Sunday, 4 August 2013

Into Jerusalem

It seems that the excitement on the tour just keeps rising. The subtle sense of excitement resembles that of a young child approaching a birthday. It started with our entry into Pella last week and has just steadily risen until now- in Grand Rapids.

Spending Friday night at Hope College in Holland, MI was a small precursor to the fun and rest we would be granted during our stay at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. I was able to connect with a friend from the '08 ride - Lou Haveman. And yet again, we were treated to a delicious supper. Every college we stay at reminds me how grateful my university did not have a cafeteria! There are just too many food choices and I end up nearly having to roll myself out after eating dinner!

We awoke Saturday morning, had breakfast at a church just around the corner and began our 67 kilometer ride into Grand Rapids. After a week of long and challenging days, it was a blessing to be able to hit the pillow Friday night knowing that Saturday, even if not perfect weather, would still be short and easy. We were all tired, our muscles exhausted. It was not too much of a challenge to differentiate the day riders biking with us from those of us who had ridden all week. If the tan lines had not given it away I think the more methodical, intentional way we spun our pedals as if energy reserves were low must have been a good clue. Because of the church breakfast and the huge number of new bikers joining us, we started out late (7:45- that's late!) and slowly began to make our way through the plethora of church stops along the route.

We ate cookies at the library, had chocolate milk from LaVonne, a bottle of water from World Renew, and lunch at Calvin CRC where we gathered before riding in peloton into Calvin College. Stationed all along the route were people cheering us one. Whether we passed in front of their homes and they decided to cheer from there or they gathered at important intersections and businesses along the way. There was definitely a huge excitement buzzing through the atmosphere.

While at Calvin CRC we ate lunch, met some new riders and gave Clifford the Big Red Dog a kiss. Oh the things we do while waiting around! We eventually gathered in the parking lot to prepare for our group cycle into Calvin College. Billy D led us on his motorcycle and two van leap-frogged their way blocking intersections for us. Again, spectators cheered and honked their horns as we passed by. I couldn't help but spend most of that short three-mile ride laughing to myself as cries of "hole," "turning," "slowing," and "stopping" rang out throughout the entire group. When riding that close it is important to communicate but, as always, when all of us work to communicate the resulting sound resembles something akin to a kindergarten classroom during playtime. I laughed even harder when a few cyclists, somewhat annoyed with the surrounding constant commentary, chimed in with ridiculous comments including: "pedaling," "breathing," "blinking..." I couldn't hold outloud guffaws when Stan and Allen began to commentate on the turning abilities of the three riders ahead of them... the comments then began to turn into a full blown commentary reminiscent of what you'd hear at a race. 

"Well Stan, what do you think the potential of this team it?" 

"Well Allen, these riders have been training really hard and look! See how they all signaled that turn? Allen, I expect great results from this team."

"That's right Stan, what fantastic signaling ability!"

We rode onto the Calvin College campus to the cheers of dozens of spectators with the sheer enjoyment of that short three mile ride swelling my heart with joy. "This is what community is about, I thought!" Having fun, laughing and serving God together. I cherish these memories, they happen often and I am so grateful for them!

Saturday afternoon was a blur of registration, new faces, organizing, fixing bikes, moving about and preparing for Sunday. Amanda and I biked to the bike shop where she had her handlebars fixed and I bought some lube- it is so easy to loose things! Later that night we walked to the mall, wandered around and watched a movie. While it led to a really late night, it was great to relax for an evening, although it was strange. I had not watched a movie in who knows how long!

This morning (Sunday) I spent preparing for this afternoon's celebration along with relaxing and watching a sermon online. It was splendid to not only have a bed to sleep on, but couches to slouch on and even a table to put one's laptop on! 

The highlight of the weekend for me was this afternoon's celebration. I was asked to share for about 5 minutes so I spent much of the afternoon preparing something to say. The worship was out of this world and, although not as well attended as I had hoped, the celebration was a huge hit. We were asked to walk our bikes around the walkway that extended around the length of the auditorium. I was told it was quite the sight to see us all walking around up there. We heard from all three of our partner organizations as well as from Gerry Pols, one of our cyclists. I copied what I said at the celebration tonight and placed it below if you're interested in reading it. Because of the time limit, I wrote it word for word- otherwise I may go overtime in true Dutch fashion. Overall this weekend was a pure joy, relaxing, and not nearly long enough. Tomorrow we begin our seventh week with 34 new riders. We ride only 106 kilometers and I cannot begin to describe how great that number sounds! 

Blessings to you! 

Hi, my name is Christeena Nienhuis. I'm from Sarnia, Ontario and I'm one of the 80-odd bikers riding across the continent this summer with the goal of raising funds to end the cycle of poverty. Six weeks ago we left Los Angeles and we've have ridden through the desert, over the mountains, across the not-so-flat prairies and here we are. I think I can speak on behalf of my fellow cyclists when I say how excited we are to be here in Grand Rapids. What a wonderful welcome we have received!

I was asked to share a little bit about why we are doing Sea to Sea. Why is this trip so important that many of us would take time off work and school and raise money and ride our bikes across the country? We all have different reasons, but I'm riding because of a little boy named Michael.

Last summer I taught in a rural school in southern Uganda. When I left Canada, I had no idea what I was getting into. My class of 22 grade 6 students and I loved getting to know each other. We laughed at our mistakes as we tried to communicate and they laughed at my descriptions of life back home. I experienced poverty firsthand and heard the stories of dozens of Ugandans who struggle each day with poverty. Nearly all of my students had lost either one or both parents. I was honoured to get to know each and every one of those wonderful children. Their joy and openness in life despite their circumstances humbled me and continues to humble me.

During my time overseas the opportunity to do Sea to Sea came up. I needed a way to put my convictions and knowledge to work and to help those in need so I signed up. Since I rode in '08, I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew about the sore muscles, the blisters (in places you couldn't dream of), and the sunburns... But not only that, I knew about the community, the purpose, and the sheer joy of riding my bike all day long. But, besides these great joys that come with doing Sea to Sea, I am now doing something tangible to help those in need. When riding down the street with 150 other riders, people stop us and ask what in the world we're doing. And I can tell them about my student named Michael. His mother died, his father went mad and disappeared and he was left alone to raise his four siblings. Yet every school day Michael was there, sitting at his desk, ready to learn, his trusting eyes staring at me and his ready smile lighting up his whole face.

Because of this trip and the people I have met, both overseas and in North America, the word poverty now brings faces to mind. Poverty has faces. Poverty is not just some obscure notion about people suffering “over there.” Sea to Sea has brought people who normally would not be living in such close quarters together against a common problem. Sea to Sea has shown me what the church ought to be like- brothers and sisters serving God side by side. And because of Sea to Sea and the organizations we are raising funds for: Partner's Worldwide, World Renew and the Reformed Church of America, little boys like Micheal are being helped. So that's why I'm riding Sea to Sea. I thank you for your support and prayers. I truly believe that together we can make a difference in the lives of the poor. Thank you.

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