by Beth Knapinski, 2021 missionary (rider on Northern Route)
Every July, dozens of young people take to the roads, biking hundreds of miles over the course of a week for the life-affirming cause and mission of Biking for Babies. While that national ride week – the physical accomplishment – often leads the headlines and is the climactic moment of Biking for Babies for many from an outside perspective, it is only possible because of the hearts and souls of those who participate.
Long before missionaries pound the pavement for 600-plus miles during the Biking for Babies national ride, they’re striving in ways much greater – in ways that make something like the national ride possible. It is not merely a matter of what they do, but a matter of who they are.
The Biking for Babies journey is one of self-sacrifice and sanctification. It is a journey that begins internally with pure intentions, genuine desire, docility to the Holy Spirit, and an abundant, life-giving yes to God. It is a journey of saying “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to a mission one is called to. It is a journey of ridding oneself of vices and growing in virtue, becoming more fully alive. It is a journey of growing in humility – of letting oneself realize this journey is not something one can do alone. It is a journey of looking outside of oneself to others and serving them well. It is a journey of willing the good of others – loving others well. It is a journey of becoming an instrument of goodness and Truth in this world, for a cause, and for individuals – most of whom one will never meet.
It was because of those things – that internal journey happening far before national ride week even comes along – that Biking for Babies is not only possible but is truly a journey of joy.
Joy amid pain. Joy amid suffering. Joy amid exhaustion. Joy amid frustration. Joy amid the Cross.
Mostly strangers prior to the national ride week (aside from group formation video calls,) missionaries join up in community with other riders and support crew missionaries who have also been striving, sacrificing, showing up with pure intentions and open hearts, and following the call to the shared Biking for Babies mission – the mission of renewing a culture of life in the United States – long before national ride week.
When joining together, there is power in the presence and that purity of intention in shared mission and internal sanctification that makes (what some perceive as) a long week, unknown elements, pain and suffering, and challenging rides so profoundly beautiful and joyful. It is only possible because of the true internal growth of every missionary’s own heart, mind, and soul – all coming together in that same spirit in shared mission.
That manifested itself many ways on the national ride. Sometimes it meant sharing of water, a knee brace, sunscreen, and other tangible items to ease the burden of others and serve others’ needs. Sometimes it meant offering another encouraging word or prayer for a fellow missionary. Sometimes it meant extending patience and grace amid moments of frustration, breaking out in joyful song in moments of doubt, or pulling the group so others could draft when exhaustion crept in. Mostly though, it was simply there – unspoken and simply present – because of the internal work and sanctification missionaries say “yes” to long before ride week and will continue to the rest of their lives. Everyone pedaling – literally and figurately – in the same direction, with the same renewed spirits, with the same wide smiles, and for the same mission made it a journey of joy.
It is that same spirit and joy that not only makes the national ride what it is but that makes such a grand goal of renewing a culture of life in the United States possible. When thinking of renewing a culture of life, it must first be acknowledged that we cannot truly reform the world, or a culture gone astray, unless we are internally reformed as well.
We can speak Truth when we have come to know Truth. We can lead others to bear burdens well when we too have bore our burdens well, or are striving to do so. We can love others unconditionally when we too have experienced unconditional love. We can speak of the dignity, worth, and value of others’ lives when we truly understand the dignity, worth, and value of our own life. We can radiate joy when we know joy in the depths of our beings.
Our culture changes when we change, and Biking for Babies shows the world that that is possible because of the hearts, minds, and souls of those who have taken that journey and will continue in the spirit of that journey the rest of their lives.