Our total is inching closer to $19,000 as I write this and I am amazed at all those who have given and supported us.
The last day is the most difficult…no doubt. And I will get to that. On Saturday night, our team was visited by Tuskegee Mayor, Johnny Ford, who came to express his appreciation. After taking a picture with the group, he made us all honorary citizens of Tuskegee. After sharing in a meal provided by Country’s BBQ in Auburn, we walked over to Tuskegee Methodist and took a tour of the church.
Saturday was a community work day in conjunction with the ride. We had two different student groups working. One continued serving at Ms. Maddox’s home painting two rooms and the other team built more bunk beds used for our bunk rooms this summer. We also had a group laying new tile in the kitchen. All in all, a productive day.
Sunday came…last day. We were all sore, tired, ready to go and honestly ready to be done. What was encouraging was the donations steadily coming in making our time climbing hills, blazing sun, and being in the saddle, worthwhile.
Something really providential and crazy happened when we arrived at a small gas station in Seale, Alabama. We met a woman washing her clothes who told us about her friend who needed to have her home repaired in order to get her kids back from Department of Human Resources. I felt a sting of pain as she recounted these details. Just a few days prior to our ride, I realized I spoken to this woman and remembered feeling saddened by her story and situation. The area where she lives is well out of range of our volunteer teams. Although I tried to connect her with some other potential ways to help, it was with deep sadness and regret that I told her that ARM would not be able to help. While recalling this story with this woman’s friend who was keeping three of her friend’s kids, she told me the oldest son was inside drying clothes. He had big dreams as he was scheduled to attend basic training this upcoming June. I spoke to him for a few minutes hoping to offer encouragement. While walking outside of the laundry mat I was introduced to his mother who had just driven up. Again, I was overcome with remorse but now not on the phone but in person. We listened to parts of her story. Several of our cycling team then gathered around, grasped hands and surrounded her, her son, and her friend so that we could pray. It was the only thing I knew how to do.
Most of the time I get to share the success stories. This one reminds me ever so painfully that we cannot get to everyone and that not every community is aware of the needs around them and the importance of sustainable and affordable housing. We need more groups like ARM engaging their communities and creating opportunities to help. We need more followers and believers out LOOKING for where there is pain, hurt, and where people feel lost in order to connect them into the larger faith family.
So after the sober realities, we were off on our journey again. For me, a little bit more meaning and intentionality. It was a great feeling to reach the GA/AL state line and know we were 2/3 of the way finished. We had a great rest stop with our friends at Trinity UMC Phenix City, Steve and Olivia, and then began our final journey. I tell you, it was no cake walk. Every incline burned trying to climb, one pedal crank after another. The big hope was that we would soon be finished. And we did…the miles and time clicked by. The last main hill on Wrights’ Mill Road the beginning of the end! The reception at Auburn UMC was epic. With loud cheers, hoots, and hollers; claps, whistles, and shouts-we entered into the parking lot with family and friends welcoming us home. Spectacular and heartwarming to see so many out there. 3 Days, 3 States, 300 miles…finished!
Another COS in the books and as Keith Foster announced, “the best one yet”.
What a journey. Being finished is a relief. Thank you for your love and help as we link arm’s together to extend the love of Christ and eliminate substandard housing in Alabama!
Grace and peace,