While I’m not exactly sure what the riders endure and overcome (what happens on Bike2Camp, stays on Bike2Camp), I am certain it’s not unlike our journey on HMA has been. So, here’s 15 ways that HMA is like a 185-mile bike ride:
- Good food and good fellowship go hand-in-hand. Steve always jokes that despite all the physical effort and sweat that goes into biking 185 miles, he never loses weight. Could it be those homemade cookies at every rest stop? Or maybe it’s that famous Corky’s pizza stop? Whatever it is, we’ve noticed that it’s over good food that conversations get started and friendships get built. And we’ve already had about three dozen meals at Applebee’s to prove it!
- We’re in this together. No matter how sore your legs are or how many flats you’ve had on the side of the road, there’s a whole bunch of other people who are experiencing the same thing. We’ve been so blessed to walk alongside other missionaries and pastors (both with WGM and from other organizations) willing to share their wisdom with us. We’ve learned from their experiences, prayed for their ministries, shared in their heartbreaks and celebrated their blessings. God has used these relationships to encourage us and remind us that, despite how it may sometimes feel, we’re not alone on this journey.
Never ride alone!
- Support teams matter. From the moment they arrive at the church parking lot with their bikes strapped to their cars, riders are in the care of a fantastic team of supporters whose sole purpose is to ensure that each and every one of them makes it to their destination safely and with a memorable experience behind them. They plan routes, provide meals, man rest stops, fix flats and provide emergency care. They drive ahead of and behind riders to warn passing vehicles. And quite often, they stop and pick up an exhausted and aching rider and give him a chance to recover in the cool air-conditioned van, all the while encouraging him onward. Without the support team, most riders would not make it to the end of the journey. Like them, a missionary’s supporters are the ones that make the ride possible. Without their prayers, passion, encouragement, friendship, service and support, we could not carry out the vision God has given us. They are there beside us for each and every mile.
The Bike2Camp Support Team
- Training is a must. Steve starts taking short “training” rides as soon as the snow melts. He’s got to get himself physically and mentally prepared for the journey. There have been years where he wasn’t able to train as much as he’d like and it made the ride much more difficult to accomplish. Time and time again God has used our time on HMA to teach us new skills that will be a blessing in Honduras—from leading discipleship groups to writing camp curriculum for teens.
- It’s not always going to be a comfortable ride. Sometimes it’s sweltering heat, sometimes it’s blistering wind and sometimes it’s just the fact that your rear end has been sitting on a bicycle for a couple of days. The point is, getting there is not always comfortable. Becoming missionaries has been an exercise in giving up control. We no longer know if we’ll be able to pay the bills this month or if we’ll be standing in front a crowded church on Sunday. We don’t know if we’ll be here for Nick’s band trip next year or if we should extend the lease on our apartment. But we learn so much about ourselves and our God when things get a little uncomfortable.
- Rest stops are critical. Every 10-12 miles along the route to camp, there is a rest stop. This is a safe place to pull over and catch your breath, be encouraged and take a few photos. HMA means always looking forward to something else—getting back to the field. When you’re constantly looking to the future, you sometimes forget to enjoy the present. Our strategy to creating our own HMA rest stops? We stop at cheesy roadside attractions. We spend as much time as we can with our families. We take vacations whenever we can. And we always make time for board games.
Steve and Nick take a pit stop to appreciate the view and each other.
- Flat tires are a bummer. Last year Steve had six flat tires on the trip. That was a record! It almost amounted to spending more time on the side of the road than actually riding. There have been some real down times during our HMA—times we questioned ourselves and our calling. Discouragement has sidelined us and left us standing on the side of the road in the rain. It’s during these times that we’ve had to stop, reflect, regroup and repair our brokenness with the Word of God.
- God’s power is pretty awesome. Signing up for a 185 mile bike ride can be pretty daunting and when you tell most people that you’re going to do it, they look at you like you’re crazy and tell you that it cannot be done. When I look at our family and how we’ve had to adapt and grow together in order to meet the challenges of HMA, I am so impressed with what God has been able to accomplish in us. Seriously, if you’d have told me that a few years ago that Steve would stand up and address an entire church on Sunday morning, I would’ve taken you for a crazy person. And if you’d have told me that I would be perfectly calm when my PowerPoint suddenly doesn’t work on a Sunday morning, I’d have had you committed. I’m telling you only a God that can raise up mountains and set rivers in their valleys can turn the Solheims into missionaries!
- Sometimes it’s all uphill. Steve always jokes that he’s convinced that Mississippi River must flow uphill, since they follow the river and he sure feels like they spend a lot of time trying to make it to the top of one hill or another. If that isn’t a metaphor for raising support, I don’t know what is! The trip from 15% to 17% was one of our biggest hills. And every little percentage since has felt like locking our shoes into the pedals, putting our head down and peddling as hard as we can to the next milestone.
- Sometimes you need a different perspective. While riding alongside highways, you have to keep a constant eye out for potholes, branches, and broken glass along the way. During this endless vigil, you sometime forget to look up and see what’s going on around you. It's easy to miss some pretty fantastic views along the route to camp that can take your breath away. Likewise, when we're down in the ditches making phone calls, planning the next event or making little progress, we forget to look up and see all of the amazing things God is doing in our lives.
It can be easy to miss what God really wants you to see when you've got your head down.
- The right equipment makes for a smooth ride. Having the right bike and right tires make a world of difference. Adding shoes that clip to the pedals to power up those hills and an aerobar to defeat the wind makes the ride go much smoother. Oh, and don’t forget, a comfortable seat. Similarly, missionaries need to be equipped spiritually in order to make it through HMA. We have to learn to rely on God to provide and practice trusting in Him. HMA offers plenty of opportunity for God to continue to teach us these lessons over and over again.
Nick was so blessed by one of our supporters who provided a new and state-of-the-art bike for the trip.
- Everyday is a new day. Some days after roasting in the hot sun reflecting off of the asphalt, you feel completely defeated and unable to continue and collapse in your tent for the night. But, then dawn arrives and you feel rested and rearing to go again. Often, we have to remind ourselves that today is a new day and that God is with us in our struggles.
- A little rain isn’t a bad thing. Other riders get a little upset with Steve when he prays for a light rain the weekend of the bike ride. But he knows that a light, misting rain is perfect for staying cool on the long, grueling bike ride. Sometimes during HMA, things don’t exactly work out as planned (like leaving your luggage at the foot of your bed), but those hiccups just make the journey memorable and worthwhile.
- The last few miles are the most important. About 10 miles from camp, there is a bridge like no other I’ve seen. To cross it requires an almost vertical climb for about half a mile. It’s here, when a rider is completely exhausted and at the end of his stamina that he faces one of the biggest challenges of his ride. On the other side, the support team waits and cheers each rider up the steep incline. This is the last pit stop of the entire ride and once they finally cross that bridge, there is a sense of accomplishment and jubilation amongst the weary travelers. But if they were to stop here after having endured so much and having scaled every hurdle and achieving great victory, they would fail. The camp is still several miles away. There is more to be done. Completing HMA will be a wonderful accomplishment, but it is not our goal. Our purpose is to glorify the Lord. And to that end, we always have a few more miles to go.
The last big mountain to climb before reaching camp.
- We’ll get there eventually. When the riders finally make it down the last dirt road to camp, they race across a finish line together to the cheers of the staff and families waiting to greet them. And there will come a day that we’ll finally board that plane and arrive at the place God has put on hearts for so long. And I hope you’ll be there to cheer. Not for us—but for God whose perfect plan for our missionary journey has reached a new beginning.
Nick leads the riders across the finish line at camp.