by Jack Mannebach, a first-year riding missionary
“Faith does not make things easy it makes them possible.” -Luke 1:37
When I first heard about Biking for Babies, I thought it sounded like an incredible organization and an amazing experience, but something I would and could never do. I thought about how great it would be to join, yet having to do a 600 mile bike ride, fundraise and become an active member of the pro-life movement terrified me. It seemed impossible.The thought of joining the Biking for Babies team was something that was on my heart though, and I continually prayed about it.
Between the time I first heard about Biking for Babies and when I decided to apply, God was putting signs in my life that I should join. I had conversations with my friends about the pro-life movement. I found out many of them were pro-choice, and I had no idea how to defend my views. At this time, I was also getting invited to go on a mission trip for two weeks over the summer. I knew God was telling me to join, but the fear of what it entailed kept holding me back. So, I continued to pray.
Then one day, I saw that there were going to be live videos from Biking for Babies so I watched a few of them. The first one was with Kevin Biese (Director of Health and Wellness) and Sarah Wiese (Director of Missionary Formation). Kevin said something that really stuck with me, He said, “The great thing about Biking for Babies is that it is a mission trip that you get to bring to your community.” Reminder: I had just learned that a lot of friends were pro-choice, and I was considering a mission trip. I could bring the Culture of Life to my friends in hopes of changing their hearts. Now, Biking for Babies was not just something I was feeling called to do; it was something I knew I needed to do.
Yet even after all of the signs and all of the praying, I still could not commit to it. So I kept praying, and a few days later, there was another live video, with Nick Vande Hey. Nick was my RA at school the previous year, so I knew him pretty well. In his video, he talked about how he was not planning on riding this year because he was in Ireland for the semester and the training might have inconvenienced his trip. But then he started to compare the inconvenience of the training to the inconvenience of an unplanned pregnancy.
Right there all of my “excuses” flew out the window, and I knew that the only thing that was holding me back was fear.
By this time the deadline to apply was approaching, so I said to myself, “Tomorrow, when I go to pray, that day’s Gospel will tell me whether I should do it or not.” Which looking back on it, having the Gospel tell you whether or not to do something good is not fair at all. So the next day I went on my phone and started reading… “Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two…” -Mk 6:7-13. I set my phone down and said, “Well, looks like I’m doing this.” I still do not know why I was so surprised it told me to, but this verse was too perfect. At that moment I knew I had to do it. I could not deny it any longer. So then my prayer turned into writing my “Why?” I needed to know exactly why I was doing this, and then I would be able to go all in. When I was done praying, I went back to my room and filled out an application.
Suddenly the ride did not seem impossible anymore. I was still afraid of the training and fundraising, but it could not hold me back. I was accepted and started training. It all started out pretty well, but my rides were only 30-60 minutes long. Pretty soon, those one hour rides turned into 4 and 5 hour rides. It was easy to lose sight of what you are truly doing while going through all of the training. Then I would think about what Nick said and remind myself, “Yes, I am tired, but I can not stop,” I would read over my why and get back on the bike. Most of the time, my motivation was that hopefully the pain and inconvenience that I was enduring would help ease the pain and inconvenience of women who are struggling with an unplanned pregnancy. The two months before the ride, donations really started to pour in, and that was even more motivation to keep riding and fundraising.
It was now the National Ride. I knew it was going to be the most difficult challenge of my life. I was right. Although we were spending hours a day on the bike, we always found breaks to goof around, laugh, and stop by churches to pray.
When we arrived at our destination, we would have Mass and then meet some of the local parishioners. Our second night, we arrived at our destination and were soon greeted by a large family with around a dozen adults and 50ish kids. We spent the next 5 hours running around, laughing and getting to know the kids. Everyone left around 11 o’clock, and I realized I had not drank any water or stretched since we got off the bike. I quickly drank two giant water bottles, which was not a good idea because I had to go to the bathroom all night. As I was awake I just kept thinking, “Tomorrow is going to be rough.”
The more I thought about it, the more I realized our true mission. Our main mission is to spread the news of the PRC’s and to inspire others to join the movement. “Ah that makes sense then,” I thought. For the remainder of the trip, I tried to be more engaged and open when meeting the local people. As the week went on, riding began to get easier, and with every stop, my “why” grew so much more.
Everyone made it to the Celebration of Life safely, and there were about 200 people there, but there was so much joy and hope. Looking around, I was reminded that the Pro-Life movement will be victorious because nothing can destroy that joy. Within 24 hours of completing the ride, I was already recruiting for next year. My body was still aching from the ride, but there was no pain; only joy.
If the ride was impossible, if asking people for money made me so uncomfortable, and if the daily training and formation was sometimes too much, then why am I now so excited to ride again? Even after the ride, my why continues to grow, and after all of the struggles with training and fundraising, the only thing left is joy.
If you think God is calling you to be a missionary, start praying and searching for your why. If you want proof that God is calling you to be a missionary, just read the Gospel. Ask yourself, “What is holding me back?” Whatever it is, God can beat it and so can you.
Let us be shy no longer
Let us go to our strength
Let us offer hope
Let us tell the world
That a new age
Is not only possible