Woah. I blink, and all of a sudden I’m about to do my fifth year with Biking for Babies. That’s nuts y’all (this is your friendly neighborhood Griffin speaking by the way). And Nikki still hasn’t given me a raise; can you believe that? (Disclaimer: our missionaries, including myself, don’t actually get paid.) But as I come into my fifth year with the organization, I can’t help but reflect on all the different things that have happened in this amazing journey. God has used me in so many wonderful ways and moved so many mountains just to allow me the privilege to do it. I normally am not long-winded, but I wanted to share with everyone what exactly God has done and the grace he has provided for my Biking for Babies journey, and I can’t skimp on the details because, contrary to prior belief, it is He who is in the details.
I grew up Catholic, right across the street from the parish. Starting in fourth grade, I went to a Catholic school. Naturally, at a Catholic school, I learned all about our apologetics and morality and such. Abortion, of course, was covered in those classes. I could tell you (still can; it’s important) every argument for why abortion was evil, but I couldn’t tell you where a woman could go to receive help if she was having a crisis pregnancy. At a young age, I was very unforgiving; I was extremely un-empathetic. I had a hardline view of the world due to my southern upbringing, that if you find yourself in a situation, pull yourself up by your bootstraps: we don’t believe in handouts.
Pregnancy resource centers were RIGHT UNDER MY NOSE the entire time as well. Every year. Without fail. From fourth grade to senior year in high school. My school ran a fundraising drive over the course of 40 Days for Life for a local PRC, and I still didn’t know about PRCs (so if any faculty from McGill is reading this, make sure your actually explain to your students IN DETAIL what PRCs are and what they do).
Fast forward a few years and plenty of setbacks and hardships (some self-inflicted, oof). I’m attending a community college in Brewton, Alabama (foreshadowing). One of the classes I was taking was a mandatory ethics class. Naturally, in a college ethics class, one of the topics you’re going to cover is abortion. It’s kind of a hot button issue if you haven’t heard. Well, a discussion with a classmate of mine leaked over after class. What ended the long-winded discussion was what my classmate said to me:
“The one thing I can’t stand about pro-lifers is that they’ll talk all day about how abortion is wrong, but then they don’t do anything about it.”
Which I know now, that’s not true. But, the first domino had fallen. My Biking for Babies journey had begun, and I don’t even know it yet. I responded to my classmate: “Actually, you’re right, let me fix that.” When I got home that day, I SCOURED the internet for any way to help in the pro-life movement. All I could really find were volunteer positions or internships at places that were more involved in the legal side of the pro-life fight. Which is important, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. After finding nothing, I gave up; I decided to procrastinate, like any good college student would and get on Facebook. Literally the first thing that popped up in my newsfeed was something from Sarah Collins (now Wiese) along the lines of “do you want to get extremely involved in the pro-life movement? Here’s how.” (God doing his thing count: 1)
So I signed up. Blind. I had no clue what this was about. But if Jesus was going to create that dramatic of timing, I had to do it. It was obvious. And I wasn’t wrong. I was support crew my first year, so the lead-up to the National Ride was a little awkward for me. I didn’t have to prepare to bike, so I was kind of at a loss of what to do. I decided prayer was probably a good choice. (God doing his thing count: 2) But as the ride approached, I realized that I had an issue. I was broke. I had moved back home to Mobile from Brewton. I had exactly enough money to put the gas in my grandfather’s truck to take me to the starting location. But I knew God put this organization in front of me for a reason, so I watched my gas tank fill all the way up and my bank account hit $0.03. He’d figure it out later (foreshadowing). But as soon as I arrived at the National Ride, I fell head over heels in love with this organization. Having to look out and care for the riders on four LONG days along with all the information I learned about PRCs over our formation period absolutely melted my heart of stone. God was having NONE of it (God doing his thing count: 3). At the end of the ride, I was asked if I was thinking about coming back for a second year. I told them there was no thinking to do; of course I was coming back.
But before I came back for my second year I had to figure out how I was going to get back to Alabama. From Missouri. With no money. Yikes. Thankfully, I had two people from Orlando, Celeste and Christina, that were headed my direction anyway, so they decided to carpool with me. So did a person another person from Mobile, William. They each offered to pay for a tank of gas. I didn’t even have to ask them, and it saved me a lot of embarrassment. (God doing his thing count: 4) So I got back in one piece and had enough gas in the truck to give it back to my grandfather not empty.
My second year was even better than the first. I somehow got put on a list to be a route leader – still trying to figure that one out. (God doing his thing count: 5?) It was myself and Kathryn, both of us second-years. Everyone else on the route (excluding our BELOVED Fr. Patrick) was a rookie. So, there wasn’t a whole lot of experience to go around the room. Enter: Nikki Biese. (God doing his thing count: 6) She was made the route leader coordinator that year, and she and I spent A LOT of time on the phone discussing how I should be directing the Southern route with Kathryn. If Jesus is the MVP of this story, Nikki finished second in votes.
There was a change of format though. This year the ride would be six days, not four. Adding one day was supposed to make the other days a little shorter, and the second day was supposed to be a rest day. Our entire group was nervous. One guy almost quit because he felt like he wasn’t prepared enough physically. And two of our girls also felt like they were unprepared. Kathryn and I spent A LOT of time on the phone trying to calm our rookies down. We had a SUPER long day on one of our rides: 189 miles. One of the missionaries asked if it was possible to split that day in two and just not use the rest day. I looked for the midway point between our starting location that day – Memphis – and our destination – Sikeston, MO. I found this little place called Dyersburg, TN. I called Fr. Patrick since he’s from Tennessee, and I told him we had the idea to cut the 189-mile day into two. The middle was in a place called Dyersburg. I wanted to know if Fr. Patrick knew anyone we could contact to possibly arrange a stop there. Not more than a week before he had received his new parish assignment: Holy Angels Catholic Church, Dyersburg, TN. (God doing his thing count: 7)
Being able to cut that long day calmed everyone down, but there was still a lot of tension because they didn’t know what to expect. Later, we decided to try to get them some experience before the National Ride by doing a regional ride. With a two-week notice and the training ride scheduled the weekend before the national one: are we crazy? We were blessed by multiple generous people to be able to organize a two-day ride. From Troy, AL to Orange Beach, AL, with a stop in Brewton in the middle. By the way, I had moved from Brewton, by then, but Jesus was pretty cool to set that up wasn’t he? (God doing his thing count: 8, 9, 10)
Not only did we have all of our cyclists on the route, but we even had two former missionaries join us! It was a blessing to be able to expose our rookies to that kind of experience! (Thanks Celeste and Christina!) Despite the short schedule and crazy turbulence of it all, our missionaries were finally calmed down and ready for the National Ride. And they CRUSHED it. They did just fine on the bikes, but when they talked to people at our breaks, when they spoke to people at our parish stops, you could see the joy they were spreading, and it was amazing to witness.
Coming next in Part 2:
“On to year three. I’ve made Biking for Babies sound like nothing but sunshine and rainbows so far. That just isn’t the case. I never had the pleasure to go through the hardships that our cyclists do every year throughout their training regimen and throughout the National Ride. Biking for Babies is HARD, and it can be lost on support crew sometimes. Well, this year was my turn for it to be tough. I wanted to bike this year, but that’s not what ended up being tough about it.”