If I were to be perfectly honest, I would have to admit I feel like a bit of a poser.
At the moment, I’m typing in the rear bench of a 15-passenger van headed toward the west coast. In Seattle I will start riding a bicycle, and when I stop riding the bicycle I will find myself in New York City, if all goes according to plan. I don’t consider myself a cyclist, and frankly have fallen shamefully short of my training goals. Though I will sport serious gear that gives off the appearance I am a serious cyclist, I’m not sure I deserve to appear like anything of the sort.
Thirteen other riders will accompany me on this tour over the next seven weeks. We’ll be raising funds and awareness for the Just+Hope campaign, which endeavors to fight the worldwide human trafficking epidemic. I can’t say I feel any strong emotional or personal connection to this issue. Oftentimes I have failed to take advantage of opportunities to read about, become informed of, or participate in anti-slavery efforts. People have emailed me links to news articles about slavery that I have chosen not to read. I’ve even caught myself feeling bothered by a seeming inundation of 140-character anti-slavery comments in my Twitter feed. The gentleman sitting next to me has spent the better part of this past year traveling across the country and abroad for this very cause. The girl in front of me says fighting human trafficking is one of her greatest passions in life.
I know that what we are doing is good, but I don’t feel qualified or prepared to do it.
My name is Ben. I live and work and play in Chicago. I am a schoolteacher, and they pretty much let me do whatever I please between June 10th and August 17th. Last summer I traveled all over the country, without a bicycle for the most part. I visited a lot of baseball stadiums. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but when it was over, I felt like I had accomplished little in terms of that which is lasting and eternal.
The money we raise on this trek will support a youth center in Thailand designed to be a shelter for those who are at-risk for falling into the trap of human trafficking.
Wrigley Field is old, but it is not eternal.
Fourteen people, 14 walks of life. Hailing from Tennessee, Texas, Massachusetts and Minnesota. College-aged to middle-aged. Three-thousand-plus miles. Camping. Mountains. Sun. Sweat. Saddle sores.
I can ride a bicycle. I can raise a few dollars. These are things that are not beyond the limits of my human reach. Based on my training and physical capabilities, however, I should not really be able to ride a bike an average of 75 miles a day, six days a week, for seven weeks. Without careful planning and even more careful execution, I should not be able to accumulate almost $5,000 of cash support in a matter of a few weeks.
There are things I cannot do. I know the extent to which people in this world have been enslaved is far greater than the extent to which I can do anything to help. I don’t have much faith in myself, but I do feel strongly about miracles. More often than not, miracles start with two things: 1) need, and 2) simple, small yet meaningful and selfless choices. The Bible is full of really cool stories that start that way.
I am attempting to compile a list of goals for this journey. This what I have so far:
Do not die
Discover America’s greatest sandwich
Think as little as possible about self
I recently had an epiphany in which I realized the Kingdom of God does not mimic what happens on earth, as reading Jesus’ parables too carelessly might suggest. Nature, in both good and bad ways, is in every way a reflection of the spiritual world—not the other way around. I hope that, in the same fashion, God will use the little good we do by faith in the material world for a spiritual harvest. In a simpler way, here’s what I’m getting at: I pray that God uses us to set the captives free, in every sense.
I feel pretty unworthy to do this. One of the devil’s best lies would lead me to believe this trip isn’t for me, or wait for a personalized invitation to get involved in a cause. This is about as close to an invitation as I’ll get. There are so many reasons to feel uneasy about what I have just gotten myself into. It stings a little to move out of familiar territory and into a place of trust. But I do believe in miracles, or I wouldn’t be here.