This journey started back in the Summer of 2006. I wasn’t raised going to church and I knew very little about God. My wife Beth grew up going to church but had not gone in several years. One Sunday we decided to attend a local church service and even though both of us (especially me) were nervous we walked into the church with open minds. We were overwhelmed by the warm and friendly welcome we received from several of the folks that were there. Looking back now I am so thankful for those folks and their kindness. Unfortunately, there are churches that aren’t so welcoming and if that had been the case when we went, things may be very different now. My advice to you is if you are interested in going to church and are not whole heartedly welcomed, don’t get discouraged. Go to another one until you find folks who are welcoming and loving, they’re definitely out there!
After a few months of attending church regularly and learning more about God and Jesus, the more I wanted Him in my life and the more I wanted my life to be for Him. One day in November of ’06 a local pastor who was going door to door in our neighborhood came to our house and approached me. I had been approached by these door-to-door guys before in past years and whenever they started asking me questions about where I stood with God and what I believed, I really didn’t have any answers for them. This time I was ready though! After some small talk he asked me if I knew if I was going to Heaven. I told him, “I am going to Heaven.” He asked me how I knew. And I replied, “Because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” There it was, the day I “officially” proclaimed Jesus to be Lord of my life! The pastor, looking pleasantly stunned by my answer simply replied with a smile, “OK then! Have a nice day.”
ENDINGS LEAD TO NEW BEGININGS
With my new-found faith in the Lord, things were changing. I had been road racing motorcycles since 1994, and in addition to winning a National Championship in 2000, racing AMA Pro and WERA National Endurance, I also got to meet tons of great people, make some great friends and travel all over the country. However, by 2006 I was going to fewer race weekends and looking for something else. That something else came when I went on my first Volunteers In Mission (VIM) disaster relief trip to Mississippi to help repair homes that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Being a “new” Christian, I still didn’t know much about Jesus but, being a contractor, I knew about fixing homes. So I hopped in a van with 5 people I had never met before and headed down to MS for a week long trip. It was awesome! Being able to help folks with home repairs was great but hearing their stories and about the faith they had in God despite their situations was absolutely inspiring. I highly recommend going on a mission trip because not only will you get more out of it than you put in, I guarantee it will change your life and your outlook on life. To date I have gone on more than 30 mission trips to 13 different states in the US. Beth and I also started two different local mission teams at churches in order to help local folks in need and to let volunteers who may not be able to get away for a week at a time be able to help when they’re available.
So fast forward a few years. When road racing came to an end for me, despite having a new- found love for VIM, I still missed the competition and physical nature of racing. Since many road racers use road cycling to get fit I thought I’d try it. It took until 2014 but I finally got my first road bicycle and quickly grew to love it. And just as the season for road racing came to a close I started to feel that the season for doing VIM work was beginning to close also. Maybe not quitting VIM altogether the way I did road racing but perhaps in a much smaller capacity.
In 2017 I began to ask God where and in what capacity could I serve Him and his kingdom. I needed a new ministry. For months it seemed like I was getting no answers. I hoped that the new ministry God had for me was going to excite me and ignite the same passion I had for road racing and VIM. Well, be careful what you ask for! I started looking into Race Across America (RAAM) two years ago when I was riding my bike at the Garrett County Gran Fondo near Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. I saw a bike rider on the road being closely followed by a mini van decked out with stickers, flashing lights, spare bikes on the roof rack. I thought, “who the heck does this guy think he is, it’s just a charity ride.” Upon closer inspection I noticed the RAAM stickers on the van and Googled it. I found out it’s a bicycle race across the country…over 3000 miles that has to be completed in 12 days and one of the time check stations for the race was right there in Deep Creek. I remember thinking you’d have to be insane to attempt that. Well, God certainly has a sense of humor. The more I researched it and followed it, the more I felt that this is what God was calling me to do. Because of the media exposure it gets and the sheer magnitude of achievement RAAM affords, many riders and teams choose to promote and raise money for various charities and causes. My call is a little different. There is so much going on in this country and the world that are causing people to lose hope: racial and political tension, homelessness, poverty, war to name a few. People are hurting and searching for hope in this world. I have been called to share the hope and love that Jesus Christ offers through my passion for racing, my love of cycling and love for Him. That is our mission at Racing For Christ and that is what we will be doing during our bicycle races whether it be a criterium race or a race across the country.
My favorite promise in the Bible is Philippians 4:13 which states “I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I have always been a competitive person and am always looking for the next challenge to pursue. RAAM is billed as “the world’s toughest bicycle race.” The race begins in Oceanside, CA and ends Annapolis, MD with teams and solo cyclists pedaling over 3000 miles and climbing over 170,000 feet while traveling over mountains, through desert and across the plains of the mid-west. The catch: cycling teams must finish the race within the 9-day time limit and solo riders must finish within 12 days! RAAM has attracted some of the best and toughest ultra-cyclists from all over the world and since the first race in 1982, fewer than 2500 riders have finished the race. Now THAT’S a CHALLENGE!!
Not only does RAAM offer a personal challenge, it offers the opportunity to meet, interact with and make a difference in people’s lives. While traveling across the country riders and support crew members get to see and meet hundreds of people along the route, whether it be fans by the side of the road cheering on riders, volunteers helping out at one of the time stations along the way or folks working at the various stores and businesses in the towns along the route. Along with the media exposure RAAM gets, that’s a large audience. It gives us the opportunity to, through our actions and our words, share the hope, love and peace that only Jesus Christ can offer while reaching folks as we travel across the country. Racing, Jesus, traveling across America with friends…sounds like an awesome, fun, life-changing challenge!