Haunting Hills

This summer I rode my bike—but not just around the campground or to the nearest ice cream shop. I rode it from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Liberty Island, N.J.

My wife, Linda, and I mounted our tandem bike in the parking lot of Calvin College as we joined nearly 200 other cyclists. Many of those cyclists were continuing on their final leg of a journey across North America that began some seven weeks earlier on the shore of Puget Sound in Seattle, Wash.

Their journey from “sea to sea” was nothing less than amazing. These cyclists, along with some 50 support staff, rolled across the continent sharing the love of Christ with the hungry and hurting of the world.

I want to tip my helmet to these women and men who gave of their time and energy. Together they collected more than $2 million dollars!

Recently Christian Reformed World Missions, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, the Christian Reformed Church Foundation, and Partners Worldwide received significant gifts earmarked for the relief of poverty around the world.

This journey from the West Coast to the East Coast was about much more than raising money, though.

What began as individuals gathering funds became a community of Christ followers proclaiming grace to the world. In some ways this swarm of cyclists was, for a short time, the body of Christ on wheels. The cyclists laughed together, cried together, sang together, prayed together, ate together, pitched tents together, struggled together, and pedaled together. They formed a community—a body of Christ.

Doing so was not always easy, nor was it necessarily fun. There were days when I was ready to give up. After one of those tougher days I penned this reflection:

The hills seemed endless, and there was nothing I could do. We had no choice but to continue to crank the pedals and push forward.

My thoughts turned to those who are caught in the cycle of poverty. Their lives are much like our bike ride today. Just when they overcome one challenge or adversity, another awaits. I focused my thoughts on a young single mom in the inner city. She finally overcomes the challenge of finding a job, and her car breaks down. Because she cannot get to work on time, she loses her job. Now she has no car, no job, and little hope. Each day she awakens to another day of climbing hills. There just seems to be no hope—no end to the challenges.

I can’t even imagine what that would be like. I become “cranky” because I have to climb a few steep hills on a bicycle. This woman faces what seems to be insurmountable challenges every day. After two weeks, I get to go home to a job, a family, a church, a life that could be the envy of 99 percent of the world. It is then that I realize why I am riding, and my self-centeredness is replaced by a sense of shame and determination to do more.

Of course, now I have come home and Sea to Sea is in some ways but a memory on a shelf of a thousand other memories. Yet those hills still haunt me. Not because they were long and steep, though they were both, but because they remind me how difficult poverty can be. When the cost of gasoline doubles, I gripe, but the poor now have less to spend on clothes. When companies downsize, I wonder about my retirement, but the poor wonder how they will feed their children. For me life is a series of delightful rolling hills, but for the poor it is one seemingly insurmountable mountain after another.

Sea to Sea was far more than a bicycle ride across North America. It was, and is, a life-changing event. All of us who participated in the journey want to thank every one of you who offered your prayers, your encouragement, and your support.

To God be the glory!


About the Author

Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.
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