NPU Cyclists Complete Fund-Raising Cross-Country Trek

Post a Comment » Written on August 20th, 2008     
Filed under: News
QUINCY, MA (August 20, 2008) – On Sunday, six young adults parked their bikes with the front wheels standing in the Atlantic Ocean and then jumped in to the water to celebrate the completion of their cross-country journey. It had taken nearly three months to complete, and they had raised thousands of dollars for ministry. To view a YouTube video of the group concluding their trip, see Cyclists.

“It didn’t feel like it was really happening until we were all in the water,” said Dylan Maysick, of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The cyclists, all of whom attend or recently graduated from North Park University, started their trek on May 24 in Redwood City, California, with the rear wheels of their bikes immersed in the Pacific Ocean (see earlier story on their preparations). Along the way, they stopped at Evangelical Covenant churches to discuss issues of social justice as well as raise funds for two ministries—ACIRFA Bikes and Spark Ventures, both of which serve the poor in Zambia.

North Park sponsored the trip and paid the students’ expenses.

In addition to Maysick, riders were Marcus Simmons of Longview, Texas; Matt Enquist, of Libertyville, Illinois; Eric Landin of Jamestown, New York; Andrea Buchanan of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Emily Johnson of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Landin, Buchanan, Johnson, and Enquist come from Evangelical Covenant churches.

They spent their last night at Covenant Congregational Church in Quincy, which had helped the riders finish in style. Members formed an 11-car motorcade, and other spectators lined parts of the route with signs congratulating the riders.

People participating in a walk to benefit breast cancer research saw the church’s signs and applauded. The cyclists made one last unexpected five-minute stop when they were surprised to find 20 residents of a local nursing home sitting on the front yard and cheering them on.

“It was so wonderful,” said Johnson.

The discussions with church members, as well as encounters with others along the way, made the greatest impression on the students, they said. “I think people really want to be involved with things that are important,” said Buchanan. “That was really encouraging to me. I was struck by that.”

They also gained a deeper appreciation for the kindness of strangers that they frequently experienced. On the blog maintained by the cyclists throughout their trip, Enquist wrote of a time that a storm was approaching and they had no place to stay.

“When we rolled into New Raymer, CO, we were riding around town looking for a place to pitch some tents when a woman in a beat up old El Camino pulled up next to us and offered us a place to stay in the local 4H barn,” he wrote. “She flagged us over to the car with a Budweiser can in her hand hanging out of the car. We slept well indoors that night, listening to the rain crashing on the roof above us.”

The riders admitted that few of them had experience cycling long distances. “I was not a cyclist at all; I was a runner,” said Simmons.

The difference between the two activities became quickly and painfully apparent. After the first day, Simmons blogged, “IT WAS HARD! IT HURT! I WANTED TO CRY!”

The group endured mountains, rain, heat, and mechanical malfunctions. Simmons was even attacked by a gray squirrel and birds on separate occasions. To see more photos of their trip, click here.

But the only question as to whether they would finish came in Colorado when Johnson lost control of her bike on some gravel and suffered injuries that caused her to miss several days of riding with the rest of the team. The team to decide to continue, however.

The riders said they learned to live more simply as they traveled with few possessions. Simmons plans to give away some of his things when he returns to school. “I feel like they were a huge part of my identity. I don’t have to worry about those things.”

“It is such a blessing knowing that college-aged kids are joining us in the battle to defeat the mind-set of poverty and bring the gospel from the pulpit of a bicycle,” said Vaughn Spethmann, co-founder of ACIRFA and member of Clairemont Covenant Church in San Diego, California. “It is amazing how God can unite us across a continent and across the globe to help those in need. We thank all the NPU students for letting the world know about how God is moving in Zambia through ACIRFA.”

The amount of money raised won’t be known for several weeks, but “It’s in the thousands,” said Rich Johnson, director of University Ministries at North Park and trip advisor.

Johnson, who also is the co-founder of Sparks Ventures, praised the students. “People can feel overwhelmed and not know how to respond to issues,” he said. “They did something.”

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