Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Contact Marcus!! He wants to talk!

I have way too much free time this semester and have decided not to go crazy by keeping in touch with friends from the bike trip, making new ones, and engaging people in the kinds of conversations we had during the trip. It doesn't have to center around biking though. also, a lot of people still ask me how I am adjusting to life after the trip or want to know about my plan to visit the orphanage in Zambia. If you are interested, let me know.

also I am now a member of the Chicago Biking Federation. Check it out at

-Marcus (bored as nails!) Simmons

Saturday, September 13, 2008


It's been a long, long while. I don't know if anyone reads this anymore, but it has finally come time for me to debrief the trip.
I've been reading a lot, since the trip ended, about living close to the land, living off of the land, living in the rhythms of our earth. As I read the stories of a couple families who lived in this way that so many of our ancestors did, the landscapes of this past summer pass through my head, clicking from one to the next like an old-time slide show. For these images, I am grateful.
Tonight I sat at supper with my father and he mentioned the word "petroglyphs." "We saw petroglyphs!" I exclaimed. "Somewhere in the desert... Nevada, I think. Yes, it was eastern Nevada." (To avoid scandal, only Eric saw the petroglyphs, the rest of us were too lazy to venture further off our route!) And suddenly, I missed the trip.
This summer, I accepted that I am a midwestern-er. And I became proud of that fact. Through the desert, I awoke in the morning and wished I were "somewhere normal, like the midwest." Through the mountains, I wished I were in the midwest. Out east I wondered how people farmed among the hills. Wouldn't it be easier to move to the midwest, where our land is gloriously flat, I wondered. But tonight, snug in my midwest home, I became homesick for the desert. Yes, the desert.
More so, I am homesick for the feeling of dirt pressed hard against the soles of my feet, for the feeling of bedding down in a tent, breathing fresh night air. For the stars in the sky and grass that tickles my tender skin. For the days when the horizon seems so far away, and the days when the sky seems to stop short. For sand and tumbleweeds blowing through eternal open-spaces, and for crops that rise miraculously from rich soil, heeding the warmth of the sun.
Yes, I miss the trip.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

back to normal life?

Hey Guys. Here is my follow up post:
It has been hard being back on the university campus, but I am adjusting, I guess. I have my days and moments where i really miss being on the bike and being outside on the road. I am currently trying to figure out how to incorporate a lot of the things I have learned on the trip into the "college routine." and it is kind of frustrating, but I'm getting there. I am so glad I did this though and I will remember this for the rest of my life! THanks for all of your prayers and support along the way. Just like we will never know how many lives we touched along the way, you guys have no idea how vital and uplifting your words, prayers and thoughts were. 

My hope now is to raise money to go to Zambia and visit the orphanage and bike factory! So pray for my fund raising efforts. Peace!

-Marcus Simmons

Sunday, August 17, 2008

We Made It!

We did it! 6 friends, 12 weeks, and almost 4,000 miles!

We had a great morning with the Covenant Church in Quincy, MA. They let us share in the service with them and then took us down to the beach, cheering us along all the way. We dipped our tires in the ocean and then went for a triumphant dip.

I hope you'll keep reading the blog in the coming weeks as I'm sure that members of the group (myself included) will use this space to debrief and to continue to discuss the trip and all of the lessons learned. Thanks to all of you who've kept up with the blog and with us. Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement and we hope you'll keep reading here.

with joy,

Friday, August 15, 2008


1. Bones Pub and Grub - California
2. Big Tony's Pub - Minnesota
3. Major's Station in Nevada
3. Daryl and Patti Page's Ranch in Nevada
5. Uncle Paul's Moo Burgers - Chicago

1. A ditch in Whirlwind Valley in Nevada
2. Behind a building on concrete
3. in a barn
4. on a table
5. in an office

1. Butt
2. Butt
3. Thighs
4. Neck

1. Eddie Floyd - "Knock on Wood"
2. Erykah Badu - "Soldier"
3. Rachelle Ferrell - "Peace on Earth"
4. Rachelle Ferrell - "Wounds in the Way"
5. Marvin Gaye - "How Sweet it is"
6. Christa Black - "California Sunshine"
7. Dorinda Clark Cole - "So Many Times"

1. Fire Next Time - Baldwin
2. Langston Hughes' Poetry
3. The Secret Life of Bees - Kidd
4. Goin to Meet the Man - Ellison
5. Confessions - Augustine
6. I am America - Colbert
7. Invisible Man- Ellison
8. Buffalo Soldier
9. Madea's Uninhibited Commentary - Perry

- I am sick of clif bars and gatorade and powerade and all "ade" drinks!!!!


I am on pins and needles and thoughts are running through my head at a dizzying speed. For twelve weeks we've been riding now and the journey has finally come to its end. I have taken in so much between San Francisco and Boston that it will probably take me quite a while to process it. On Sunday night, I fly back to Chicago to spend time with some friends there (who are like family to me) and then I go home to Texas. I am super excited, as I haven't been home since last year. Earlier in the trip, I stated that I wanted to be more excited about my relationship with Christ by the end of the trip and I am excited. I am glad that there are men and women across the country doing what God wants them to do, i am glad that people are sharing with other people. No, we do not hear much of this, or see a lot of this without looking really hard and I suppose that this is the way Christ wanted it. I believe that if the God thing was so easy and popular, people would forget about it all too quickly. This trip is definitely something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I just think that there is so much to process right now, I am a little mentally paralyzed.

And there is one person that I was hoping to have the chance to tell about it, but I won't. This past Sunday, one of my best friends in the world, LaDerrius Christian, was killed back home and it has been hard to come to terms with. We were friends since 8th grade and the one thing I will remember the most is his sense of humor and how we would walk back from football practice "freestyling" and singing rap lyrics. I will surely miss him.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

30 miles...

30 miles from the coast...

our trip is finally coming to a close! i must admit that this last week or so my mind has been focused primarily on finishing the trip. i've thought for hours on what it will be like... sitting on the beach, or running into the ocean, or getting on a plane and saying farewell to my bike for a couple weeks. i can't wait for that moment, when i know that after 12 weeks and almost 4000 miles we have actually accomplished what we set out to do. it all seemed so insurmountable to me as we dragged our bikes up to the road from the coastline of the Pacific. and yet, here we are, only 30 miles away.

unfortunately, my recent fixation on the end of the physical journey has sometimes eclipsed what i consider to be the more important aspects of the trip - the conversations, the stories, and the people that we meet along the way; the striving toward a lifestyle of social justice and a holistic gospel. weeks ago, i spent much of the time on the bike thinking and praying about how my life can and should look different after this trip.

i think of the different lifestyle changes that i need to make; how i desire to live more simply and frugally, how i want to share what i do have with others, how i want to live a lifestyle that has a positive environmental impact, and how i want to bring Christ in an incarnational way to those in need.

but the excuses come quickly. i think that many of us - college students (and others, i suppose) - use excuses to procrastinate just actions. someday, we say, when i have a better paying job and a place of my own, then i can really dig in and make a difference. but if i'm honest with myself, i have so much that i can share and give up. for me personally, the phrase "poor college student" is not used in truth - i only hide behind it. and that's pretty easy to do.

like Marcus said, this trip is going to take a while to process. but i am so thankful for all of the people that have encouraged us along the way, both in our physical journey and our spiritual journey, and i know that i am growing through this and other experiences in my life.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Rain, rain.

Matt here.

Emily made a post a few weeks ago from Lake Pymatuning at my grandparents' place. So, I figured I'd post some pictures. I've been going there all my life and it's one of my favorite places to spend my time.

Sunsets are always great here.

Bad weather over the horizon at night. Foreshadowing...

I got to catch some fish...

...and see people I love.

But now we're stuck just 10 miles east of where we were this morning. We had planned on crossing the border into Massachusetts today but got a late start waiting on bike shops to open and then got caught under a huge system of storms that never let up. So, we got a hotel and decided to just pray that tomorrow's better. It's rained so much in the past week and we're all getting really tired of it. Sometimes it's fun and provides a free shower:

But most of the time, it's a drag. Yesterday, we got stuck under an overpass changing flats and waiting for the lightning to stop.

And we've invested in top of the line water-repellent clothing:

We end on Sunday in Boston and we're all very ready for the airport. It's just a matter of getting through this rain... something that I'm a bit nervous about. In any case, we're getting on the road early tomorrow morning to try and get back on track.

People have been great to us in New York, even if the weather hasn't. We had three great church visits here (in Jamestown, Rochester, and Clay) where we met a lot of really encouraging people. We honestly enjoyed all of our conversations and had a great time. Later in the week, we rolled into Frankfort, NY not knowing where we were going to stay (the only church that picked up their phones couldn't take us in for various insurance reasons I guess). We sat down at a little Italian place and before we knew it, we'd been invited into a home for the first dry night we'd had in days. Our new friend Helen welcomed us in and made us a great breakfast in the morning. Then, yesterday when we were caught out in yet another thunderstorm, we knocked on the door of the nearest farm house and were welcomed in by Bev Brown, a wonderfully hospitable woman who warmed us up with her handmade quilts and fed us lunch.

Eric was joking around the other day that it'll be weird to be back in Chicago next week as "just another person" without some kind of adventurous tale told by our spandex and helmet lines. Will we still be treated like this? I hope so, but I'm not sure.

And I can't help but think about how much better the world would be if we treated one another like this all the time. Christ modeled hospitality and sacrifice and we've witnessed people all over America following the example. But have my homeless friends seen the same thing? I'm not sure. The exceptional thing about Christ was that he loved the outcasts and the untouchables. There are plenty of people that need a roof over their heads or a meal or a simple friendly conversation and they don't get it because they aren't college kids with a collection of good stories to tell. Christ loved the overlooked and the oppressed and it's my hope that they'll be loved like we have this summer.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Home, and New York thus far.

Hello all,

I hope that you are doing well... we're camping out right now just north of the Finger Lakes region in New York, not far from Lake Ontario. We've enjoyed the spot so far. Our temporary neighbors have been very friendly, bringing gifts of firewood and popcorn. After a bad rain storm this morning one couple brought over freshly baked muffins. Unfortunately most of our stuff is drenched, so right now we're trying to dry things out before we hit the road for Clay, NY.

This past weekend we had the privilege of speaking at my home church, Zion Covenant in Jamestown, NY. I'd been waiting for 10 weeks for this weekend - it was hard to believe that it was actually here! It was so great to spend time with family, friends, and my girlfriend... and the response and support that we received from all that we met was overwhelming. It was so good to be at home and see first hand that so many from my home church have been behind us all the way.

Last night we were in Rochester, at Artisan Church. The evening that we spent there was wonderful. One topic that is still ringing in my ears is the importance of being incarnational in the places that we seek to be involved. Too many times ministry or outreach is done at arms length. We may travel into the city or to a distant country to do the work of Christ, but at the end of the day, many of us return from places that we label as "unsafe" or "bad neighborhoods" to the safety and comfort of our homes and quiet neighborhoods.

But the incarnation models a different way. Christ did not minister to people at arms length. He was born in the stable to reach out to the shepherds. He ate in the homes of tax collectors to speak to the outcasts. The message of the incarnation is clear - God validates our worth as humans by coming and living as one of us. The church must follow this example and live in this incarnational way to validate the worth of those to whom we are reaching out. What does this look like? I think that we need to seriously evaluate where our churches are located and where we as individuals choose to live. If we really want to bring the love of Christ to the inner city, or to the so-called "bad neighborhoods," that's where we should be.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

"I thought that I saw you in the oncoming cars"

I have not blogged a lot, I realize that.  When riding, my remarks and conversation are usually limited to bursts of irritation at the state which we are riding through, or the map.  I try to call on all my patience to be fair and strong.  

I think a lot about what I have learned this summer.  Sometimes I try hard to search for a life lesson.  I have learned to have faith to pray.  It is not easy for me to pray.  I want so hard for every word to be sincere.  But I'm learning to pray in faith for impossible things.  In faith I pray uncommon prayers; I am told He answers prayer.  People are always telling me that this journey will change my life, that I will look back on it as a blessed time of my life.  

But I'm just looking for God.  I'm looking for evidence of His love in the people we meet.  


Friday, August 1, 2008

from Lake Pymatuning, PA

Today we're resting at Matt's grandparents' cottage. Since we first plotted this destination on the map, Matt has described this destination to us as paradisiacal; I have yet to disagree with him.

I am tempted to suggest that we end the trip here. "Let's stop here," I would whisper to my traveling companions. "Let's spend the next two weeks here, overlooking the lake, then drive with our bikes to Quincy, MA for our finale. No one would have to know!" Perhaps we could even stay longer -- indefinitely. I would lounge on the deck daily; learn to sail, maybe, if I got the courage; and definitely learn to like fish.

But we cannot stay. I cannot stay. Eventually, the faces of those I'd forgotten would reflect off the water by the dock.

The man in Seattle stood overlooking the sea, calling:

"Hello! Hello? Are you there?
Can you hear me? Help me!
Help me! I'm drowning!
Hello? I need help! I'm drowning!"
He paused, concluding,
"I hate you!"


Saturday, July 26, 2008

A brief stop at home

We're just outside of Toledo, OH tonight. We decided to get a hotel tonight to hide from the heat and humidity. We rode about 75 miles today with a strong wind at our backs most of the way. Around noon, Dylan broke a spoke on his rear wheel while we were 30 miles away from the nearest bike shop. When you break one spoke, it's only a matter of time before more of them start breaking and then you're really in trouble. Dylan decided to tough it out and try to make it to the next shop. So, we took off as much weight as possible from his rear wheel and divvied up his bags. He rode the 30 miles standing up in order to keep his weight off the wheel! So, it was a long afternoon for him, but he made it and the bike shop owner fixed everything for free (a fairly common trend in bike shops around the country).


Going into the trip, I knew that I would have a hard time being away from home. I knew that I would miss my family but I also knew that I would miss my house and my hometown.

We've been on the road now for 9 weeks and there have been plenty of times when I would kill for something familiar. We sleep in a different place each night. We eat at three new tables each day and ride new roads for 60 miles. There really is nothing familiar about each day and that's been an experience unlike anything I've ever really gone through. Normally, when I'm in a new place or situation, I can almost always know that soon things will go back to being routine and comfortable. But that's not true on this trip. The only things that are routine and familiar are my bike seat and my the 5 people around me.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go home for 2 days. When I walked into the house I felt this intense joy at finally seeing something familiar. I guess I don't have much of a point here other than to thank my family and friends for making my time at home really enjoyable. It was great to just rest on a familiar couch near people who love me and were excited to have me around.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Worthington Cov./ Wounds in the Way

Worthington Covenant was one of the best churches and offered some of the best conversation for me yet! But I owe the group there an apology - especially the two gentlemen I had such a great conversation w/. I sat down at this table and for the millionth time remembered something. I was the lone black man (I say "man" even though I felt like a kid) biking through rural America and I was getting ready to have another conversation about justice w/a room full of white people. I sat down to eat at one of the tables and three of the biggest white men i'd ever seen sat with me. I have to confess that I entered into that conversation with a loaded gun. Naturally I brought a lot of my past attempts at conversations like this to this table - which was really a bit unfair to these guys i'll admit. I don't know what I thought was going to happen, but I was prepared for tactless, bigoted subtleties and not-so subtleties.

But something else happened. These men were honest, compassionate and exemplary people. They managed to slowly disarm my tense mind and we had a great conversation. I don't have the answer for what God did there, but I was very blessed in the end to have been there with them. I kind of hated having to go after that because I felt like I had just kicked back and relaxed with a couple of Uncles or something.

I, like most everybody else, tend to bring my past experiences to the present ones - both the good ones and the bad ones. I am reminded of a song that talks about right relationships made impossible by our attempts to navigate new experiences with old mindsets and wounds.

Wounds In The Way (Rachelle Ferrell)

She gives her body freely cause she can’t give herself completely 
There are wounds in the way 
She cannot bear to be naked to the world so instead she just fakes it with a man 
There are wounds in the way 

If they would have treated a little girl and a little boy when basically still just a baby 
With some respect and human dignity 
Maybe there wouldn’t be so many failed relationships 
We might even had a ghost of a chance of just loving each other - body, mind, and soul 

He gives his money freely cause he can’t give himself completely 
There are wounds in the way. 
He cannot bear to be honest with himself; so what the hell, he’ll lie to a woman 
There are wounds in the way 

If they would have treated a little boy and a little girl when basically still just a baby 
With some respect and human dignity 
Maybe there wouldn’t be so many failed relationships 
We might even had a ghost of a chance of just loving each other - body, mind, and soul 

As time passes by they begin to multiply 
There are wounds in the way 
Adding up secretly like the rings of an old oak tree 
There are wounds in the way 

Some old and some new, all stifling, debilitating and cruel 
There are wounds in the way 
And some are passed down from elder to youth - they don’t even belong to you 
There are wounds in the way 

As time passes through, they begin to accrue a strange sort of value 
Some that you think are worth holding onto 
Cause you don’t want to change who you are – no you don’t 

He loves her strong and true, but when he get’s angry it gets misconstrued into violence There are wounds . . . 
And she loves him equally, but when she feels misunderstood instead of sharing openly and honestly she is wounded. 

There are wounds in the way

Been Such A Long Time...

I would like to thank the kind community of Aurora's covenant church, who fed us and had a wonderful discussion w/ us. I especially appreciate Laurie and Mr and Mrs Seaman who urged me share my story w/ the women at the meeting. It was very uplifting and affirming to know that people were interested not just in the fact that I was biking for a good cause, but that I was someone w/ their own story. The details of my past play a huge role in why I am doing this.

I guess you get so used to people's eyes glazing over and people giving plastic answers and reactions, that when someone comes along and extends genuine love and kindness, you want to run or you're just confused. You forget that you can matter to a perfect stranger sometimes. "Been such a long time, I forgot that I was fine..."

And Again.......

It's a little bit of  a surprise, still, to know that i'm not 100% percent sure when i'm biking to next, where the next meal will be and when, to know that in the morning i'm going to put my sore behind back on that bike seat and peddle for another 5 to 6 hours. It might rain, thunder, or shine but i've got somewhere to be and people to see. It is sometimes overwhelming to try and blog or reflect on things during this trip because after biking all day, you just want everything to stop. You want to rest. But I guess the causes we're biking for can't wait.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

For those of you in the Chicagoland area, we're going to being hanging out at Libertyville Covenant Church on Monday night at 7 PM. We'd love to see some of you there! Directions

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A quick update

Hey everyone -

Thanks for continuing to watch our progress this summer! We're currently in Portage, WI, two days out from Milwaukee. From there, Matt's parents will pick us up and bring us to Grayslake, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago. We're looking forward to resting there on Sunday and Monday, as well as meeting with some members of the Libertyville Covenant Church.

Then, on Tuesday morning, we'll be taking the Lake Express ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon, MI, and resuming our church visits and voyages with the covenant church there.

Also, thanks to our friends at the North Mankato Covenant church, we recently got some press coverage. You can check out the footage here.

Blessings to all of you!


ps. for those of you who are Batman fans, know that Marcus, Andrea and I will be attending the midnight showing of The Dark Knight! We are very excited. You can anticipate a movie review blog in the next couple of days...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some old pictures and some newer ones...

It occurred to me that I hadn't posted any pictures of Colorado beauty. So, the first few are from our time there.

And the next shots are an assortment of pictures from all over.

Marcus praying the rain holds off in Nebraska.

It didn't hold off.

But it eventually got sunny again.


"Don't take pictures of me in the morning!"



Tonight we're staying in the Free Church in Tomah, Wisconsin. A regular pit stop on the drive from my home in Minneapolis to Chicago, it is strange to ride through on a bicycle. After a wonderful and relaxing weekend at home, visiting with many people whom I love and miss, Wisconsin has been a bittersweet part of the journey for me. I got to ride along Highway 35, which I did on my first bike trip, and revisit many adorably quaint towns. Now I've gotten bored with familiar landscapes, and frustrated by the temperamental weather we've encountered: thunder in the distance, rain falling from sunny skies, and headwinds. This weekend, I'll get to see some family in Milwaukee, and we'll visit Chicagoland, a welcome resting place for many of us!
Thanks for all your support, everyone! It was so good to see so many friends in Minneapolis this past weekend!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Minnesota! From North Mankato

I realized it's been a long time since I've blogged, so I figured I'd fill everyone in on what's going on.

This week has been very busy for us. We've visited churches in South Dakota and Minnesota every night this week since Monday. I'm glad to be in so-called "covenant country" because we get to meet so many new people and have conversations in far more churches that we could earlier in the trip. While it's been very rewarding, it's also been tiring. We've been biking around 60 miles a day consistently and still visiting churches in the evenings.

Biking into a new town and a new church every day is sometimes a bit overwhelming! There are new people, new situations, new injustices that are brought to our attention. There is so much to process about each visit and neighborhood - but very little time to do it. That being said, I've been learning so much from the people we meet and am so thankful for this opportunity.

The hospitality that we have received has been incredible - thank you to all of the people who have made time in their schedules and lives to help us along the way. I pray that you will all continue to provide to those in need, as you've challenged me to do.

More soon...


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thank You

I'd like to thank everyone for your prayers and well-wishes while I recovered. I am back on the trip!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Luke Peterson, I Never Wanted a Blog

We're in Wausa Nebraska, staying at Matt's grandparent's house with half of his extended family. When we first crossed into Nebraska the state sign simply announced: "Nebraska. The Good Life," Nebraska's bold, confident proclamation has proven true, from the first mile and the Cactus Palace in Venango, to our current home in Wausa. Throughout the trip, and especially in Nebraska, I've been constantly surprised by the kindness of strangers. A few days ago we got caught in a storm, there was a bit of lightning and the high winds made the rain sting as it hit our skin, forcing us to seek shelter. Luckily a woman named Tracy invited us into her home where we watched Oprah, and talked about pianos, creative writing, metabolic rates, education, and comfrontations with chickens. She also gave us candy bars. We were living the good life, even if it was pouring.

Riding a bike for sixty miles a day leaves me with a lot of time to think, and it's been surprising what sort of thoughts can float through my head. Sometimes I plan things to think about in advance, and sometimes it's a surprise. Tomorrow I will be attempting to define "The Good Life." Talking to people from big cities, the subject of small towns with "nothing there" often comes up, and I have to admit that I too was dreading the desert and the plains. What I've found, however, is not a greater appreciation for Chicago and its vastness. As we travel through the plains, I've noticed that people have an interest in what we're doing, and why we're riding. Many of these people talk with us at length, in some cases buying us dinner, trading shirts, opening bike shops to give us supplies and repairs at no cost. And yet, in Chicago, a I don't seem to meet as many people, there isn't such a sense of community. I don't know the names of the people who live in the apartment across the hall.

I don't yet have an exact definition of "The Good Life," but I know that community and kindness to strangers are a part of that. What else makes life good? We have almost 2,000 more miles to find out.

Happy Fourth of July


Monday, June 30, 2008


Here are some more quick hits from me, let me know what you think:

-I have been attacked by a fat gray squirrel. It ran alongside me and then jumped on my bike!
-I have also been attacked by birds in Nebraska. I call them "devil birds."
-My two new muscles are really sore.
-I traded shirts with my friend Raul. He bought us dinner.
-As you know, we are eating everything in site because of how much we bike. We have broken 4 and a half toilets across America so far.
-I admit that I am a big germophobe. I'm working on it.
-I have become a little more sunburned. I am now blackety black.
-I finally body-slammed Eric. I haven't decided who is next.
-Someone in our group talks in their sleep. I won't mention any names.
-I miss my Uncle Paul.
Current Book: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd


People at work.

Hey everybody! A lot has happened since I last blogged, both within our group and in the world. My sister was thrown from a car, she is okay now. Also, a number of my friends are facing very difficult family situations. I am learning new things and meeting new people everyday. There is an amazing unseen an overlooked community in this country.

People of all creeds and colors have welcomed me into their homes, bought me groceries, given me a warm place to sleep and shower, taken pictures of me to remember who I am and given me shirts! Many people have written notes in my journal and sung me songs and given me new books to read. I've met men and women from age 20 to 70 walking, running, biking, driving, and working across the country to be the hands of feet of Christ. God is moving. People are moving. The Kingdom is growing.

I often find myself laughing at my old "boxed up" definition of God. That would be the one where God's work is programmed and centered around what goes on between the four walls of the sanctuary. I love that too, but I am sure that there is a work to be done everywhere and anywhere. Its great.


Hospitality... Again.

I originally posted the following material a few days ago but took it down last night following an email from a member of Moses Hill Covenant Church in Loomis, NE. In the chaos of this week's events (a scary accident, an emergency rest day, and the unexpected departure of two team members) we were forced to change our route and cancel a church in order to make up time that we spent in the hospital. During all of the departures and confusion, it seems that the call to Loomis to inform them of the cancellation was made far too late. When we found out about this last night, we were all pretty upset and I was even more upset when I read that a member of the church there had taken issue with this post. We apologize profusely for the confusion that came out of this week's injuries and upsets and we want to acknowledge our own imperfections and shortcomings. We truly regret what happened in Loomis. That being said, I think that the post still has validity and I'm not ashamed of my words. -Matt


Well, it's the end of a long day (a long couple of days, actually) and the four men are here in Paxton, NE. It was our second day of riding with just the four of us and it's really strange. We left Fort Collins on Wednesday morning after staying with my great aunt and uncle, Duane and Shirley Enquist, who were great to us and made us feel right at home. We'd all like to thank them again for all of their help and hospitality. Unfortunately, lots has happened since then (see Emily's post below).

People have been wonderful to us on this trip. People have opened homes and churches to feed us and to give us shelter. But as we were sitting in Sterling, CO on Thursday trying to figure out what to do, our luck ran out. We've been calling churches when we know we're going to be at a town in the evening and simply asking if we can sleep on the church floor (sleeping on pews is so much nicer than sleeping on rocks). I called every church in the phone book in Haxtun, CO, our anticipated stopping point that night. Nobody answered (not uncommon) at 5 of the 7 churches. One church turned out to be way outside of town and thus not exactly convenient when you're biking. But the other church made me pretty angry. I explained to the pastor that we were a group of students, riding cross-country for charity and to have conversations about social justice in the church. I explained that we were going to be in Haxtun in a few hours and we needed a floor to sleep on.

He immediately seemed hesitant. He explained to me that the church was under construction and that he didn't think we would want to stay there. I said that we just needed a place that would keep us dry and warm and out of the forecasted storms. He again told me that there was a lot of construction. I was starting to get a little angry at this point because he was my last chance at finding a place to sleep that night. I told him that construction didn't bother us and that we honestly only needed 15 square feet to lay down on and then we would be out in the morning. There was a long silence and then he said, "sorry, we're under construction."

Hey, maybe every inch of the church's floor was actually covered in nails or something. And I know that it might seem like I'm acting like I'm entitled to special treatment or something like that... But I don't think that's it. Because I believe that the church's doors should never close but that the church should be a place of hospitality and a place where the homeless can find a roof over their heads when a storm is rolling through town. I believe that as long as the church is still thought of as a building then those buildings should be used responsibly and with grace and generosity. And it should be said here that an overwhelming percentage of our interactions with churches and pastors have been just that: examples of responsible stewardship and generosity. But this one pastor in small town Colorado just left me thinking about the pregnant Mary being told there was no room at the Inn.

The thing that I love about this trip is that it's so often been the unexpected people that have served us in the most significant ways. It's been the people that don't quite fit the molds or the models for those who you might expect to be "on our side" that always seem to come through for us. 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. 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.

And last night, the four of us pulled into Venango, NE completely exhausted after battling a strong wind all day. We pitched our tents in an abandoned field behind the high school and then walked over to the local bar and grill to steal some electricity to charge our phones. We'd hoped to stay anonymous and not order anything until our phones were full enough to get us through the next day but instead we immediately had all eyes on us. We met wonderful people last night as we walked in sweaty and smelling terrible. Raul, Henry, and Candy bought us all huge dinners and made sure that we had a place to sleep last night that they knew was safe. We met up with them this morning at Raul's house where he offered us showers, gave us some advice on our route, and made us breakfast. It's funny, one of our mentors once told us that you will always find that the doors of bars are always open while churches are a little more hit or miss. So, I guess the point is just that it's been a great experience relying on people on our way and always being pleasantly surprised at how easily God transcends our petty stereotypes are prejudices about who's in and who's out. The kingdom is always bigger that we're expecting.


Some Nebraska love:

Our camping spot last night

Fixing a flat.

The Great Plains. It is really beautiful here, and the lack of mountain passes each day is a real plus.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Goodbye Bike Trip (at least for awhile)

The speedy recovery for which we hoped has yet to come to fruition. I arrived in Sterlin, CO by vehicle about a day ahead of the group. I curled up in a hotel bed and barely moved until chec-out time yesterday. We were hoping that I'd be completely healed and ready to ride when the group rolled into town at about 1pm. Before we re-attached the trailer to my bike, I conquered my psychological fear of repetition and went for a little test ride around the parking lot, only to find that I cannot put weight on my right arm (the arm that was pinned between the guardrail and the rock). Implications? I cannot steer with that arm, only manipulate its position for better balance while steering with my left hand; and I cannot use my back brakes. I feel fine taking the risk and continuing with the trip. Nothing else really makes sense to me. But the team would prefer that I reach full recovery before rejoining them. (I think they just like sleeping in later while I'm gone!) They were good enough to take another half rest day yesterday afternoon to help me decide what to do at this juncture. Today, Andrea's mom will come pick up us women and we'll drive with our bikes back to Sioux Falls. From there, my parents will retrieve me and I'll return to Minneapolis until I'm functional again.

This is an extremely difficult decision for me. I'm very upset to leave this trip, especially this next portion between Nebraska and Minneapolis, the promise of which clinched my original decision to ride the whole trip. And I'll miss meeting and conversing with people across this distance. I will miss our times with churches. And of course I will miss the team. I could barely stand a day apart from them. What will this next while hold?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

An Unexpected Rest Day

Yesterday was a scary day. We were riding out of Poudre Canyon towards Fort Collins when we were met with some serious setbacks. The turns were sharp, and though the roads were good, the shoulders dropped off at points onto some nasty gravel. I came around a corner to see Emily's bike and trailer turned upside down. She was wedged underneath the guardrail, her right shoulder pinned between that and a rock. I was terrified because I did not see her move for a moment. We all jumped off our bikes, Matt sustaining some nasty scrapes in the process. We managed to stop some traffic and get transportation for her and Matt to the hospital. There was no cell phone reception for 30 miles. Even the radios in the department of transportation vehicles were not working. One of the men who stopped (Kevin) was a trainer and helped us stabilize Emily's arm and look her over to make sure we could move her.
Matt and Emily made it to the hospital and got taped up with a ton of gauze and a proper sling. Nothing was broken or seriously damaged.
The four of us that were left in the canyon biked the 40 miles to Fort Collins and made it there just in time for Emily's release. We were thankful that Rich was still in town. He helped us move our bikes around town and we spent the afternoon with him before we went to the bike shop to have the damage assessed and then headed to Matt's uncle's house for some rest time.
Those are the scant details of our misadventure. What cannot be noted sufficiently is our panic, relief, and sincere thankfulness for those who stopped, for those that helped, and for those that prayed and will continue to pray for us as we continue on our journey. We hope to be on the road in the morning.

We are not yet daunted.
We will continue.
The Lord is good.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Good Samaritan

We have just returned to our temporary home here in Loveland, CO after a marvelous evening with Crossroads Covenant's youth group. This morning, each of us also had the opportunity to participate in the Children's Church time. The lesson this week was on the commandments to "Love God and Love People," and the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. As Andrea and I walked into the second session of Children's Church, where we got to share about the trip, we talked about how surprised we are by the applicability of Jesus' parable to our journey, and vice versa.

Throughout the past four weeks, many people across states, biographies, and faiths have unquestioningly invited and welcomed us into their lives and homes. Strangers have fed us and given us soft, warm places to sleep. Strangers have listened attentively and patiently. Jesus reminds us of the two most important Mosaic commandments: Love God. Love others. Then he illustrates those commandments with a story. This summer, "Samaritans" across several states already have illustrated those commandments with their lives.

Thank you. And please continue to do so. These are Kingdom acts.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

From Steamboat Springs

I sit in front of the Bank of the West on Lincoln Ave. in Steamboat Springs, CO as I write this. I can't tell you how excited I am to be here - my family vacationed here a few years ago, and so it kind of feels like coming home. As we road towards the town, my excitement built. I never would have expected to be so happy... but I've realized that this is the first familiar place for me on the route, except for Peninsula Covenant at the very beginning. It's the first time that I've ridden into a town that I've driven through before, with sights that I recognize and memories along with them. I miss familiarity.

In a few minutes, we'll head east toward Rabbit Ears Pass, which is one of two Rocky Mountain passes that we're tackling on our trip (the other is Cameron Pass). Our map says that the grade is 6.8%, and that the elevation is 9426ft (the highest thus far). It's going to be hard, but I can't wait for the view.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A little fun .

Aight People! We're almost to Colorado and since I usually blog about physical and mental pains that come from riding so much, I'm going to try something fun. I have decided to try double bacon cheeseburgers everywhere we stop. (Don't worry mom, when you bike this much, you can pretty much eat anything and you kind of have to for the calories and the salt intake.) I am also going to see how long it takes me to get sick of grape powerade. So far the absolute best burger came at Bones Bar and Grub Grill in California. Second place goes to Major Station in Nevada, I think that's where it is. There is no third place yet.

-I have two new muscles just above my knee!
-I shaved and washed my hair finally!
-Black people DO in fact get sunburned, if you know me and you've seen the picture Matt posted of me . . . . (I like my winter shade of African-American best. lol.)
-Pizza at Noon in 90 degree weather does NOT work!
-Gophers can whistle like birds.
-Horses and sheep are afraid of bicyclists.
-Our team has fully incorporated the Obama fist bump, (or the "terrorist fist jab" as FOX news calls it)
-I finally body-slammed Matt. Eric is next.
-Erykah Badu's "Soldier," Christa Black's "California Sunshine" and the COGIC anthem "Hallelujah" is good for climbing long mountains. But the best riding song for me so far: "KNock on Wood" by Eddie Floyd!

Gotta go bike now! I'll have more relevant things to blog about when we start meeting with churches again in a week or so!

Church homes

In addition to camping and our house in Duchesne, UT, we've been staying in a lot of churches along the way. We've gotten into the habit of finding a church in a destination town, calling one and asking to spend the night in the building. So far, we have not been turned down. Recently, there seems to be a surge in the house-church movement in U.S. Protestantism. Our experiences of temporary homes in churches across these three states so far causes me to wonder: why aren't more chuches homes? The opportunity for a church to also be a home seems even more important than the opportunity for a home to also be a church.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Colorado, here we come!

We're taking a post-lunch nap under a tree here in Roosevelt, UT. Tomorrow afternoon we should be crossing into Colorado! The people of Utah have been really good to us. It's a beautiful state and we've had a lot of great experiences here but I think we're ready for the challenge ahead of us. We took the day off yesterday to rest in Duchesne where we rented a 3 bedroom house for two nights for cheaper than the local hotel! Ok, so it was a bit of a fixer-upper on the outside, but they inside was nice (nice-ish) and it felt good to have a home for 36 hours or so.

Pray that we get through all the Colorado climbing. We're a bit behind schedule, but we're planning on being in Fort Collins on Saturday night! Here's some pics of the last few weeks:

A desolate day on US-50 through Nevada

We did a lot of climbing in Nevada, somtimes 4 passes in one day.

It was really beautiful though.

Biker gangs.

Our camping spot just after Daniel's Summit near Heber City, UT

Helmet lines in the hair! Always funny.

We laugh a lot.

Our most recent abode. It needed some yard work.

But we made ourselves comfortable.

And it was a much needed rest day.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Goal.

As my brother Matt and I were talking while we camped in a ditched off the side of Highway 50 the other night, we agreed that we have at least one common hope for this trip. That we leave it more excited about being a Christian than we are right now and that we find new ways to connect with God beyond the four walls of church and beyond the limited possibilities that are often bottled and sold to people our age.


Worst day yet for me.

The last 24 hours or so have been rough! At the end of Tuesday, we battled winds that had to be at least 40 miles an hours while treking through the lonely desert. I was literally blown off my bike at least 4 times. Since then I have had 5 flats and at one point the air pump broke. My rear derailer is non-functional and my front wheel is warped. At one point yesterday, I threw the bike down in the middle of the highway and walked slowly to the middle of a pasture, boiling with anger, and staring up at the clear blue sky. My bike was going so slow that by sunset I still had about 10 miles left. I was freezing and began to get dizzy, and finally fell off my bike. Eric picked me up fed me and gave me his warm clothes. THen he walked the last stretch with me and carried my bike up a hill to the church where we ended up sleeping. I am thankful to Ryan, who we flagged down, for giving me a ride on the back of his truck to an air compressor and also to Cody and Baker, who patched a tube for me and changed flat number four.

When I finally got to the church the team made sure I had food, medicine, and rest. It was really good to get to sit down relax. I couldn't eat much because I thought I was going to vomit again, but I woke up this morning smiling and eating everything in sight. THank God.

I just kept thinking of my big sister, who sang to me over the phone. She sang:,

Press your way through.
Press your way through.
God's got something waiting for you,
if you just press your way through.

Today we are stopping at a bike shop.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Utah, finally!

As I type this, I'm sitting in the Border Inn, just east of the Nevada-Utah border. We've finally gotten through Nevada - which is reason for celebration for the group.

Granted, we still have plenty of mountains left to look forward to. But thanks to the hospitality of the people of Grace Four Square Church in Ely, NV, we were able to take a much-needed rest day. We're still tired, but our muscles are feeling better and stronger. I'm confident that we're gaining more and more strength and endurance as we go.

The time in the desert has been interesting for us as a group. We just want to get through the desert and on to Fort Collins, back to churches, back to our mission. We miss the conversations, the learning opportunities, and all that comes with church visits. It's been tempting for me to just write off this part of the trip as unimportant and feel as if we're not accomplishing anything.

But as my parents reminded me, this portion of the trip is all part of the task that God has set before us. What we are doing here is laying the groundwork for the rest of the trip. And the time that we have here in the desert is allowing us to learn how to ride and work as a group before we are visiting churches more frequently. I pray that God is using this time to prepare and shape us for what lies ahead.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

This country is incredibly big.

We spent the night last night in Eureka, NV after a 72 mile ride from Austin. It's been about four days now where everything looks so similar. We'll pass through a mountain pass and then slip down into a huge valley where you can just see for 20-30 miles across to the other side where our next mountain pass rises up. It's beautiful but getting very exhausting. It pretty much looks like this all the time:

There's always another mountain range just around the corner. There's always another climb at the end of each valley. And I guess my point is just that it's exhausting and that we're ready for a change of scenery. Alas, we have at least 3-4 more days in Nevada and then we're into Utah, which will probably be pretty similar.

I miss my family and a sense of home and relaxation. I miss flat land (God bless the midwest).

Well, time to hit the road.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Austin, NV

We're in Austin, Nevada at this juncture, staying in a motel for the first time on the trip. It's really nice to be in a new state and not have people ask us if it's the first day of our ride. That being said, California did have its advantages, and it's hard not to miss a place in which towns are less than fifty miles apart and Oreos are affordable. We'll probably be in the desert for another two weeks or so, and then the trip will be pretty full of time with churches, which I'm really looking forward to. It's been great to meet new people and learn about their concepts of social justice and their experiences and efforts to help others.

Speaking of meeting new people: to the couple that left early at dinner tonight, thank you so much for surprising us by paying for our meals. To the couple who were sitting near the wall: happy anniversary, and enjoy your sailing adventures!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Honest thoughts about Skunks

Last week, as we bicycled from Redwood City to Pleasanton, CA, we passed a dead skunk with one arm extended on the side of the road. Dylan's voice popped into my head: "I wonder what it was reaching for in its last moments?" In that moment, I realized I don't know anything about skunks, besides the widely shared opinion that they are nuisances and the fact that they emit a foul odor that can be muted by bathing in tomato juice. But what do skunks eat? Where do they live?

I rode on.

Several days later, we passed another dead skunk that reminded me of my silly ponderances, but this time I began to wonder if my ponderances really were so silly. While every analogy breaks down at some point (according to Bret Widman), my skunk encounters and subsequent thoughts led me to wonder at the People whom I don't know anything about. Who is simply a smelly nuissance? Or, to a lesser extent, whose gifts do I not recognize?

This challenging thought took my imagination across borders, far away from myself. There are a lot of People in Our world who are not wholly acknowledged and treated accordingly. Hopefully, this trip will help to rectify that in some small way.

My skunk analogy and hours of contempletive riding also smacked me in the face last week. Sometimes, I fail to recognize the gifts of good friends, people with whom I interact everyday. This was a difficult and humbling lesson from which I hope to grow.

Who are the skunks in (or out, as the case may be) of your life?


Random thoughts Occur.

I'm still amazed that I am riding across the country on a bike. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is really happening. It will become more difficult for me as time goes on I think. All of the other team members will get a chance to see family, friends, church members, and so forth and I will not. I think of my parents and my brothers and sisters everday. Sometimes it's hard, but what I do is put on a headset and start each morning with a little gospel and picture the people I love. Being so far away for college has cost me a lot of time with my closets friends and family. It's just different when they're physically there and you don't have to describe some of your most formative experiences on the phone.

I guess i'm realizing the importance of close relationships. Meeting people on the road and talking about God and justice is so refreshing, I just wish I had taken more time to do that with the people around me before.

Well, I have one more year of college and maybe I can work on that. I realized the other day, that other than God of courese, I don't have that one friend to call every other day and tell him how I just crossed the Sierra mountains. It was painful.

The Surley

Today was a nice day and we rode about 75 miles. My Surley Long Haul Trecker is holding up really nicely. Other than two flat tires, the thing is a tank. It's been through some pretty rough terrain in the last few days and it's a light and durable machine. It can make really sharp turns even with all of my bags attached to it and i'm glad I bought it. It's a very reliable road bike, especially for some one like me who hasn't biked since he was 8 years old!

Into the desert

Matt here, in Reno. The rest of the team is in Fallon, NV. Unfortunately, I twisted my knee last week in Sacramento, CA and have had to miss the last few days of biking. The most frustrating part of it all was that it wasn't even a biking injury. No, I got hurt walking down the stairs.

Luckily, my dad was kind enough to fly out and keep me company and cart me around this weekend while I recovered. And I'm thankful for that.

Tomorrow morning, I'll rejoin the team in Fallon and we'll head out into the desert. It's going to be a much different desert than we'd anticipated (forecasted high of just 65 tomorrow). Today my dad and I picked up a bunch of tubes and other spare parts in preparation for the weeks ahead (I would be very surprised if we found another bike shop between here and Colorado).

So pray that I'm ready physically and that we will be taken care of these next few weeks. We have no more hospitality lined up for nearly 3 weeks but I feel good about that. It's been refreshing to wake up in the morning and ride east not knowing where we'll sleep that night, but not worrying about it.

I don't know when the next blog entry will be. Perhaps there will be wireless interet in the middle of the desert. But there's no chance of that. We'll update when we can.

Our dear friend and tech adviser Paul Johnson has added a nice little map to the site in the bar on the right. You can check out progress on there. Also, we now have links to Spark and Acirfa in the sidebar there for easier access.


Friday, May 30, 2008


We have had some interesting discussion thus far. I think we have discussed abortion, poverty, the environment, and race a few times so far. Actually, the group discussion between the six of us tends to be one of the most thought-provoking parts of our day.

I tend to look for subtle things during our interactions with different people. Sometimes I find that what is said at the dinner table doesn't match up with some of the off-hand comments I hear sometimes. I think as Christians in this society, we tend to be very loose and careless sometimes about how we use words. We use a lot of divisive, agenda-setting, and diminishing terms to describe difference. Since when did some of the following words become synonymous and start meaning the same thing?:

ethnic=minority=person of color
presence of non-whites=diversity
social justice=liberal=radical Christianity
ghetto=black/african-american community
Today we're in Placerville, California at the foot of the Sierra Mountains. Some of us are pretty sore and beat down in our bodies. It's only day FIVE? It wasn't an easy day but we're coming along. We had our picture taken in Folsom this afternoon, it was nice. So many people were asking us about the trip. It does me good to see people excited for us and to know that we are in their minds and hearts at one time or another. It makes a trip like this credible.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

from Davis, CA

We're all sitting in the shade at a beautiful park in Davis, California. I have just given up on importing pictures from my camera; I simply lack the technology savvy to do so! It feels good to rest, although our ride today was easier than yesterday, both physically and emotionally.

For those of you who know me and my distaste of lizards, you would be proud of me. Yesterday, as we changed our seventh (yes, that's right: SEVENTH!) flat tire, I took a potty break in a roadside ditch (behind lots of weeds) that I shared with a lizard. For the group, the seven flat tires were trying, but we learned a lot about our bikes and are rapidly improving our tire-change time. Hopefully we'll qualify to work for Tour de France riders after this summer.

Also yesterday, we shared in Antioch Covenant Church's Youth Group night. We had a good conversation about justice, and we continue to learn about what "Justice" means to each of us, and what it might mean for the team. It is a struggle to seek this desire of God's heart. Pray for us as we continue to learn across the country. And leave your thoughts about Justice here, too, if you have any. We welcome any addition to this process.

Today we rode across beautiful countryside, without any maintenance troubles, Thank God! Tonight, we potluck with a group from University Covenant Church here in Davis. Tomorrow: Sacramento!


pics added by matt:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Round Table Pizza, and Decoto Rd.

Here we sit in a Round Table Pizza restaurant in Fremont, CA, having left Redwood City earlier this afternoon.

We'd really like to thank all the people of Peninsula Covenant who gave us a very gracious send-off yesterday!

We're excited that we're finally on the road, all packed up and on our way. Much thanks to Tim, Kathy, Elle, Sam, and Hannah Sandquist for being amazing hosts. We never would have gotten our bikes ready and off on this journey without your help.

And thanks to Ron Dahlin as well, who got us off on the right foot with our first day from Ocean Beach and plotted out our route for the next few days.

And we can't forget our amazing advisor, Rich Johnson, who is sacrificing so much of his time and energy this summer to make this possible.

Please continue to pray for our strength and endurance - we're gonna be hitting the Sierras later this week.

I have been thinking a lot about what would be relevant to blog about. Is it important that you readers know how obsessed some of these bikers are with bears? Probably not, but now you know.

I know that my family is worried about me, which makes me feel loved. My friends have gone on having fun without me, and that makes me glad.

This trip has been surprisingly difficult for me thus far. I think the reason for that is the fact that I was sick Friday when I flew into San Fran. Word of advice: don't eat old spaghetti sauce. I'm thankful to my roommates and friends who had the strength to get me off the floor to the airport.

Right now I really want to watch Forest Gump. But Matt says that we get to bike through a dead camel desert or something or other near Fallon Nevada. Got to get ready.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Yesterday was the first leg of our cross country trip. IT WAS HARD! IT HURT! I WANTED TO CRY! But, I finished the 40 something miles. Thank God, Ron Dahlin and George took time to teach me the ropes. Here is what I've learned so far:

1. Eat Breakfast.
2. Eat some more.
3, Drink Lots of Water.
4. Know when to switch bike gears.
5. Never, ever skip lunch again.
6. Buy more water bottles.
7. Stretch.

-Marcus Simmons

Friday, May 23, 2008

Travel Day

Well, it's been a roller coaster day already. Some of us are currently sitting in airports, some of us are in the air. Some of us, myself included are leaving for the airport soon. Emily's grandma passed away this week and she's staying at home until Sunday for the funeral so our hearts are with her and her family until she joins us Sunday night, just in time to start biking on Monday morning.

Not much is running smoothly right now, but hopefully we'll get out to San Francisco sooner rather than later.

Hopefully we'll be able to update again in the next day or two.

Peace in chaos,

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The final countdown, or something like it.

I've been told that my posts are a bit... verbose. So, I'll attempt to keep this one a bit shorter.

The group's been apart for about a week now. I've very much enjoyed my time at home with my parents. I miss my brother (who's still out in Seattle for school) and regret that this trip means I won't see him this summer. But it's been nice to relax and unwind before everything that's ahead of me.

Tonight I went book shopping. I hope to read a lot this summer, in our downtime when we camp or whatever. My plan is to carry only one book at a time, to minimize weight obviously. When I'm done reading it, I'll give it away and pick up a new one somewhere along the way. But the big question was what book to begin with. I chose a logical one, and one that I've been meaning to read for a while: Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Good choice? I hope so.

I'll end with this tacky countdown application that shows us all the time left until we land in San Francisco on Friday. Pray that we'll be ready in ways we didn't know how to prepare for.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

2 Weeks! 2 Weeks!

It's finals week and things are crazy around North Park these days. Everyone's swamped with work, catching up on all of the reading we should have been doing all semester but instead, we were planning a bike trip.

We had our final team meeting last night. We talked logistics for about an hour and a half, finding ourselves overwhelmed with the amount of work still to be done. There are so many loose ends heading into these two weeks at home before we fly out to San Francisco from our various homes across the country.

I'm trying to let go of worrying about all the details, trying to trust that there are people and powers working on our behalf and that the phone calls will be made and the maps will be drawn. The sparrows, after all, eat quite well.

After getting ourselves stressed out with details, we spent some time in prayer together. We broke bread together, serving one another communion, turning to the person next to us, looking them in the eye and saying it slowly, deliberately.

"This is Christ's Body, broken for you."

"This is Christ's Blood, shed for you."

It was good to celebrate together and to remember the heart of this trip. Christ's work on the cross and his triumph over the grave is the reason we ride. The kingdom made alive in the work of Christ is the reason we took on this trip, with all of its logistical nightmares and daunting physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges.

And we prayed together, yearning to be a part of the Kingdom work this summer. Christ is setting the captives free. He is breaking down the barriers that we've set up so firmly along racial and socioeconomic lines. And He is weeping with the mothers who have lost their children and with the widows who have lost their husbands. He is breaking through our segregation and our comfort. He is bringing us diversity and moving us gently, lovingly, towards the way life should be. He is moving us towards justice in our homes, in our churches, in our friendships, in our country, in our world. And we are thankful to be a part of it all and to be able to share the work with those we will meet. And we are humbled by the opportunity to learn about the work from those we'll speak to.

We've been getting a bit of publicity and we're thankful for that. Stan Friedman at the Covenant Companion wrote a nice article about us, which you can read here. One of my professors, Scot McKnight, also wrote us up on his blog, encouraging his readers to donate a few pennies for each mile we ride (all 3,700 of 'em)! Feel free to read about it and please consider making a donation to either Spark or Acirfa. Again, we're thankful for all of the people praying for us and supporting us in countless ways, visible and invisible.

Peace to you.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Formal Introduction

This trip is actually happening!

It's strange to type those words and to stare at them, my cursor bouncing in anticipation at the end of the line. What's next? What comes next?
What a wonderful question that is. What is next. It's been nearly 8 months since Eric invited me over to his dirty little kitchen for some gourmet college cooking and a lazy lunch discussion. Mentioned in passing, his idea to bike across America for a cause was the first I'd heard about it. And today I bought my plane tickets out to San Francisco and back from Boston. There have to be words for this feeling but most of them escape me.

We are biking across America, sleeping in Covenant churches along the way, starting a discussion in the churches around the question "what is justice?" We hope to learn from the wisdom of local congregations as well as to offer our experiences and thoughts. This is a dialogue and an invitation to be apart of what God is doing in the Church.

So what's next? What comes next? We have just over 4 weeks until we fly out to San Fran for the beginning of this adventure. And I am filled with excitement. I am filled with fear. I am humbled by the fact that this is actually happening. Praise God for that.


The story of a bike trip: Part 1

"It would be great to do something like ride a bike across the country and raise money and awareness for a cause."

When Eric said it, he had no idea that it would actually happen. I started getting excited and immediately recruited Emily Johnson, a mutual friend of ours and the only person I know with bike touring experience! Most people, when they move to college, they take a plane or pack up the family minivan... Emily rode her bike. Riding from Minneapolis to Chicago, she arrived just in time to start her first year at North Park. We had the beginnings of a team.

Things were moving quickly, and before we knew it, Rich Johnson was working on our behalf, providing wisdom, encouragement, and finding us money to make this trip a reality. We had countless meetings with leaders from all over campus and the Covenant Church. And the trip was taking shape and we were getting closer and closer to this actually happening.

We decided to open the trip up to a few more people, and after a series of interviews, we decided to add three more to our growing posse: Dylan Maysick, Marcus Simmons, and Andrea Buchanan. Now we were a real team.

Since then, we've met weekly, sometimes twice a week, getting to know one another, praying together, and dreaming together. The vision for the trip came together organically and through prayer and counsel.

OK, great, so that's how the trip came together. But why go on a bike trip? Good question. In response, here's an excerpt from the giant proposal we put together during the planning stages:

• To engage the discussion of justice in the Church
• To learn about justice and social justice efforts from those that we meet
• To provide information and raise awareness for issues of justice / compassion in Zambia and worldwide
• To mobilize local churches to make a difference in these areas

Our Causes:
Spark Ventures – Their primary goal is helping the vulnerable children of Ndola, Zambia through food and shelter, education and healthcare. Their strategy consists of partnerships, sponsorships and volunteer travel. T his is one of North Park’s Global Partnerships.

Acirfa – Their goal is to make a difference by providing high-quality bikes to underprivileged Zambians. Acirfa has partnered with Zambikes, who operate a bike factory in Zambia that employs Zambians to make bikes for Zambians. Through their efforts, they provide jobs and a mode of transportation for Zambians.

So here we are, six college students (two of us graduating in May) ranging in age from 19-22, brought together over a common goal: to be a part of God's kingdom work in the church today. We ride with an invitation, with the belief that God is active and at work to relieve the suffering in the world and to bring hope to the hopeless. God is moving and alive in the work to see creation restored and his people fed. For those of you who we'll soon meet , we look forward to the opportunity to learn from you, to eat with you, and to celebrate the presence of the Kingdom of God in our midst!

Peace to you, from Matt and "the team"

Matt Enquist, Grayslake, IL

Marcus Simmons, Longview, TX

Andrea Buchanan, Sioux Falls, SD

Emily Johnson, Minneapolis, MN

Eric Landin, Sugar Grove, PA

Dylan Maysick, Grand Rapids, MI

See you soon!