What a fiery first day! The riders accomplished 140 kilometers and six mountains, but those kilometers were not without their own particular challenges. Divided into six teams according to speed preference, the riders eagerly wiped the sleep from their eyes and set off with victory reverberating throughout their hearts. From the onset, however, the day carried the riders on an adventure brimming with trials. A broken chain was swiftly followed by two flat tires, and after lunch, a couple of minor injuries arose along with a small handful of more flat tires to supplement.
Despite the physical trials tossed at the riders, they came streaming in to each checkpoint, exhaustion clinging onto the tailcoats of their overflowing joy and determination. Inarguably, they were not being propelled by their own will, but being led by the Holy Spirit. Team leaders consistently checked in with individual team members, and team members unashamedly encouraged each other during rest stops. Though only the first day when names are still being mentally imprinted and riding chemistry is forming between team members, each team still carried a spirit of humility, partnership, and support for one another. Even at the last checkpoint before arriving at the pension, the teams were told that the preplanned shortcut was now obsolete due to the construction of a new--possibly dangerous--major road. This meant the riders would have to add two more mountains and 12 kilometers to their last stretch. Despite the potential for an attitude of defeat, the riders chose instead to approach the challenge with joy and determination as they had maintained throughout the entire day.
In the evening, after a hearty meal of grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, riders and support crew alike gathered together for our first worship and prayer session. Though plagued by exhaustion, riders and support crew were eager to share individually tailored appreciations and testimonies. Kristen Hendricks, a leader for Team Watchmen, soberly explained the flat tires that had hassled her team all day. She shared about an ahjusshi (elderly man) who approached their team after their third flat tire in the afternoon. He witnessed them pleading to Jesus for help, and attempted to repair what he could with his novice skillset. After it was semi-repaired, the team rode down the hill where, again, the same tire resulted in a flat. At that point, a man passing by rushed up to them, located a miniscule nail inside of the tire, and repaired it with astonishing speed. The previous ahjusshi who had witnessed their prayers and this quick repair by this man exclaimed how he should “love Jesus more, because He clearly answered your prayer.” Wow, praise God!
Towards the end, Pastor John-Michael Becker shared Nahum 1:7 and repeated the first four words: “The Lord is good.” Despite our trials, it is His very goodness that allows us to worship and carry the Holy Spirit with us. This was sobering to hear on a particularly difficult day such as this one was. Though our bodies bear the physical toil of riding/supporting for four days, victims of sex trafficking are not given an expiration date for the physical toils on their own bodies. They suffer countless abuse, manipulation, and domination, yet they cling on for fear of their own internal brokenness consuming them more than these external influences. We were not consumed today and will never be consumed for the next three days, because we know the Lord is good and have tasted His goodness. But what about the victims of sex trafficking? So we ride, trusting that our prayers throughout the ride will sow seeds of His goodness into their hearts and this nation. That through His goodness, those who are trafficked will not hear the inward groans of their dry bones anymore, but the burst of a new song spilling out of their mouths. A song that has tasted and seen, and now hopes.