Today was hard. We aimed to complete 100 miles, but only managed 80. The start of the day had many punctures and two crashes, which overall added over 4 hours onto our day. This meant that we were still cycling when the sun set, so we were cycling in the dark. What’s more, we accidentally found ourselves on an Autobahn (motorway) near Frankfurt…in the dark! At this point we decided it was too dangerous to continue, as all it would take was one crash and someone would be seriously hurt. The problem was that cars were thinking that there was only one bike in front of them, and so left enough time to pass one bike.

The cycle along the Rhine was stunning. I really want to go back one day. My German’s improving too. I’m much more confident about speaking to people now.

Tonight we arrived in Aschaffenburg at 1am. It’s twinned with Perth, so we’re all wearing our official cycle tops when leaving tomorrow. Today was meant to be a 50-mile rest day, but we have 50 miles to catch up that we haven’t had time for, so we’re going for 100 miles again.

Pray for energy and patience. This is very mentally exhausting. Also pray for no mechanical issues. Because of wrong turns, we’ve often ended up on gravel roads. These are ruining our road bikes and punctures take up a lot of time. I’m finding myself praying protection over our bikes all day.

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Day 3 – Aachen to Koblenz

Posted: August 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Sorry for not posting an update last night. We were so late in getting to Aachen that we had our dinner at midnight. So writing an update wasn’t even on my radar. As I write this, we’re stuck behind a wide-load truck navigating its way along roadworks that it may or may not fit within.. It’s after midnight, and our leaving time for tomorrow’s cycle is getting nearer. Therefore I can’t write a fuller update.

Today we set off after our support driver blessing each of the bikes. Five hundred metres into our cycle, and we had a puncture! Classic comedy! Other highlights include another fall, a youthworker doing the 90 miles despite only having done 30 miles in total in training, and overtaking a scooter on the banks of the River Rhine!

For me personally, I’m amazed that it is only now, after 248 miles over 28 hours, that my legs are getting tight. My hands are now bruised from having my upperbody-weight on them for all those hours, and there are distinct bruises in the most-laden places. Strangely, my left big toe is partially numb. This baffles me, but I’m sure there’s a logical reason for it. These pains are just annoying at the moment, but I’m aware that there are several-hundred miles to go. As for my bike, I’m increasingly convinced that God is protecting it from damage. At times it’s gone over gravel and stones, and I have slick road tyres on, so it shouldn’t be able to survive that kind of terrain. If you’re familiar with “Top Gear”, they sometimes comment about their cheap cars completing challenges that should be impossible for them. This is what this feels like. My bike is the cheapest, it does not have puncture-resistant tyres, only the pedals have been upgraded since I bought it. It should not be able to travel 700 miles in 8 days. But it’s yet to break in any way I thought I had a puncture today, but it turned out to be a leaf stuck in the brake callipers that was making a noise like a puncture. I was so relieved!

And so we leave Koblenz tomorrow and do our longest day in travelling to Aschaffenburg – which is twinned with Perth. Our expected route is 130 miles long. But, as far as we can tell, it’s a trafficless cycle path along the Rhine for the entire journey. This should make it achievable, as there aren’t any junctions to stop at – even cycle lanes on roads have traffic lights here!

Overall, the trip is good. Hard work, tiring, and it’s demoralising when you arrive at the destination hours after you’d planned to. But we are achieving it goal with little sleep. We’ve averaged about 5 hours of sleep each night so far. This is easily the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced, both physically but also spiritually. My patience, love, and servant heart are all being trialled this week. But God is working. And that is what I’m here for.

Cycle To Prague: Day 1

Posted: July 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

Day’s distance: 68 miles

Today began with a 5am wake-up call so we could get to the Channel Tunnel on time. We then drove from Calais to Dunkirk, where we changed into our cycling gear, unloaded the bikes, and began our journey at around 11am. After 10 years, I finally found a use for my Standard Grade French, when I was required to ask, “Ou est la piscine?”

We had a few teething problems in terms of riding in a group. In the first 15 miles (remember we were aiming for 109) there was our first crash (and first injury), first puncture, and the first time our support vehicle got lost! After these mishaps, however, we soon gelled, stopped crashing into each other, and were communicating the road ahead effectively.

Despite a tiny sign showing us that we were crossing the border into Belgium, I found it really interesting seeing Belgium’s several official languages change and gradually become closer and closer to Dutch and German. We stopped for lunch in Bruges (at 4pm!) and found a great café with a waitress who spoke English and a spaghetti bolognese “snack” portion that was larger than my own portions at home! In Bruges (reference intended), we cycled through the main square and many people watched and took photos as we cycled with our matching “Cycle To Prague 2013” cycle tops! This was definitely my highlight of the day. You should visit Bruges. It’s stunning. And the chips are good!

I have to finish with a confession. We had to stop cycling in Gent, not Brussels – about 40 miles short. Because we arrived in Dunkirk late and had the mishaps at the beginning of our journey, we were set to arrive in Brussels at 11pm. So we packed the trailer and drove to Brussels. There are two reasons: We don’t want to cycle in the dark and we only got 3 hours sleep last night and don’t want to knacker ourselves on Day 1. But we have 7 days left of cycling, so we’ll add on the 40 miles throughout the week and will make up the missed miles that way. We said we’d do 700 miles of cycling, and we plan to keep our word.

Tomorrow we’ll be travelling from Brussels and leaving Belgium. We cycle through the Netherlands for about 30 minutes and at the end of the day will enter Germany – where we will finally be able to speak the local language!

Perth2PragueMost of my readers will be aware that I’m about to embark on a huge, and challenging journey.  In two days I’ll be leaving Perth to cycle from Dunkirk, France to Prague, Czech Republic.  It totals to around 700 miles (1120km) and we’ll be doing it in 8 days.  We’re doing it to raise money for Perth YMCA, and hopefully employ two young people for 6 months through it.  The map above shows our approximate route.  I’ll be using my phone’s GPS to track my travels, so I’ll publish an official route when I can.  The lettered places are where we’re staying overnight.  Starting at A as Dunkirk: Brussels, Aachen, Koblenz, Aschaffenburg, Wurzburg, Munchberg, Rakovnik, Prague.

Today I finished my cycling shopping list, which involved buying energy drink powder, recovery drinks, and that enigmatic cycling option: chamois cream – which is lovingly known round the office as “bum cream”.  I also collected my bike from Richard’s in Perth.  I’m glad I took it for a check-up, as they found the bottom bracket to need replacing!  So it’s good I found this out now, rather than in the middle of Germany!  The bottom bracket is where the pedals join with the frame.  They’re very crucial for the bike to work properly.

Having spent the last month quietly apprehensive about the trip, I’m now very excited to be going.  There were times where I didn’t think we’d manage it.  We initially struggled for corporate sponsorship, a lack of which would’ve rendered the trip unaffordable.  Thankfully Stagecoach gave a very generous donation, as did Care Dental in Crieff.  Part of their sponsorship is their logo on our cycling jerseys, which you can see below:

But now I’m excited and I’m ready.  I doubt any of us are as fit as we’d like to be, but we’re definitely a team.  I can’t remember who said it, but there’s a saying that “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”.  Let’s do it.

Cycling Perth to Prague

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

ImageEvery five years there is a YMCA Europe festival in Prague, Czech Republic.  This time, Perth YMCA has decided to cycle to the venue.  The journey is over 700 miles and will be over 8 days!  This is a huge challenge for us all, and will involve young people, staff, management, and even a board member!

The money raised isn’t just to cover costs, it will contribute towards TWO young people gaining a job with us for 6 months!

I’m accepting sponsorship/donations at the moment, with rewards if you give a certain amount!  You can find my donation page here.

Please give what you can to what I believe is a worthwhile cause!

Thank you!

On Loving Ridiculously

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

z227056925If you are following God52 (and if you’re not, you really should!), then you’ll know that this week’s challenge is to Extravagantly, lavishly, outrageously love one person.

I’ll be honest, compared to the previous six challenges, this one seems too easy.  I mean, compared with praying for a stranger, this is a piece of cake for me!  So where’s the challenge?

I think the challenge lies in who you choose to extravagantly, lavishly, outrageously love this week.  I was reminded of Matthew 5:43-48:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Perhaps the challenge lies in extravagantly, lavishly, outrageously loving someone who won’t love you back.  Perhaps that person at work who really annoys you, perhaps your teenager who ignores you, perhaps that one person you fell out with years ago and find it hard to forgive?

Don’t get me wrong, it wouldn’t be wrong to extravagantly love your partner or spouse.  In fact I’d encourage it!  But if you were to extravagantly, lavishly, outrageously love your “enemy” for seven continuous days, what would happen?  Would they still be your “enemy”?

If you are reading this and you’ve just discovered God52, then you can find more information about it here.  This is Week 5, where the challenge is to pray for someone who isn’t a Christian.  If you are new, then don’t feel guilty about missing the first four weeks.  Just start today with this challenge.  This’ll save you having to catch-up, which would involve you praying for 3 hours about an anonymous act of radical generosity (whilst fasting) with someone who isn’t a Christian.  If you do decide to do this über-challenge this week, let us know how it goes!

When I first read this challenge, my thoughts were immediately directed towards the young people I work with.  To explain my context, I’m a Christian youthworker who works for a Christian organisation.  However, we don’t preach at our young people.  We work to serve them with whatever their needs are, with an aim to make them more employable.  Despite our lack of organised preaching, we find ourselves talking to them about Jesus a lot of the time.  They’d never go near a church; but they’re really interested in this ‘Jesus guy’.  I hope I don’t sound proud when I say that it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

So when thinking about praying for people who aren’t Christians, I think of them.  And with me being a relatively-inexperienced youthworker, I struggle with this question: Is it right for a youthworker to pray for young people who wouldn’t expect, never mind ask for, prayer?

The Christian in me says, Why is that even a real question?  It’s a no-brainer!  Everyone needs prayer!  Go for it!  Pray for EVERYONE: men, women, teenagers, children, dogs, cats, hamsters, cactus plants!  If it’s got a pulse, it needs prayer!  OK, I took that a bit far, but you get my point!

On the other hand, the youthworker in me says, Is it appropriate to pray for young people in your care?  Does it blur or even violate boundaries?  Am I risking my relationship with this young person by initiating my own agenda when they haven’t asked to be prayed for?

The Christian youthworker in me takes these two, mushes them together and creates a pulp that says, Why does the prayer have to be such a big deal that it’s seen as risky?  Prayer doesn’t have to be filled with long words and tiring clichés.  Why can’t the prayer just be really simple?

The answer is of course it can.  I’m a big believer in simple prayer being as powerful as complicated prayer.  If it wasn’t, then the prayers of children, young people, new believers, and the majority of Jesus’ ministry were barely effective at all – and I’m not convinced this is true.

If you’re anxious about praying for the person God gives you an opportunity with, then try this: Dear God.  Thank you that you are in charge.  Please help ____ with [insert situation].  Amen.

Nothing weird, nothing scary, but just as powerful.  If the situation works out well, then they might see the link and attribute it to God’s intervention.  It might even change their life forever.  Now that’s worth a little step of faith to ask, Can I pray for you?

Aside  —  Posted: January 29, 2013 in Uncategorized