Will Bike For Poverty: An Interview with David Eunchong Shin

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WHY DID YOU JOIN “SEA TO SEA” AND WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

I had a chance to visit several places in Southeast Asia on mission trips before I moved to the U.S.A. While I was helping local ministries over there with educating children and building wells, I became aware of the meaning of poverty and the need for building up the communities. When I heard that Sea to Sea was a fundraising cycling event providing job opportunities to disadvantaged people, supporting community development, and establishing economic sustainability in over 40 countries, I decided to join! It’s a cross-continental bike event hosted by World Renew and Partners Worldwide, which partners with churches and non-profits focused on freeing people from the cycle of poverty. Sea to Sea was a 4,200-mile, nine-week bike ride from Vancouver, BC, to Halifax, NS, involving 135 riders. I joined for a week riding 500 miles from Grand Rapids, MN to Sault Ste. Marie, MI. The full route stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean

THAT’S A LONG WAY! WHAT DID YOUR DAY LOOK LIKE WHILE EN ROUTE?

Every rider is up at about 5:30 a.m. each morning and packs up before a 6:30 a.m. breakfast. We usually ate oatmeal, cereal, hard-boiled eggs, and some fruit with a hot cup of coffee. It was a good start to the day. After breakfast, we said the Lord’s Prayer each morning just before leaving. As we left the camp at about 7 a.m. each morning, we traveled between 70 and 100 miles throughout the day. We took breaks at several rest stops, which provided snacks, Gatorade, and water for hydration, and a place to rest. Depending on the route length, we typically stopped four to six times per day. We arrived in camp between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. depending on the rider’s speed and conditions. Every night we finished up the day with the peloton [group of cyclists] after dinner. All riders, volunteers, and staff gathered for a peloton meeting and shared the day’s happenings, flat tire tally, and a breakdown of the next day’s route.

AN EVENT LIKE THIS TAKES A LOT OF EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL PREPARATION. HOW DID YOU GET READY FOR IT?

Of course, it was hard physically! But I wasn’t alone riding my bike, so I could achieve between 70 and 100 miles every day along with my friends. I started preparing for Sea to Sea two-and-a-half months before I joined it. I used my bike for commuting to school, going to church, or grocery shopping on a regular basis. Also, I rode on trails like the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail or the White Pine Trail for training. Since I hadn’t ridden a bike much before I decided to join Sea to Sea, I gradually extended my daily ride from 5 miles to 30 miles on an every other day basis. As I trained, I visited many beautiful places in Michigan! Comstock Park has beautiful riverside scenery along the White Pine Trail. Kal-Haven trail extends to Lake Michigan, where I could dip my feet in after 50 miles of long bike riding. Also, I could see many pretty and classical small towns through another extension of the White Pine Trail from Greenville.

WHAT WAS THE BEST AND MOST DIFFICULT PART OF “SEA TO SEA”?

I made two centuries [a bicycle ride of 100 miles or more within twelve hours] officially within a week. I heard that many riders hadn’t experienced even a single century when they trained or participated in bike riding. It will be hard to forget that great achievement! Another good memory is that we ate ice cream or dessert at a local restaurant to celebrate finishing a day almost every day. Like the old saying goes, “The fruit of success is sweet.” It was a great moment of celebrating and good motivation for the next day. The difficult part was that it was not easy riding for me. I bought a used commuting bike for $80. It was not a racing bike since it had a steel frame. Many riders told me that I would have many challenges because I brought a steel-frame bike for this long-distance riding. It was hard to keep up with other riders’ speed or conditions even though I enjoyed riding with them. I also felt like I wanted to give up many times. I felt thirsty and tired when I was riding long-distance under hot and humid summer weather. However, I didn’t give up and was able to finish the first day and the rest of the days because I had friends who encouraged me to keep going. I was constantly surrounded by people who reminded me of the purpose of cycling for Sea to Sea.

DO YOU HAVE ANY LAST THOUGHTS ON YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH “SEA TO SEA”?

There is an ancient African word, “Ubuntu,” meaning, “I am what I am because of who we all are.” If I tried to make a great achievement of riding 550 miles in a single week by myself, it might not have been possible. However, it was possible to finish since we all gathered together to achieve the same purpose of ending poverty through this cycling fundraiser. I left the Sea to Sea camp earlier than the other riders who kept riding for four more weeks, but I already felt in my heart that each of them was like my family. It was a bittersweet moment when I left the Sea to Sea camp to head back home. Participating in Sea to Sea was a precious experience which gave me unforgettable memories in my life, shaping me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I highly recommend joining Sea to Sea for anyone who wants to experience good Christian community-based growth in a different way!  ∞

David Eunchong Shin is a 2nd-year Th.M. student (Educational Ministry) from Seoul, South Korea. He hopes to build up the younger generation through youth and campus ministries.

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