riding HED Jet wheels (90 mm I think) on a 2007 Felt DA for a quick jaunt up the mountain, again the wealth of the area was apparent.

The top of the pass greeted us with the other half of FCRC’s refreshments for the day, gatorade, powerbars and water. The latest joke is that Canadians should spell it Gatourade, I don’t think it’ll catch on though. We then took off down the other side of the pass and hooked up with the interstate. It was freshly paved and black as night. The heat was rising off of it and it was steeper than the first pass. This valley (Parley’s Canyon) was broader and had less shade, well no shade at all, and the sun was even higher in the sky. Within about 10 minutes of getting on that road I had sweat beading on my skin and actually flowing down my arms and legs. All of the sunscreen from my face ended up in my eyes and I started to loose a good amount of water due to tears as well. the three bottles I had filled up were empty in 45 minutes, luckily that meant I was also at the summit; six thousand seven hundred feet or something like that, the highest we’d been on the tour to date.

The roll down from the summit to the campground wasn’t quite just a roll down. We still had plenty of climbing to do but it was all quite a bit tamer. We caught up with Hans Doef and Laura Holtrop in Park city and rode with them for the remainder of the day. Just as we left town and were pretty sure it was a 3 km coast down to the state park we saw our last nemesis for the day, a 5 % mile long hill. The comments were of the flavour that shall not be repeated here.

Camp here is pretty cool, we’ve got a picnic shelter for eating next to the mobile kitchen and our tents are in the walk-in campsites across a bay in the lake. We spent a bit of time down by the lake reading in the shade this afternoon, more laziness is planned for tomorrow and there is a church service planned for the park tomorrow evening. Monday we get started with the Rockies (we crossed Wasatch today they’re apparently independent from the Rockies) and another fantastic week will begin. It’s hard to believe we’re already three weeks in, this one seemed to go fast. Each day that you spend more than 6 hours on the bike there isn’t a whole lot of other stuff that gets accomplished, it means that the days really go by quick.

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I spoke too soon

Yesterday I suggested that people were learning how to sleep in. Well that went out the window this morning as rustling began at ten to five in the morning. I crawled out of my tent after pretending to sleep for another 80 minutes at 6:10 and had pretty much missed out on breakfast. Probably 100 people had already been through the breakfast line which was supposed to begin at 6:00 am. I guess the early risers have figured out how to get breakfast themselves from the pantry.

I was feeling physically energetic and charged up but mentally blasted flat as a pancake this morning and figured I’d ride by myself for the morning and try and group up at lunch time. I hopped aboard my bike around 7:20 am and rolled out of town. The wind wasn’t really for me or against me, the pavement was acceptable and the grade was ever so slightly downhill, a few hundred feet over the first 40 kilometers. After leaving town I held the pace around 38 to 40 kph for the first hour and rolled up to a local dairy farm who was hosting us for milk and a tour having turned the “fresh legs” into burning ones and turned the “mentally drained” in the other direction. God watches out for us!

The stop at the dairy was followed up by a stop at the Reformed Church of America in Twin Falls Idaho. They had subs, ice cream, more milk and watermelon. We then headed out to check out Shoshone Falls which is a pretty impressive (photos in Week 3 gallery) and then wrapped up the final 50 kilometers of the day. Julie told us that there were 10 or 15 people still ahead of us when we stopped to fill water bottles. That certainly wasn’t the case though as afer we passed 6 people and kept pressing onwards we arrived at camp before anyone else. That was a first for me. It’s been within a couple minutes before but never actually first arrivals. Also with me for the last stretch were Eritia and Marc VanOtternen (Michigan).

Wednesday nights around camp are highlighted by a vespers service put on by Hans Doef. They’re quickly becoming a highlight of the week, a few songs,a bit of scripture, some meditations on the theme of the evening and a bit of prayer. This evening the reading was from Isaiah 35 and couldn’t have been more appropriate as we pondered the parts of the creation that we’re traveling through.

    The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
    Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
    The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
    they will see the glory of the LORD,
    the splendor of our God.

We’re in the middle of a desert this week and without the irrigation we see in the fields every day all there would be is sagebrush. It’s a huge wonder that the desert blooms with the addition of a bit of water (enough so that McCain has a french fry factory here to process all those Idaho Potatoes). Henry drew the parallel that we’re a pretty sorry bunch of dead grass and sagebrush as well without the addition of a little purpose in our lives, that we don’t have anything more going for us than mere desert without Jesus Christ.

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One week done

A week of cycling is already behind us. For some of the cyclists it seems like we’ve been riding forever, I’ve heard the phrase “So where are we actually right now?” more than once, I on the other hand feel like we just started and am only beginning to catch on to the whole process.

My apologies about the GPS unit. As you probably know if you looked, the GPS tracking didn’t really work all so well. I think it only recorded twice. These are the problems of running a self contained unit. When it doesn’t work the amount of trouble shooting that you can do is quite limited. The self contained satellite internet connection has been suffering the same fate, not a lot of options as far as fixing is concerned, when it works it works and when it doesn’t it doesn’t.

So since I last posted I rode one day as part of the sweep team. It seems that people appreciated the list of names and locations so I’ll try it again even though some of these huge groups are tricky to remember. Art Smit, Eritia Smit, Justin Helder (Ontario) Clare Kooistra (BC) Lynn (No idea where she’s from) Jessica Fox (Michigan) and Shawn (also no clue) We spent the day playing catch-up and wait with a few other groups which was OK, we rode in the rain all day long but it was warm and things weren’t terribly muddy so not a ton of trouble. Following the ride everyone at camp had the same bright idea to clean their bikes at the same time so we had a huge bike cleaning party on the lawn of a school. Doing so without a shirt wasn’t the brightest idea as I am unbelievably white in the non-tanned areas. Following a visit to the local ice cream shop and dinner put on by the local CRC church we headed out to celebrate independence day with fireworks and root-beer floats. The show was pretty good but staying up past 10 pm is really late these days and the 10:30 bed-time was a bit of a stretch.

Saturday we rode downhill again along the Yakima river through a beautiful valley with cliffs along the sides and orchards and vineyards surrounding us. The riding group was Kyle (BC) Stephanie Webb, Julia Wissink (Ontario) and Jenna Zee (Edmonton) and myself. Excellent tailwind on Saturday but the weather once again was a scorcher. We’re currently camped in a park along the Columbia river which serves as our shower and is full of some huge trees. We’ve had the slackline out and about as many people are trying it as there are taking pictures of those who are using it. Photos are pending successful upload… we’ll see how successful that is today.

I’d describe the flavour of the week thus far as one of unity. It’s funny that I mention that in my prayer requests for the past week, with 150 people coming throughthis website each day there are obviously some who are reminding God that we’d really love to be blessed in that way. It’s great that fewer and fewer conversations begin with “I’m Josh and I’m from Calgary, well Edmonton really these days, but I grew up in Calgary”… names are being stored in the head and I think I’ve only got 30 or so more to go. While everyone knowing one another on a first name basis isn’t really the best metric by which to measure community it is one of the only ones I can think of to put into words. I hope it does communicate the amount of effort that so many people are putting in to building relationships amongst the cyclists and support crew. I’m not talking even talking about romantic relationships (there’s a few forming and are an excellent source of humour for the rest of us… I’m not sure if I’m at liberty to mention those two so I won’t quite)

How else can I describe the unity of this team? Well I’ve got a couple examples. Canadian cyclists outfitted all of the riders for independence day with flags for their bikes following the singing of O-Canada at our evening meeting on Tuesday. There have been in excess of 30 flats for the last two days on the road… there are typically a dozen people stopped to watch (tyre changing is a one man job but the moral support is thick!). (Photo of the most hilarious occurrence is about 25 cyclists “helping” to fix a flat just outside Zillah in photo gallery). Then one of the more humourous ones. About 60 cyclists headed around the corner from the park last night to find a beer. The local sports bar was filled with 90% cyclists and they needed to send the guy running Karaoke out to buy more cups from Safeway because there were just so many people. There was line dancing, pool, two stepping and a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace” done by one of the chaplains (Markus Lisse) that was drown out after two lines by the rest of the bar rising to their feet (locals included) and joining in.

Prayer requests for the next week:

  • Safety – this past week has seen more falls from bikes each day than I was aware of occurring all of last summer with my riding partners. No-one’s injuries are severe but they do bring a lot of stress to medical people as well as the group as a whole.
  • Awareness – Riders have been challenged to each have a conversation each day with someone at the side of the road as a bare minimum. These conversations are highlights each day for myself as well as many other riders. Please pray that God would use these conversations in mighty ways to challenge and change perspectives, injustices and apathy surrounding poverty. We’re cyclists, not spokespeople by training but by God’s grace we have the opportunity to make big influences. While the 144 conversations each day is a minimum there are hundreds more than that (thousands more might be a stretch this past week, but God is a big God and we’re only getting more comfortable with it)

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All the donations count!

I surpassed the $10000 mark in fundraising today. It’s been more than a year since I started considering joining up with this crazy bike ride and it’s been more than 11 months since I really caught hold of what a crazy idea it was to go out and seek support for something I was going to try and do to the tune of $10k.

Wrapping my head around the idea of that sum took a solid 2 months, I kept thinking I need to find 20 crazy people who each have $500 or I need to find 200 people who each have $50 and convince them that this bike ride is a worthy cause for them to jump onboard with. Well, I wasn’t about to make either situation happen, neither was really feasible. My mindset shifted early in the fall of 2007, I was going to get as many people to understand the reason that this was happening as I possibly could. I was going to make sure I wouldn’t close the doors on any demographic, not the ones who could cut a $20 cheque and most certainly not the ones who could cut a $1000 cheque. It was then out of my hands how things tallied up and I’d have to keep talking, keep checking my email,keep smiling and keep trusting that this ludicrous idea was going to turn out for the good.

Well, there have certainly been more than 45 conversations had about SeatoSea over the course of the past year. There have definitely been more than 450 conversations, easily triple or quadruple that… but to date there have been 45 individuals who have decided to get on board and take a stand against the perpetuating cycles of poverty in our world. Each donation counts, while my own $10000 target isn’t really a measure of the kind of commitment it takes to alter the patterns we see around us the means by which I got there does give insight into the solution. I sorted the donations from large to small and added them up, click on the thumbnail to see what that looks like.

cumulative donations

While 6 chunks of money got me half way, it was also really due to many of the smaller donations that things didn’t stop halfway. The smaller bits add up and do make the difference. When considering the magnitude of the challenges of poverty out there, some really sweeping political or economic reforms can make a huge difference. The “Sea-to-Sea Bike-Tour” sized contributions towards changing the world also make a difference, and it’s also the small steps that we make in our own lives, in our cities and communities that make a difference.

While the end of cycling preparation occurs at some point this week for me and I begin biking the physical aspect of this challenge takes a bit of a turn. The optional aspect if riding my bike (how far, in what weather etc. etc.) shifts to a bit more of an exam. I don’t dictate very many options anymore, and that’s intimidating, I’m waking up a riding a bike regardless of whether or not my body thinks that is a first choice for the morning. The shift from choice to not-choice isn’t mirrored in the other “world” of the trip. Throwing my weight into the fundraising aspect of the ride for the past year has been a non-option. Now as things get underway on the bike the effort level as it relates to the purpose of the bike ride is in some sense more optional.

As part of the commissioning at River Park Church this morning Pastor Mike requested me to declare my intent … “to trust God to protect and use you” … and my response was positive. The tour’s purpose includes raising awareness across the nation of poverty related issues alongside the fundraising. Making those conversations happen in highway rest-stops, coffee shops, campgrounds, community centers and probably more than one ice cream shop is just as crucial now as the push to $10000 has been for the past 11 months.

So, when I don’t particularly feel like getting on a bike on any particular morning I guess I just need to remind myself that I do still have an option and a choice for the day. I’m biking whether I like it or not, but I can each day choose to make the positive action towards awareness and change.

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Sea to Sea at Synod

Sea to Sea cyclists gave a presentation at Synod about the bike tour this summer. If you’d like to watch it (it’s really encouraging!) here’s how:

If you’re just going to read here and not watch, then don’t miss this quote from Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson. He’s the “Secretary of something” for the Reformed Church in America (RCA) which split with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in the 1850s. (The 150th anniversary we’re celebrating oddly enough) Anyhow, as the RCA is partnering with the CRC in this summer’s SeatoSea Bike tour, the RCA secretary got to speak at the CRC Synod. Coming together on common ground to do something exciting together is fantastic. As some 22 year old who couldn’t really even describe the reasons the RCA/CRC split occurred back 150 years ago it seems right that as the anniversary we’re celebrating was born out of negative relationship that we do get to celebrate it with a positive one. So… that quote I was going to get to: “There’s an African proverb that goes, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ I believe that’s true for cyclists, and I believe that’s true for denominations.” Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson

There is probably more than one person who will read this that doesn’t exactly know what Synod is and fair enough, why should you, my description that follows is pretty lousy itself and I’m a member! Synod is the most geographically broad and therefore the uppermost level of governance for the church. Synod so far as I understand the word is a hybrid of the words conference and assembly. I mean by that, it’s both an event and the group of people who are there. Delegates from all over the place “go to synod”, hence conference. Also though, “synod says stuff” after discussion on different matters of church policy and that kind of stuff, hence the assembly part of the word. It happens every year.

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A cool story

Here’s a cool story, it’s a bit of a nightmare to keep track of names I’ll admit, but consider yourself lucky I’ve got 140 names to learn when I arrive in Seattle in 5 weeks.

Neil, Ellen and I went for a short bike ride on Saturday morning and upon the return of Ellen and I to the Yellow-House Jenna had left a message for me with Amy. Amy was
dutifully relaying the message when Jenna called again, obviously so excited by the message she had for me that she couldn’t even wait for Amy to pass it along.

Jenna was in Edmonton for a part of the weekend looking for a house for her and Betty, and I was up for a conference and a bunch of meetings regarding the research group I’ll
be joining in September. I also happened to find time to go biking a bit and visit all kinds of cool people but I was specifically not in the business of looking for a house for myself and the three other people I’ll be living with. A 5 bedroom house came up in the listings a few days prior and Jenna was able to track down someone to show it to her, she got a hold of me after really liking it and I saw the place as well. We managed to get a hold of all of the other people who would be living in that place via telephone and kinda got the go-ahead to keep pursuing it. The connection with the landlord was made around 7:30 pm and we set up plans to met her at Tim Hortons 15 minutes later. A previous pioneer-ranch-camp volunteer, very caring lady and sister in Christ showed up with a huge smile on her face and by about 8:30 there was a signature on the lease!

Now, the process of renting a house doesn’t make for such a great story all by itself but here are a few kickers. Jenna and I had a discussion somewhere in the blur of the afternoon about needing to learn a thing or two about resignation to His plans. A pretty
much continuous stream of prayers were answered to allow the process to move along smoothly (I needed to get to Calgary for Church the next morning), does 7 hour start-to-finish define quintessential smoothness or what? We were even able to get a hold of all parties on the phone. The matter of fitting 6 people into a 5 bedroom home was tidily resolved and really affirmed by a few comments by the landlord! Michelle has somewhere to go when her current lease expires. The only real request for a home made by me was answered in spades! I requested that wherever I live has got to have a proper kitchen and this one rocks: gas range, ceiling height cabinets, excessive counter space, natural light, dishwasher and adjacent dining room.

If this is how God responds to our request for housing that has only begun in earnest recently I can only imagine how great his plans are for the things that have been consistently in daily prayers since January and last summer. I have a crew of friends heading over to Africa for the month of July to work with Christian students in Zambia. The opportunity of that group to foster leadership growth in those students is so unique and has amazing potential. My involvement with the mother-of-all-bike-rides this summer continues to require prayer. Here are a few specific requests:

  • For the right route. Give thanks to God for enabling Ed Witvoet, our operations & logistics manager, to finish charting the exact route across the continent.
  • For support crew members. The tour still needs a few volunteers to travel with the tour to ensure a smooth and safe journey. Please pray for people to consider this opportunity and apply.
  • For increased awareness. Ask God to bless the efforts to communicate and promote the tour and its goals to churches and individuals so far, and to give creativity to organizers to spread the word further.
  • For tour sponsors. Pray that those being contacted as possible corporate sponsors will catch the vision and come on board to help underwrite tour expenses.
  • For celebration rally planning. Local committees are busy planning the many Sunday celebration rallies along the route. Pray that all the details will come together so these rallies glorify God, unify His church and motivate all to serve the poor.
  • For cyclists. Riding across North America is a major challenge and commitment that needs the support of family, friends and co-workers, and the Spirit’s clear discernment. Pray for safety as riders train for the tour.
  • For the steering committee. Organizers have a lot to plan with not a lot of time. Pray for wisdom in decision-making and unity within the committee.
  • For those living in poverty around the world. May compassion be evident in God’s people and may justice prevail in the hearts of those who govern.

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120 wet kilometers

I wish I had a camera when I rolled back into town last night after 120 kilometers of riding in the rain. I was caked in sand and mud from the bottom of my rib cage to the ground. There were little stream-like channels cutting through the dust layer where the water running down my body had preferentially eroded the layer of sediment. It was worthy of Paris-Roubaix.

I was attending a research conference/retreat 60 kms north of Edmonton and opted to send along some dry clothes with a friend and ride out there on my bike. I guess I was just giving myself an opportunity to test out the rain gear. On the ride out I got wet from above but then proceeded to ride the next 50 kms without a ton of furthur precipitation on roads that weren’t terribly mucky. The result was a relatively wet-but-clean individual arriving 10 minutes late for breakfast due to the wind.

The same can not be said for the return trip. I changed out of my comfortable dry clothes and pulled on wet bike shorts and knee warmers, put on shoes that were still slightly damp, put a damp beanie on my head and sinched up all of the drawstrings on a wet rain-jacket. I rolled out onto the road and was greeted by some of the hardest rain I’ve ever ridden in and a headwind to work against all the way back into town. I got pretty cold right off the bat and decided that I would warm up if I worked harder. Working harder when there’s a headwind is tricky, I’m still learning to gauge it. Within 10 minutes I had gauged incorrectly, I wasn’t going to make it home at that pace. The sand began to cake on my legs and the water streams made their way into my booties and my feet were then fully soaked. I reverted to old habits of spending alot of mental energy on calculating all sorts of stuff. I calculated garbage statistics on the ride almost continuously for the first 45 minutes as I worked my way through “percentages complete” and “average speeds” and “arrival times” until I turned south following a little west-directed jaunt and was blasted again by the headwind. I considered trying to recruit one of the many pick-up trucks to give me a lift back to the city-limits. I considered taking a break from the rain in some unattended machine shed. After a really rather brutal 15 minutes crawling along at less than 25 kph into the wind I stopped at the side of the road to help water the grass even though the rain was doing a sufficent job of soaking everything anyhow. I decided to take a drink from my water bottle even though I wasn’t thirsty knowing that I had been working pretty hard and was still going to get dehydrated in that weather. I got a mouth-full of grit even after doing my best to wipe off the sand. Rather frustrated by my inability to spit out a spoonful of sand from my mouth I decided to just get going again I pushed off and started pedalling. I soon realized that some bits and pieces of sand had, in the process of stopping and restarting, worked their way under the leg grippers of my bike shorts and were going to chafe and rub for the next 32 kilometers on the way home.

I opted to try and quit calculating at this point because I know it’s a bad habit. I crouched over and put my chin on my handlebars as I tried to gain every ounce of speed that I could rolling down a big hill and barely managed to get up to 40 kph with the headwind, argh! (it’s at least a 60 kph coasting hill with no wind) While I had already rhetorically asked myself plenty of times why in the world I was doing this, it was at about this point (now at the bottom of a hill of course!) that I decided I was going to try and answer the question.

I realized I could sit on the gritty bike seat and answer the question philosophically, or I could try and do it honestly. I figured the honest route was probably harder and since I still had about 70 minutes of riding left I’d tackle that one first (I never can quit calculating that stuff). Besides, the philosophical route is the easy one, I just figured I was out there because it was good practice for the summer. I’d need to ride some wet days and giving the rain-gear at least one full fledged trial run was a good idea.

Honestly though, I had stuff to prove. I had offers to get a ride back into town with people at the retreat that I refused. I wanted to maintain a certain image: the guy who is crazy enough to wake up an extra hour and a half early just so he can bike to the retreat, and will even do it in the rain. The image that I experienced no discomfort from the weather (as the sand worked it’s way further up my thighs), that I was so well-adjusted that I appreciated the beauty of a rainstorm even when taking it head-on. (I had suggested to some people that watching the sun come up through the rain was great that morning – which it was). I wanted all of the people in cars driving past me to have respect for the determination for the cyclist at the side of the road. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to build fitness. I wanted to be able to tell the story of the time I rode 120 kms in pouring rain and cold and mud even though I didn’t have to.

So, the honest version isn’t particularily glamourous, it’s more than a bit selfish and to be honest it takes a bit of courage to write it here for the whole world to read. Luckily I suppose, I wasn’t nearly home yet. I was at 206th avenue and needed to ride to 79th. Another opportunity presented itself, calculate my pace-per-block on the way back in and then reverse calculate the average block length. I resisted the temptation (completely this time) and figured I had better listen to what the Big Guy was suggesting. I had a lot of terrible reasons to be out on the road in the rain.

I was going back to a house that would allow me to hose off the mud in the back yard. I had a change of clothes inside that were dry. There was a shower that was going to be warm. I could probably manage to get my hands on a big fat pot of tea within the hour. I wasn’t going to have to go back outside that day unless I wanted to. I’d be able to get the grit out of my teeth with water that was certain to have no grit in it. I had everything working to my advantage and it was pretty obvious once I figured that out.

My discomfort was pretty insignificant once I considered it. Sure, I was the wettest person within Edmonton’s city limits (even people in the shower weren’t wetter than me) but I had a massive list of reasons why I’d be warm and dry within the hour. The list of people who couldn’t get warm and dry that evening kinda sickened me.

I suppose that’s where I’m going to quit the story though, my conclusions aren’t completely formed yet anyhow. So much for thinking the philosophical answer was “testing out the rain gear”.

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