Girl, Be Brave

These are my words for this year. Girl, Be Brave. I will repeat them over and over again to myself as I tackle both small things (like entering a room of strangers or biking in bear country), or big things (like asking for support and riding my bicycle in a foreign land). I wonder if it will work – this self talk. This attempt to muster courage that I’m not so sure is there.

If you know me, you know I can talk a big game, but as the time for our departure draws closer, I can sense my fears and doubts beginning to muster like so many soldiers for a full-on attack against my hope. The more people we talk to, the more we are told about things to be afraid of. We try to laugh them off and make jokes, because the objects of the fear seem so foreign and ridiculous to us. We swing back and forth between, “We got this!” to “Oh, man. This is too much. What are we doing?!?”

We recently met a Ugandan man living in Alberta who told us to hire policemen daily to accompany us to protect us from thieves and bandits, who would not only take our stuff, but also possibly kidnap us for ransom. We have been told by a few African friends that we are crazy because of cannibals in Uganda. Although this IS actually still practiced in Uganda, it IS illegal – good to know. This threat in particular has us joking a lot with our kids and friends, because it’s terrifying unless we can face it with laughter. We have been warned about animals such as elephants, black mambas, cape buffalos, and of course, the dengue fever and malaria-carrying mosquitos. We ARE taking precautions against everything in our control, such as buying Ex-Officio Bugsaway pants with built in bug repellent, bringing a Garmin In-Reach with us to text and reach out in the case of an emergency and allow anyone who wants to, to follow us in real time. But I have no insight into fighting off the Big Five, cannibals or bandits. We will have bear spray, dog spray and I plan to sleep with those close at hand and my new Opinel knife under my pillow (thanks for the gift, Hannah!).

This post is not a cry for kudos, advice, comments about our courage or anything of the sort. It’s me getting it out there so people can pray against these things and against the fear that could be debilitating. It’s me voicing the reality of the risk. (Yes, we are updating our will before we go). But, we are choosing to take on these risks for the reward that we are hoping for – the adventure of a lifetime, interacting with beautiful people, seeing sights we could not see by any other means than by bikes, working together for a common goal and showing ourselves and others that age is just a number. And for the reward we have already received – getting a number of children off the streets and sending them to school through the generosity of family and friends like you. What has become increasingly clear to us this past year is that there is NOTHING that gives us the right to not suffer in this lifetime.

Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” I’m here to testify that the fear is there. Now, it’s time to resist and master it. 

John’s Comeback

Hey everyone…. John here.

Well, it’s been over 6 months now since I found myself on the hood of a semi-truck going down the highway at 60 mph north of Reno, NV. I have learned a lot through this experience, but most of all I was reminded of how important family and friends are.  So I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your generous support and provide an update as you have been critical in walking out this journey with Stacy and me.

I have tried to maintain a good attitude in hopes that it will speed recovery and so when my patience with life and recovery fades, I simply blame the head injury. The doctors and specialists have tried to warn me that my body will never return to ‘normal,’ but as you might imagine, I somehow think they are simply mistaken. So some days I feel like I am getting stronger and will soon be back to normal and other days I wake up feeling like I just aged 10 years.

It is hard not to lose hope in the slowness of recovery but I try to stay focused on the process as an educational experience.  I recognize that all of us are on a journey that is filled with a variety of struggles.  It is these types of events that fill in the story of our lives and many people are facing struggles much greater than mine.  How blessed I was to escape with manageable injuries while others are not so fortunate.  I can appreciate the pain that others are experiencing in a deeper way and have a new level of empathy for others that I never would have had without the accident.  So while some days can be difficult for me personally, they do have meaning and there is a purpose to this.

I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to play in the NFL.  And so now that I have a sore neck, weak shoulder, and forgetful brain, I am glad I stuck to basketball.  As for a quick update on the body… My teeth and facial bones are still sore.  My ribs are feeling much better, although I still attend regular therapy to unlock the scar tissue in the intercostal muscles and to disconnect the lung membrane which remains somewhat fused to my rib cage and heart lining. Every evening I do an hour of stretching and rubber band work to strengthen my shoulder.  I have worked my way up to lifting a 2 lbs dumb bell (wow).  The nerve impingement under the clavicle is slowing subsiding and being released in my forearm.  My biggest hassle is the damage to the discs of my neck.  The whiplash was significant enough to stack the vertebrae in the wrong direction so it remains difficult to turn my head and as a result, I can be somewhat dangerous when driving, especially navigating a parking lot.  I still see a physical therapist who specializes in nerve damage as well as a CranioSacral acupuncturist to alleviate the pain. I also continue to see my chiropractor and an athletic therapist on a weekly basis. Your generous gifts and GoFundMe Campaign have allowed me to keep booking these critical appointments as we are unable to pursue legal action due to a lack of witnesses. So, Stacy and I really wanted to THANK YOU again for your support. 

Sponsor: Hyke & Byke

When we were looking for a new lightweight tent for our trip (because ours has holes in it big enough for mosquitoes to get through and is a little heavy), this company showed up in Amazon and I checked them out as their prices were noticeably lower than other outdoor companies and their reviews were great! I contacted the founder, Daniel, and told him about our trip and shamelessly asked for a free tent to put it to the test with anything that Africa could throw at it (they come with a lifetime warranty, so let’s see how good they really are!). They then offered us a significant discount on the tent we had our eye on and another partnership was formed!

Hyke & Byke is a USA based outdoor gear brand that provides premium products at honest prices while working to Eliminate Poverty through Micro Loans by partnering with Kiva. Pretty awesome – check them out!

The Word Got Out

The words of Queen and David Bowie have been rattling around in my brain for weeks. You know the one – “Under Pressure.”

Our ‘Get Schooled’ kids have now heard about our project and the pressure is on. Sometimes it bears down on me so heavily that I can’t sleep. The families come to my friend in Uganda almost daily, asking, “Is there any news, Pastor?” I can’t imagine what that feels like for him. Well, I guess I can imagine it to some extent as every day, I check our website, messages, and email to see myself if there is any news, any new donors, any comments or questions that relate to our project.

I’m not gonna lie. I feel very discouraged right now. I am very thankful that we have 20 sponsored kids that get to attend school, but the lies are creeping in.

  • Only 20?  Wow, you have a long way to go. You’re not even half way after all this work and all this generosity.
  • Even if you DO get to 50, there are hundreds more who are getting nothing. What about them?
  • One year of school is not going to make a difference. It’s only going to feel like a letdown when the year is up.
  • You are going to fail. You are going to fail. You are going to fail.

Not to sound overly dramatic, but the words of this song really resonate with me. I have seen “what [their] world is about” and hear my African friends screaming, “Let me out!” and I don’t have the tools to bust down the door. I’ll be working away on my own stuff and get a text from a friend who is taking in a seven-year-old girl who was raped and needs medical treatment (what?!), or someone whose house was just destroyed in a storm and they have nowhere to go, or another yet who has had his entire food crop stolen in the night and now cannot feed his family. I know I have no way of understanding the magnitude of what my friends are truly going through and I certainly cannot financially support all of them because the needs are endless. Simply endless….. But I do see them. Their circumstances pierce my heart and I’m wrecked.

So, what do I do? I can try turning “away from it all like a blindman” but even Freddie Mercury and David Bowie know that sitting on a fence “don’t work.” I can offer something (albeit tiny) in the face of the suffering. Please understand my heart here – I am not trying to promote myself or make myself look good for any of this. I just need to process this aloud as I have felt so much support so far from many of you. And I know there are things in your own lives that are overwhelming and putting all kinds of pressure on you. It’s just part of being human and caring for each other. And I want to thank all of you who are daily living out Freddie’s challenge:  “Love dares [us] to care about the people on the edge of the night and love dares [us] to change [our] way of caring about [ourselves].

This is our last dance.

This is ourselves.

Under pressure.

Under pressure

Pressure.”

Sponsor: NRG Enterprises

I first met Sean Cameron, NRG’s Marketing guru, in the dead of winter when he bought John’s used trainer through a Facebook post. We got to talking about bikes and I gushed about Wednesday and how much John and I love our Surly bikes.  I told him of our trip plans and my hopes to get Surly’s attention for potential sponsorship. He got a big smile on his face and happily told me that he IS the Surly rep in Canada and that if I applied for sponsorship, the application would land right on his desk.  He and his team at NRG are a group of talented mountain bikers and business savvy locals who love what they do. They were gracious enough to hook us up with the pieces of gear, bags and racks we still needed to complete our kits and even threw in a free set of 29″ rims for Wednesday so that John and I could ride the same size tires in Uganda. Thanks, NRG, for being so generous, supportive and knowledgable!

From their website:  NRG is a company of bike fanatics dedicated to providing innovative and quality products, with the best possible customer service, to the Canadian cycling industry – since 1989.  As addicted to the mountains as they are to getting the job done right. NRG is located in an old brewery building in Nelson BC and their staff enjoys the outdoor lifestyle easily accessed from the wonderful mountain town.