International Ministries

Why Ride Against Traffic?

April 29, 2013 Journal
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Why Ride?

 This summer, 26 year old Garrett Zambrows is embarking on a 12,000 mile bike journey crisscrossing the United States to raise awareness and funds for anti-human trafficking efforts being done around the globe.  The folks I work with in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as others in Indiana and across Europe will benefit from his sweat, sacrifice, and storytelling.  Some might ask why a recent college graduate would embark on such a crazy, strenuous, logistically complicated, lonely at times, and lengthy adventure while his contemporaries are scrabbling for jobs or grad school acceptance, wondering how they’ll pay back student loans, getting married or other “normal things”.  I’ve got to think and believe that in the end it will be worth it.   Garrett will not only be helping others, but he will learn valuable life-changing lessons along the way.

 As he is preparing himself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the ride, he is discovering how much he’ll need to depend on others to accomplish this task.  His parents, church community, college friends, family connections, American Baptist and other denominational family, International Ministry missionaries and colleagues, and numerous other players will need to cooperate and work together to pull something like this off.  It has become bigger and more complicated than anyone imagined, especially Garrett. Like the folks he’ll be supporting through his efforts, Garrett will struggle to communicate the complex dynamics of the modern day slave trade to the audiences that gather to hear him. He will be confronted with his own complicity and conflicting beliefs and behaviors, like all of us who honestly explore our part in the problem.

 As he rides past by billboards, strip clubs and truck stop XXX shops tucked quietly between soybean fields and farm supply warehouses, he’ll need to deal with the distorted sexual culture that drives the commercial sex industry. He’ll fight the message that encourages young men like himself to see women with price tags, as objects, and less than the priceless human beings that they are.  On the long and lonely stretches of highway with no Internet or television to numb his senses, he’ll most likely groan from the fatigue and feel the pain of overworked muscles. Hopefully in those moments he’ll be able to empathize with the exploited that are forced to work with no rest, their bodies beaten into submission, used up and then discarded when they no longer serve to fill the pockets of their pimps and patrons.  His heart will have time to break open, allowing God to hold it together, heal it with grace and use it to love the way it was formed to from the beginning.

 Not only will he experience the pain and struggle of the journey, he’ll be moved and inspired by the beauty of those who come alongside him on the way.  He’ll be surprised by the generosity of people who open their homes, who fill his stomach with good food, who provide equipment and supplies to make the actual ride easier, who offer their website expertise and logistical and organizational skills, and those who spread the word and open doors for speaking opportunities and relationship-building.  He’ll be overwhelmed by both the stunning landscapes and the simple kindness of careful motorists who give him space and safety. He’ll be touched that strangers will follow him on Facebook and arrange their schedules to meet him and hear about his story.  He’ll appreciate a shower and bed more than he ever has before. He’ll be surprised by grace.  He’ll expend a ton of energy and will receive way more than he ever imagined.  The vulnerable, nameless exploited ones long for the same things. Generosity, being remembered, simple kindnesses, their stories being heard and their humanity honored are all ways that they long to see God. All of us involved in anti-human trafficking efforts are blessed when we do these things.  Much energy is expended, but way more is received. We can all be surprised by grace.

 Hopefully his Biking Against Traffic adventure will teach Garrett and all of us some valuable life lessons.  We each have a part to play. We can all contribute something to make the world a better and kinder place, and when we work together for good, depend on one another and pay attention to what really matters, we’ll be changed.  I’m riding my bike more these days so I can join Garrett on a couple of his days. Perhaps you’d like to join us on June 20th for a ride starting out from Topeka, KS and ending up in Overland Park, KS for the Mission Summit? Or in early September when we ride from Olympia, WA to Portland, OR?  If my mental math is correct, that is less than 1% of Garrett’s entire ride. Small in comparison to what he is attempting, but every little bit counts. The power of coming alongside and contributing what we each can, will make a world of difference. Think about ways you can be a part. Consider hosting him for a night, riding alongside to his next stop, handing him a cliff bar or energy drink along the path, gathering your youth group or college friends to hang out with him while he is in town, calling your local radio station and setting up an interview, providing a spare tire or repair kit when needed, donating money in honor of a loved one, or any other little bit you can do to help.  I’ve added the link to Garrett’s webpage so you can see his proposed route schedule and see where you might be able to be involved.

 IM colleague Debbie Kelsey and I are humbled by Garrett’s gesture of solidarity with our ministries. We often are overwhelmed by the generosity and creativity of many of you who support us. Your partnership encourages us as we log the travel miles reconnecting with friends around the globe working towards freedom for all of God’s children.  Thank you for each of your little bits that adds up to overwhelming grace.

See you along the road?