Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why YOU should ride with us this summer

Dear Curious Visitor,

I know what you're thinking: There are other organizations that sponsor bike rides. You could ride to raise money for all kinds of causes, or drop several grand to ride with an upscale supported tour. You could ride alone or with your buddies.

But let me tell you why last summer I chose to ride with the fully-supported Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure and why you should, too.  You'll not only raise money to help eliminate poverty housing, but also meet incredible people in the process of constructing houses with your own two hands. With the Fuller Center, you have the opportunity to strengthen your faith in humanity and your faith in Christ, for it is in His good name that we do our work. You can ride knowing you are doing something far greater than yourself, and experience the joy of giving first hand. The gratitude that will be expressed by those you help along the way is indescribable - and worth experiencing first hand.

With this ride, you can go knowing that there are local Fuller Center partners waiting for you along the way, ready to take care of you, teach you and use your energy and kindness to help a family in need.  You can ride without having to worry about where to sleep at night. And, in my own experience, you can ride with some really cool people. I don't mean to diminish other charity rides, I'm just rather fond of this one, and I'm still friends with the eight people I cycled coast-to-coast with!

For two months last summer, I rode my bicycle 3,300 miles through the deserts of California, over Colorado’s Rockies, past the flat farmland and cow pens of Kansas and through the buggy swamps of the deep south. I raised $5,000 to help The Fuller Center for Housing build simple, decent houses around the U.S. for impoverished families. I worked on six different Fuller Center homes. I met people who define human strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. I made friends, connected with the land, saw the country and grew as a person.

I recommend this trip in all earnestness, because it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. To illustrate that, I'd like to share my favorite experience from last year. Please read it, think about how you can help and then head over to to learn more:

On the bike trip, we passed through Shreveport, Louisiana. There is an area in that city called Allendale where it once took a village to raise a child, but where in recent years the drug dealers and alcoholics have taken over. It was in 2005, when the Fuller Center for Housing arrived for its first major project, that Allendale began its community-wide revival.

But before dozens of shotgun houses were torn down, before the Fuller Center built 33 new homes (and counting) - most on Allen Road - and before the last pair of tennis shoes was ceremonially cut down from the power lines, there was Rosie and her hope garden.

Rosie Chaffold is probably in her late 60s (she wouldn’t say) and had lived in Allendale for over 50 years. A few years ago, on an abandoned lot near her home, she began to clean, dig and plant. She created a hope garden of peace and love to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers.

Initially, the drug dealers tormented Rosie because the house next door was their local headquarters. They hurled crude insults, shot out the front window of her home and even burned down her garage - a common tactic used by drug dealers trying to run locals out of the neighborhood.

Rosie shrugs these things off now. Her determination was unfailing and she was clearly unimpressed by the dealer’s attempts to scare her.

“I know they never intended to kill me, just scare me,” says Rosie.

Today the garden flourishes, protected from local riff-raff by many of the same men who once tried to run her off. She says that you cannot change a community from the outside, only by affecting the individuals within the community. Rosie thinks the neighborhood is slowly coming back. Although it won’t be fully rejuvenated by the time she passes, she possesses a contagious hope that has spread to many who remember when growing up in Allendale was filled more with joy than gunfire.

When the team first arrived in Allendale, the privileged, white suburban kid in me was terrified. The church we stayed at was surrounded by barbed wire-topped fences. We had to chain our bikes to our bunk beds and store our valuables in the Fuller Center office. Across the street was a liquor store where shady looking people hung around at all hours of the day and night.

As we rolled out the next morning, clad in orange and cheerful as always, I caught a whiff of the sense of community being restored to Allendale. Every time we pedaled past several characters of dubious appearance hanging around the street, Tony and I said “Good morning." Their hardened faces fell into a smile and, somewhat unexpectedly, they responded in kind.

And that’s how you build community - one person at a time.

Katherine Stump, FCBA cyclist 2008