31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES
DAY 21: BIKES
I can’t think of a better example of someone using their abilities and passions for Kingdom work than my husband and bicycles.
James became very interested in riding when we finally got settled into our first house. A family at our church also liked riding, and they encouraged James to enter an organized ride called Hotter than Hell. It was a 100 mile ride in Wichita Falls, Texas in the heat of the summer. James actually found something compared to Hell fun. I knew he was hooked.
He started talking about riding his bicycle 330 miles from Amarillo to Ft. Worth, Texas. I wasn’t sure it was a great idea, but James’s dad was completely supportive. I thought I probably should follow his lead. The day he left, in the spring of 2007, was a Thursday. The kids and I stayed in Amarillo to attend our end of the year home school co-op party. James’s dad followed him along the road as his support crew.
That night at the party, everyone would ask, “Where’s James?” And I would respond, “Oh. He’s riding his bicycle to Ft. Worth this weekend.” And everyone’s response was immediately, “Why?” I would tell them that he just wanted to do it, and I could tell on their faces that my words were really not satisfying their question.
Right after the party got started, I got a phone call from James. He was at a hotel in a small town. He had made it a 110 miles that day, and he was excited to be almost 1/3 of the way there. He said that his dad had bought him a hamburger, and they were having a good time. We talked about what time the kids and I would leave the next day to meet him down the road, and I continued with our party. My motto has always been, “There ain’t no party like a home school party.”
The next day we drove to meet James and his dad. He had rode another sixty miles before we caught up to him. We handed out some hugs and drinks. We let him get back to it and drove about fifteen miles ahead of him. The kids and I got out and wrote him chalk messages on the shoulder of 287 to encourage him every ten miles. We bought snacks and drinks, and checked into a hotel in Wichita Falls. By the afternoon he had rode about 110 more miles that day. He called me from right outside of town. His bike had a flat, and he was calling it a day. I picked him up. He got cleaned up, we ate some Mexican food, and we tried to get some rest. I told him that he didn’t have to keep going. 220 miles in 2 days was impressive enough. He was determined, despite the pain he was clearly in.
The next morning he got up before I did and headed down the road. Lucy, Andrew, and I got everything loaded in the car, and headed toward Ft. Worth. Driving over that part of the highway, I could not imagine riding my bike there. James was doing it. He was on day 3, and we were getting close. By the end of the day, he had made it about 75 miles to Decatur, Texas.
That night he was really in pain. At that point, I really tried to talk him out of continuing the last 35 miles. He wouldn’t consider quitting. The next morning, I winced as I watched him leave. I knew his feet and legs were throbbing. We loaded up the car, bought James a coffee, and went to meet him down the road. When we pulled over to meet him, he only had 15 miles left. The morning was a little drizzly, but he was enjoying the cool weather.
The kids and I drove to the Fort Worth city limits sign, got out some party streamer, and made him a finish line to ride through.
He made it. We celebrated by going to a Mavericks playoff game in Dallas. The Mavericks even won that night, 118 to 112 against the Golden State Warriors. Our celebratory mood was riding high.
The thing James says that he learned riding that road is that there are hills and valleys that you don’t even notice in your car. We had driven I-287 back and forth between Amarillo and Ft. Worth nearly 1,000 times, and he had always considered that trek of highway to be flat.
Once he was slowed down and powering his ride with his own leg muscles, he noticed every little bit of incline and decline. He noticed every smell and every bump of that 330 miles. I begin to think of how animals or insects experience that same road that we drive down with cruise control and our radio. They would notice even more of the details of that road than James had on his bicycle.
In our ministry at Citychurch, we develop relationships with children, teenagers, and adults who live in our very same town. They are living lives on the very same road we are on, but their mode of transportation is quite different. There are obstacles that we don’t even notice, especially in a comfortable SUV with top-notch shocks.
Part of coming alongside someone battling poverty, is slowing down and seeing life from their perspective. We can’t understand the inclines when we are driving through life in a car that is doing all the work, going at a speed that makes the road seem flat and therefore fair and easy to navigate.
If you have never flexed any muscles climbing out of poverty, it might be hard to sympathize with the obstacles, the inclines, the bumps in the road, the heat, the rain, and the dangerous traffic speeding by just to your left.
James began to look for ways he could use his bicycle in the ministry in downtown Amarillo. He had this crazy idea that he could deliver the lunches to kids using his bike. He went to the hardware store to buy some plastic tubs and lawn mower wheels, andhe made a trailer to hook to the back of his bike.
That summer was just beginning, and fuel prices were at an all-time high. Maybe it wasn’t a crazy idea. He loaded up his bike with over 100 lunches, and headed out by himself.
When he got back, he was convinced that he had discovered the best way to minister to kids in our neighborhoods. As he pulled up to their houses, it was so much easier to relate and interact than riding in a big van. You are already standing on the same ground they are.
Isn’t that what the church is lacking, relating to the culture, common ground?
A street level ministry allows you to be in the same posture and prospective as the child you are ministering to.
This level of ministry is totally different than trying to minister from a van or a church building.
James finished out that first summer delivering about 150 lunches 4 times a week to his neighborhood. I tried to ride along with him as much as I could. Honestly, I couldn’t believe how fun it was. But there were many times that first summer that he went by himself.
James’s main job at Citychurch is media. He has been producing videos about the ministry of Citychurch since 1998. In 2006, he began producing a weekly television show that would highlight what Citychurch was doing, to take people along with us and show them the work of the ministry.
The show is aired on local television, but at one time we had it airing on a Christian station. The station had figured out that they could show their programing in parts of asia on satellite for a very nominal cost.
One Saturday that winter, a couple visiting Texas from the Philippines showed up at Citychurch’s door. I was there helping with a sleepover with the youth girls. As we were getting breakfast together for the girls, Don walked through showing the couple around.
They had seen the Citychurch tv show, and they had been inspired by the bike ministry we were using to feed kids. Bicycles are a major part of the transportation in their city of Davao. They had been inspired to begin feeding ministries in the neighborhoods near the shores of the ocean where trash lines the streets and families would squat on the invaluable land by building a home out of corrugated metal and anything else they can find.
The couple had came to visit several American cities with a mission organization. The organization had set them up to stay with families in each city. The family that they had been sent to stay with happened to be members at our church. When they asked if they had heard of Citychurch, they couldn’t believe it.
It was so unbelievable to me that this church setting on the Pacific Ocean had been spurred forward to reach the poorest in their city by seeing the ministry of Citychurch.
Citychurch planned a mission trip to visit this church that had been connected by such strange coincidences. James and the other guys in our family went to visit Davao and encourage that church in September of 2008.
Often new ideas take a long time to catch on.
James and his brother Donnie delivered lunches with their bicycles in the summer of 2008, but the summer of 2009, they went back to using vans.
As the summer of 2010 was approaching, James and Donnie wanted to get the bike ministry going again. James found a company in Portland that made bike trailers that would be perfect for carrying lunch sacks and ice chests. They delivered lunches that summer, and people began to volunteer to ride along.
The past 5 years, the bike ministry has been a favorite of volunteers. People love helping with this ministry.
I love music, so I share songs. Here's one about riding bikes.
If James hadn’t been looking for ways to incorporate his passions and interests into the ministry, we might have missed out on the whole idea of street level ministry.