Wednesday, August 25, 2010

“Finishing and Re-Entry”

When we rolled into Grand Rapids, awaiting us at Jaycee McKay Park were a stream of AJS supporters and a TV camera crew from WZZM Channel 13. Brent Ashcroft, WZZM’s newscaster, asked me very plainly, “So, how does it feel to be finished?” I said that it was a very surreal feeling, “not unlike many of the things we’d experienced on the ride.”

The reality is that, yes, I have stopped pedaling on this journey of what has turned out to be a little more than 2,800 miles. But in no way am I “finished.” There is so much work to be done for social justice causes across the U.S. and the globe. How could I ever be finished?

The word that kept batting around in my head the last few days of the ride was “resurrection.” We know as Christians that the spirit of Jesus did not die on the cross with his body. His life and love and faith in everlasting life knows no ending. So, my challenge is to find new ways and continual ways to glorify Him in my daily life. His message of love and perseverance has not been left on the side of some desolate country road that I traversed this summer but it resides within me and it is my mission to continue to live this message out loud, in bold and brave ways, not to keep it secret within me.

Now that I am back in Seattle, nearly two weeks after completing the ride, I recognize that the more than five weeks that I have been away bicycling across America, have created a “re-entry” problem for me. I might as well have been in orbit around the Earth or moon these past several weeks. I have gone from the hectic, chaotic, professional life of a college law and business professor with all of its demands of prep, grading, teaching, advising and attending meetings, to the life of a long distance bicyclist.

Life on a bicycle traveling across country has a way of distilling all things down to their essence. I exhale. I inhale. I sweat and feel it coat the inside of the back of my jersey or run down the bridge of my nose. I replenish fluids and absent mindedly refuel by eating anything I can pull out of my back pocket: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some trail mix, a half-devoured Power bar. I pedal some more. And, at the end of the day I eat and drink more and shower and sleep. A shower never felt so good. And, still, I am aware that running water endlessly is a luxury that the vast majority of my Honduran brothers and sisters do not share.

And, my “simple life” on the road leaves me with many choices at the end of the day. I can sleep in the comfort of our support vehicle-- blow up an air mattress and rest with air conditioning or set up a tent outside and zip out the insects as I dream safely until daybreak or roll back the sheets and puff up a pillow in the bed of one of our many host families. In any event, I have a comfortable place to call home for the night.

And, here I am on August 10th in Seattle, “finished” with Steve’s Just Ride. Now, “simple” things like a shower, a real bed or a plate of hot pancakes are not as significant as they were on the ride. Now, I am aware that our condo has a different smell than the wild grassland in South Dakota or that the pile of mail and bills and tending to my 88 year-old father take precedence over the next historical road marker, the white stripe at the side of the road or the desire for a milkshake the size of my head.

Yes, I am finished pedaling for this ride. But, nothing is the same. Yes, this is my same home, my same desk and computer, my same community, same roads, friends, even my same clothes. And, I am not the same. Some part of me is still out on the road in the high plains of Montana, the Black hills and Badlands of South Dakota or the corn and soybean fields of Iowa. Or, maybe a part of them has been permanently imbibed by me, permanently scored into my DNA.

I guess that is just fine because it means that I will never forget all of our incredibly generous hosts: the Hansons, the Huysers, the Hamiltons, the Astrups, the Van de Brakes, the Talmas, the Jerozals, the VerBeeks, the Goorhouses and Van Engens. There were also so many churches of multiple denominations that let us park the RV and/or pitch a tent nearby. All of your kindness, generosity and warmth made this mission to support AJS’s efforts to attain social justice in Honduras possible and fueled us for the longer mission ahead which is making a lasting difference for all who are victims of the corrupt and powerful.

God bless all of you. I will forever be indebted to you for reminding me that the mission of this ride is far from finished.

© 2010 Steve McCloskey-- All Rights Reserved

Who’s Who Spotlight Series: “Los Maravillosos”

This summer, while we were busy pedaling our bicycles across the U.S. to show our support for the work of AJS/ASJ and the people of Honduras, there was a considerable amount of work being done behind the scenes by many unsung heroes. While introducing them to you we would also like to thank and praise them for all of the challenging, meaningful and sustainable work they are doing for those most in need in Honduras. In our opinion, they have earned the nickname, “Los Maravillosos” or Marvelous Ones.

Today's "Who's Who" Spotlight: “Los Maravillosos”

AKA (Also Known As) - the Staff at AJS and ASJ
Random facts about “Los Maravillosos”
  • AJS has two staff people, Abe and Jill, and a very active board of directors who, for example, biked the last 6 miles of the ride with us and scooped ice-cream at our end-of ride celebration. Together, they work hard to support the work of...  
  • ...Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa, the Honduran organization that carries out the work AJS support. The 60-member staff of "ASJ" includes 8 lawyers, 4 paralegals, 5 journalists, 4 investigators, 4 psychologists, 4 counselors, 2 social workers ,and more. Many of them have previous experience working for Honduras' Attorney General's Office, Court System, National Investigative Police, National Human Rights Commission, etc.--these guys have creds!

The word “marvelous” in English is defined as wonderful, amazing or awe-inspiring. The staff of AJS and ASJ are just that. They made us smile. They surprised us with homestay arrangements, phone calls and video clips from Honduras and even with visits while we were out on the ride itself. And, as is their very nature, they supported us on every mile, on every rural road, in all kinds of weather and in every town and city.

How Los Maravillosos got involved with AJS/ASJ:

Ask any of the talented and giving individuals that work for AJS and ASJ why they got involved with the work of this organization and you will likely get the same answer. They will tell you that they want to do the right thing and make a difference. They will tell you that they wish to fight injustice and transform Honduras and believe that not only is it their calling as Christians to do so but that the reason why they have won all of their legal battles against powerful and corrupt individuals and companies in Honduras is because God is on their side.

They will confirm this fact even in the face of great danger after an event such as the assassination of their beloved, Dionisio Diaz de Garcia. Faith and love truly conquers all. Los Maravillosos are the living embodiment of this truth.

Who are Los Maravillosos and what do they do:

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the inspiration that Deisy, Edward, Claudia, Orbelina and Virginia and all of the rest of the ASJ staff brought to me this summer. Your video clip, in particular, meant more than you will ever know. On one particularly challenging 100+ mile day in central Iowa when it was close to 100° Fahrenheit and the humidity and headwinds were unbearable, on one rolling hill after another I said aloud in prayer, “one more child in Honduras, one more child in Honduras…” and took your daily efforts there, as well as your kind words of support and encouragement, to heart. Stopping was never an option because of the example you set for me.

Of particular note is the fact that the Steve’s Just Ride blog and website were created and maintained by AJS staffer Abe Huyser Honig. Abe was previously a Calvin College student who fell in love with the people of Honduras years ago and decided since then to live there and devote himself to the causes of AJS/ASJ.

Abe also worked hard to obtain host families for our numerous stops and rest days across the country. I think that we may have actually stayed with most of Abe’s family members and relatives in one state or another. And, like Abe, they are extremely loving and giving folks with hearts of gold who believe in social justice and the power of faith.

We met ASJ staffer and former Calvin student Jill VanBeek in Seattle this past year when she visited us along with ASJ co-founder, Kurt VerBeek. Like Abe, Jill first caught the "AJS bug" when she was on a Calvin College semester in Honduras run by Kurt and his wife, Jo Ann. However, while Abe lives in Honduras most of the time and travels to AJS's U.S. headquarters in Michigan a few times a year, Jill does just the opposite. Jill developed the great Google map of our ride on the website, she helped with logistics of fundraising events, kept track of all the donations that came in in support of the ride, and even came and joined us for dinner at Kurt’s parents home in Cedar Lake, Indiana while we were on the ride since she was not going to be able to attend the finish line event in Grand Rapids that she actually had worked so hard to arrange for us.

Andy Weaver is an AJS intern in Grand Rapids who drafted many a press release for our ride and contacted news media in advance of our arrival in numerous cities across the U.S. With his help, we were able to get the word out about AJS and its work via newspaper, live and taped radio segments and several TV interviews. While this certainly added to my nervousness, especially, while on live radio, it also undoubtedly had an impact as was born out by listeners such as the bicycle shop employee in Sand Point, Idaho who proceeded to recount my life story to me after recognizing me from the TV interview I had done the night before. She had shared our story with her children and was particularly inspired by our ride for this cause.

All of the efforts of “Los Maravillosos” have changed our lives. We are blessed to know you, to be able to call you friends and to walk side-by-side with you in our shared efforts to serve the Lord and to transform this world according to God’s vision.

Bendigas siempre,


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"I'm tired, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat": Steve has completed his ride!

Steve, Pollie, Pete, Mark, & Diane cruised into McKay / Jaycees Park in Grand Rapids yesterday evening for a joyful end-of-the-ride celebration with AJS supporters. More news and photos from the event coming soon, but meanwhile here's a text version of the news story broadcast by WZZM Channel 13 News on Grand Rapids television yesterday:

The Christian Reformed Church in North America, which recently approved AJS as a recommended organization for its members to support, also covered the completion of Steve's Ride in a press release:

Congratulations Just Riders!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Days 32-34 Geneva, IL and Cedar Lake, IN

Hello, again, everyone! Please note that we will be entering Michigan tomorrow. Yes, that's Michigan. I checked my bicycle mileage log and we passed the 2,500 mile mark yesterday. Pete marveled with me just how fast we've seemed to traverse the "skinnier" states like Illinois and Indiana--unlike Iowa, South Dakota and Montana which seemed to be states that required days to pass through west to east (and north to south). It is true but it is also likely that we have become aware that this journey is rapidly winding down to the finish line in Grand Rapids on Tuesday 7/27 and that just seems like it's been too fast in some sense, and then again....

The day before yesterday we rode about 105 miles from Prophetstown, IL to Geneva, IL. It was quite a journey in the heat and humidity and replenishing fluids, taking shade breaks and ice cream breaks were high on the agenda. Not long before arriving I got stung by a bee on my inner left arm (this is bee sting #2-- am I a magnet for these guys?!) which actually just set my adrenalin rush (anger) into overdrive for a strong finish. Our more-than-generous, patient and warm hosts, Jim and Andrea Jerozal had kept pasta and a fantastic salad on the ready for us, not to mention a hot shower and some good fellowship over shared interests in global ministry and sustainable business and living practices. Andrea and the kids posed for some parting photos with us the next morning but our visit was just way too short. We want you all to come back and visit with us in Seattle at your earliest convenience. Please?!!!!

Yesterday, we enjoyed miles of great bicycle trails in the far western and southern suburbs of Chicago as they provided a good break from both the sun and winds while temperatures soared to 96 F along with the humidity (Heat index 105). And, both Pollie and Pete humored me and my cries for pancakes for the past week by stopping at a great little restaurant in Oswego, IL (the Oswego Family Restaurant) where I gorged myself on pancakes and eggs for lunch. We even were given our own can of whipped cream to decorate with smiles and Pollie's hand-crafted "bicycle." I think the staff felt sorry for us and knew that we were a bit delirious from the heat.

With the heat and humidity being as bad as it has been, yesterday we rode from Geneva to Cedar Lake, Indiana far slower than we would have liked and our arrival into Cedar Lake was complicated by a few wrong turns and headwinds late in the day. We also arrived at the outskirts of town literally minutes before a tremendous thunderstorm hit. So, we took shelter beneath the roof of a gas station and waited out the worst of it before our host Harley Verbeek and AJS staff arrival, Jill Van Beek, surprised us by stopping to guide us on the road home.

Harley and his wife Arlene are AJS co-founder Kurt Verbeek's parents and the Verbeeks graciously agreed to host us and Pollie's parents for not just one but two nights which was a late change in our plans largely due to the need for an earlier rest day and, the fact that Pollie's parents' truck which has been hauling our food, water and gear across the U.S., has broken down once again-- this time in Geneva, IL.

It is very clear where Kurt got his sense of community, faith and love of God. Harley and Arlene are very proud of Kurt and all of their children and grandchildren and most certainly cherish the family that God has given them. We have most certainly been "adopted" by the VerBeeks. And, I can also see a bit of Kurt's sense of humor in both of his folks, who are as quick with a gift of laughter as they are with their offers of hospitality.

Today, we had laundry to do, errands to run and Harley took the time to give us a tour around the lake as well as the thrift store ("Second Life") where he volunteers. Second Life is taking in donations of all kinds and turning them into funds to support local Christian schools by offering tuition assistance to students, among other things. It is a great model for sustainability since relatively nothing gets wasted and it is also an example of what can be done when a community examines its consumption/waste patterns and turns them into something beneficial with a lasting impact (helping education grow). Go Harley and Second Life, go!

Arlene has also helped fill us not only with extremely delicious food (apricot chicken last night and homemade oatmeal this morning) but she has lifted our spirits with laughter and good cheer... especially, sharing her light with us when we've needed it most-- when we have all been weary as this journey draws to a close.
Thanks, Verbeeks... thanks for everything. We truly hope that you visit us soon in Seattle too! Our door and our hearts are always open.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Pedaling for Pledges": Article on the Muscatine (Iowa) Journal about the Ride

Congrats to Steve, Pollie, and Pete for continuing to spread the word about AJS, justice, and Honduras in local media in the towns they pass through! Here's an article about them published by the newspaper in Muscatine, Iowa: