When I was asked to join the steering committee for the 2008 Sea to Sea ride, I was skeptical. Hundreds of middle to upper income white folks taking the summer off of work to ride bicycles that cost more than some people make in a year was going to “end the cycle of poverty?”
Luckily I was wrong. The ride DID do a lot of good. More than $1.5 million was raised to support poverty alleviation efforts by World Renew, Partners WorldWide, and local churches and organizations. In addition, the cyclists had the opportunity to witness to countless people along the way.
Having ridden 1,500 miles on the 2008 Sea to Sea tour from Denver to Grand Rapids, Terry Barnes says that the interactions he had with people and strangers along the way is what inspired him to participate again in 2013.
“The best part is the reactions you get from people when you tell them that you are dedicating so much of your time and energy towards the cause," says Barnes. "It really brings out the best in people.”
On one occasion, Barnes and many other cyclists sat down in a restaurant to enjoy a meal together. Surprised and confused by the number of cyclists sitting at her tables, one waitress asked what was going on. Barnes and several other people at the table explained to her who they were, where they were going, what they were doing and most importantly why they were doing it. The waitress then talked to her fellow waitresses, returning to the table having pooled together all of their tips from the night. The waitresses donated it all to the cause.
Other riders were inspired to get even more involved with missions.
“Since the 2008 tour,” says Jessica Fox, “God has continued to lead me day by day, just like he did on the tour. He has led me through Calvin graduation, grad school, a Fulbright grant, and now I am participating in the English Language Fellow program and will be teaching English to Indonesian National Policemen at the Jakarta Police Language School for the coming 10 months. My perspective continues to shift and change, especially my idea of our neighbors and how we can love them.”
Christina Nienhuis was also a rider in 2008, and will be riding again this year. She went to Uganda in 2012 and says, “Stepping back onto North American soil three months later, with my life completely upside down and the culture shock overwhelming me, I had to do something. With absolutely no similarities between my life here in Canada and my time in Uganda, I needed something to remind me of these people. So I signed up for Sea to Sea. Having cycled in 2008, I knew what I was getting myself into: the sore muscles, the blisters (in places you couldn't dream of), the sunburns... But not only that, the community, the purpose, and the sheer joy of riding all day long are now awaiting me next summer. Besides these great joys that come with doing Sea to Sea, I am now doing something tangible to help those in need.”
After reading the reports on the Sea to Sea website, and talking with some of the riders, my initial skepticism has been replaced with delight at the way God is using this cross-country tour to affect not only people living in poverty who benefit from the funds, but the riders and those they meet along the way. I encourage you to learn about and support this initiative at www.seatosea.org. It's not too late to register if you're interested in riding a shorter leg.