by Sophia Mittman, 2023 missionary (support crew on Ohio Route)
On the surface, doing Biking for Babies means doing a 600-mile bike ride with other young adults to lift up pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) and women they serve. Already, that’s pretty great. But now that I’ve done it three times as both rider and support crew, I now realize that—beneath the surface—it’s so much more.
It’s like life in a week.
It’s learning to love like a mother.
It’s a humbling examination of conscience.
This was my first year being support crew. As a route leader too, I wanted the National Ride to go so well. So, like with many things in my life, I prepared all that I could in the months leading up to it to make sure that everything would run smoothly. But, many of my plans quickly flew out the window. Whether it was an entire water cooler falling out of the van in the first 30 minutes of Day One, standing on the wrong side of the road for the first water bottle handoff, a smoking support crew van due to driving with the parking brake on, a lost set of keys of said van, accidentally backing into a mailbox, a missing wallet, a nasty case of stinging nettle, a bike rack with its main securing mechanism gone, accidentally driving away from a cornfield where a support crew teammate still was, the last water cooler falling out of the van on the hottest day when it was most needed, or a bike breaking cleanly in two pieces, I could not escape the realities of the unplanned that week. And yet, my teammates and I bonded all the more because of it, through prayer, patience, and seeing how so many good things came out of those crazy and frustrating moments. “Life” by definition comes with the unplanned. It made me realize that being truly “pro-life” inherently means accepting those parts of life, too: the unavoidable ups and downs of unplanned things that happen no matter what. Biking for Babies is teaching me the beauty and freedom that comes with taking the unplanned in stride, and—although it’s even more difficult—to do it with a smile on my face.
Biking for Babies has also made me realize that being pro-life is not just thinking that abortion is wrong. Being “pro-life” is something that ought to be lived out in every interaction and encounter we have with others, especially with people who get on our nerves. It means taking on legitimate burdens to serve someone else when we’d honestly rather serve ourselves first. It means learning to love like a mother. It’s exactly what Jesus said and demonstrated by his actions: “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” It’s like when a mother puts the life of her child before her own when she chooses life. Many of us missionaries may not be facing parenthood right now, but in the context of B4B, being pro-life means saying, “This my comfort, my free weekends, my time, my money, my sleep, my dislike of speaking in public, and my desires to blend in with the culture, which I’m giving up for you young mothers in unplanned pregnancies, your unborn children, your families, and the PRCs that serve you, because they offer you hope, and there’s nothing sweeter than hope.” When I choose to love someone—when I choose to love my teammates—difficult and burdensome tasks that I’d normally shy away from become easier, and I find myself doing them without blinking an eye. That’s not to say that I’m perfect at it—I just realized this recently and am still working on it—but that’s the kind of mother I want to be.
At the beginning of this year’s National Ride, I also quickly realized that B4B is inherently a very raw examination of conscience. It exposes everyone’s underbellies. When you spend six consecutive, packed, little-sleep days biking 600 miles in a single file line, or spending 60+ hours in the small enclosed space of a van with the same people and the next task always on your mind, you get to see your teammates at their best and at their worst. In the quiets of prayer or occasional silence of driving the support vehicle, I was confronted with myself, too: my best and my worst qualities, both coming out full-force at times. Usually I can turn a blind eye to my flaws, but it was very unnerving to be confronted with them face-to-face, like my own daily impatience, my lack of trust in others to do tasks that I’d rather do myself, and my flat out pride. But, It was one of the most humbling experiences. Even at some of my lowest moments (like being the reason why my teammates couldn’t ride 70 of the 120 miles of Day 2), my teammates were so merciful towards me, and they lifted me up more than I thought I deserved. They were pro-life toward me, and it’s inspired me to treat others in the same way.
Up until this point, my whole life has prepared me to do B4B. Now, B4B is preparing me for the rest of my life. I came into Biking for Babies with the mindset to help OTHER women and families live pro-life by physically enabling them to choose life for their children. Little did I know that B4B would throw ME into situations where I have learned to live more pro-life myself, in the fullest sense of the phrase: pro-life, pro-family, and pro-unconditional-love.