by Jack Mannebach, 2022 missionary (support crew on Mississippi Route)
What I’ve Learned After 3 Years with Biking for Babies:
In the winter of 2019 I sent in my first application with Biking for Babies. At the time, I had never explored my pro-life beliefs. Being pro-life was something I said I was because that’s how I was raised. Growing up, I remember my grandparents would always end their prayers with, “And God please protect and save the unborn.” As my prayer life began to develop, I too inserted this at the end of my prayers, and still do. But this was the extent of my pro-life beliefs and my involvement in the movement. If I had to sum up my pro-life beliefs before Biking for Babies it was very much the generic definition of being pro-life, I believed that the unborn were humans and deserved the right to life. I could have never defended this point or gone in depth into it and in regards to the mothers, my response was a mere shoulder shrug as my thoughts never reached that far.
It was not until I was paired with a pregnancy resource center (PRC) that I actually learned what they are and what they do. I wish I could say that I had spent more of my first year with Biking for Babies focusing on my pro-life beliefs, learning the apologetics, and spending additional time in prayer for the unborn and women going through unplanned pregnancies. But I spent that year tunnel visioned on training for this 600 mile bike ride and reaching my fundraising goal. I did not really have expectations going into the National Ride my first year, I just wanted to finish. The ride ended up being the most physically challenging thing I had ever endured and yet it is still one of my fondest memories. Even though there were struggles, they were mostly drowned out by laughter, joy, support and friendship.
At the Celebration of Life, all of the struggles were in the past and all of the amazing emotions experienced on the ride were dialed to 11. I vividly remember biking into the Celebration of Life, all of the pain from the week disappeared and everyone had a smile stuck on their faces. I also remember that as we entered a long winding road up to the park, there was an older couple protesting us. Nobody stopped to talk to them, the thought had never crossed my mind. I was on my way to see my family and celebrate. Lastly, I remember looking around at the Celebration of Life and seeing more joy than I had ever seen before. I thought about that old couple. If only they could have seen and experienced this level of joy. Driving home from St. Louis I told myself that if I could do it again, I would. My reasons for thinking this were mostly just because of how much fun I had doing it, and the fact that it was for a good cause was the cherry on top.
The following year I applied to be a rider and a route leader. It would turn out that I was the only rider on our route that had been a rider before. This led me to have additional conversations with the Director of Health and Wellness (and long time missionary) Kevin Biese, about the spirituality of the ride and how to encourage the other riders. One thing he talked about, that is frequently discussed, is to think about what we get to do vs what the mothers have to do. As I learned last year, what we do is significantly easier and significantly less stressful. We had support, many of the mothers did not. I passed this along to the team and went on with my training. A bit later I got in contact with my PRC and asked them to send me a name or story of a woman they were serving. I soon received a response asking for prayers for a 13 year old girl who had just visited them. This young girl, her siblings, and mom were living with their grandma at the time. I kept this girl in my prayers as I rode, but one day I really started to contemplate all this girl would have to endure if she went to term with her pregnancy. She would start high school being six to eight months pregnant, and that is likely a reputation that would follow her throughout her time there. She was not well off financially, and there was no indication that she had a father or that this baby would have one. My first thought after this was, “It makes sense why she would want to get an abortion.” This really hit me, I had to spend some time really considering what I was doing with Biking for Babies and why I was doing it. Weeks went by and I was still struggling with it. It all went away, when I realized this: (1) The unborn DO deserve to live! (2) Being pro-life places people who are likely already in very hard situations into near impossible situations. (3) It would be selfish of me to hold these beliefs, to force these women into such challenging times and not do anything about it. My pro-life beliefs were unbreakable, immovable, and my motivation for riding was now for these women. The 2020 National Ride was just as joy- filled and memorable as the first.
I signed up again in 2021 with that young girl in mind. I was not a route leader this year but I was our most experienced missionary. If I had to sum up the entire 2021 ride, I was too prideful. I spent most of the week in the back of the group, because I felt like everyone else needed to draft more than me, and my brother was one of the route leaders so I was constantly questioning his decisions. This week may not have been as joyful as the other two, but it was transformative.
I am currently signed up as a fourth year support crew member. A few points summarizing what I have learned after over three years with Biking for Babies are:
- The unbelievable gift that is empathy. To be able to ask oneself: (1) Why do I believe this?/ (2) What impact does my belief have on others?/ (3) If I were in that situation, how would I respond? – It will test your beliefs and help you decide what you believe and what you were taught. I do also hope I get the chance to ride with my brother again, and I will do my best to make it more joyful than the rest.
- Do not advocate for anything that you are not actively giving your time, energy and money towards. We’ve recently seen protests erupt over the potential overturning of Roe vs. Wade. I had friends ask me about my thoughts about the protests and what other people had been posting. I responded by saying that I was not giving it a second thought. They will soon stop and move on to something different, but Biking for Babies and many organizations like it will continue to grow and renew the Culture of Life.
- The meaning of love. We are all meant to carry our crosses, and sometimes part of our cross to bear is really just supporting another as they carry theirs. Love requires sacrifice, it is hard, stressful, and expressed most deeply when overcoming fear. It is also meant to be shared with everyone. I would like to say that if I saw those two older people protesting, I would have gotten off my bike and invited them to observe the festivities, to hear our testimonies, and to share their story. In a world where love seems to be in short supply, be someone that is going to share it with everyone!
* I would lastly like to express my gratitude to all donors and supporters of the mission. You are the reason I am able to be a part of this amazing organization. God bless you and may He protect and save the unborn.