by Kristin Sorensen, 2023 missionary (support crew on Wisconsin Route)
I almost didn’t sign up to be a Biking for Babies Missionary. Within the past few years I have been diagnosed with PCOS and Hashimoto’s Disease, so when the Director of Missionary Formation invited me to become a Support Crew Missionary, my first thoughts were “what if I get my period during the National Ride? Or my thyroid acts up?”
God continued tugging my heart toward the mission though, so I started preparing to be as healthy as possible for the National Ride. The Executive Director and I created a game plan, which involved talking through my needs if I experienced symptoms, informing the Director of Health and Wellness of my concerns and talking through options with her, and giving other missionaries on the route a heads up that I may be asking for help. I also met with my doctor, and together we discussed how I can prepare through my diet, medications, and workout plan. I was determined to do this mission despite my chronic conditions.
The formation months were wonderful, and the first few days of the National Ride were fantastic. I wasn’t experiencing any pain, I had energy, and I was able to focus on the tasks in front of me. Everything was going well, and I was able to give one hundred percent to the missionaries on my route and the people we met along the way.
Wednesday morning my biggest nightmare occurred; both my PCOS and Hashimoto’s decided to attack. I woke up and my entire body was on fire. I couldn’t see straight, every joint and muscle throbbed, and as I went through my checklist of symptoms to watch for I realized I was exhibiting almost every single one. I hurt too much to be embarrassed as I explained to the Support Crew members what was going on. They were absolutely amazing and understanding, and let me spend the morning sleeping in the back of the car. They took on my responsibilities on top of their own so I could rest and heal.
The embarrassment set in after a few more hours of sleep and the severe pain began to subside. I hated that my body had gotten that bad after months of changing medications and adjusting my diet. What had I done wrong, why did my body have to act this way? I had a job to do, and I couldn’t do it. It drives me crazy when I commit to doing something and I can’t complete it to perfection. The only things that got me through the rest of that route day was the support and love of the other missionaries and the reality of the miles we still had to travel.
Later that night at mass my mind was churning. By the time the Eucharist was consecrated my brain was rotating through a series of negative thoughts: I knew this would happen, I shouldn’t have signed up; why do I keep trying to do things I know I can’t; I don’t belong here; why would God design me this way? I’d been planning on doing this mission despite my chronic conditions, and I couldn’t do it. The other route members were depending on me, and I felt like I had failed them.
One of the other missionaries was playing music for mass, and for communion he played “Come As You Are” by David Crowder. As I went through the communion line and back to my seat, my head was so clouded I could hardly hear the music. My knees hit the kneeler and the negative thoughts played faster, swirling in ideas on how I was going to suck it up, ignore my body, and do better tomorrow.
The moment my mind reached top speeds, God pushed one sentence through the fog and to the top of my head; “Kristin, shut up and listen to the boy sing!” (When I get like this God is very direct with me.) Somehow, I did shut up and listen, and at the perfect moment, too. The missionary was singing the chorus, and the lines “Lay down your burdens” and “come as you are” replaced and silenced the negative thoughts. As the music continued, I felt God telling me he wanted me on this mission, and he wanted me there exactly as I am, chronic conditions and all.
God wanted me to be a Biking for Babies Missionary with my chronic conditions. Not despite them, with them.
You are called to do the Lord’s work, not despite but with all of your illnesses, traumas, heartaches, whatever it is. When he asks you to do something he knows what he’s asking. Those burdens you have are not a secret to him. He knows exactly what you carry with you. And God still calls you. With those burdens. He wants you to bring your full self along as you do his work.
I’d like to say the rest of the National Ride I was pain free and able to do everything that needed doing. That was not the case. Sporadic symptoms occurred the rest of the week; not as crippling as Wednesday but still not fun to deal with. But knowing God wanted me there, and with my chronic conditions, transformed my perspective; I wasn’t a burden on the team and I was contributing to the mission. I found so much joy in that realization, and that joy helped pull me out of moments that could have wrecked my whole week.
If you are debating becoming a Biking for Babies Missionary because you see your own burdens as an obstacle, call or email one of the staff members and they will work with you. These burdens should not be a reason you don’t join the mission. You have so many gifts and talents to contribute, and Biking for Babies, the Pregnancy Resource Centers, and the other missionaries would benefit greatly from what you have to share.
God wants to work through you to do magnificent things; let him!