Monday, June 30, 2008

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.

1 comment:

Ron D said...

Hey Matt & team! Looks like you are passing into Minnesota today! Great job! Keep it up. I miss your posts so keep them coming!
God Bless!