Justine and Art gave us a ride up to highway 18. We took pictures, said goodbye, and Tom and I were in the saddle once again. This day of riding was supposed to be fairly short. I thought it would be 40-ish miles, but it turned out to be 50 miles (as Art had told us, but I had hoped was wrong). I think that because I was falsely expecting a shorter day the ride seemed even longer. We were also fighting the wind in the morning, which is always tasking.
We took a lunch break in a cemetery near Beverly. I called Bennington Bible Church and spoke with Carolyn, the wonderful secretary. She took my phone number and my blog site saying she would call us back. I put on some warmer clothing because the sky was spitting and it was a little chilly. I had a long time to check out the cemetery before we were back on the road.
By our next break Carolyn had called me back and left me a phone number to reach her at. I tried the number and got ahold of her husband, Jerry. Because of the bad cell service I dropped three calls before I got her cell phone number from Jerry. Then I couldn't hold a signal long enough to talk with Carolyn. She left me a message saying that we could stay in the church (which was fantastic news!), but I wanted to touch base about any other plans for the evening, so I rushed over the next few hills trying to get cell phone service again.
Within a mile of Bennington the rain started pouring. I had my jacket readily available and I slipped it on. The rain stopped as quick as it started and we were riding north through Bennington to the church. We arrived at the church and were greeted by the pastor's daughter, Mickinzi (sorry if I spelled it wrong ;) ). She was a sweet little welcoming committee. She took us to her dad, Todd, and we were shown around the church.
The church was a very nice building considering the population of Bennington is only about 700. Their congregation is about 200 strong and something felt different there as soon as I arrived and began meeting people. Mickinzi made the sweetest welcome card I have ever seen (and it totally made my afternoon). Someone dropped in and left us a note and snacks in the kitchen before our arrival too (which I found out was orchestrated by Carolyn). I finally got to meet Carolyn later in the afternoon. She was shopping for a barbeque her daughter was throwing on the one year anniversary of a tornado that took out her dog kennel and half the dogs (that's her daughter's business). Carolyn brought us a rotisserie chicken, salad, milk, and gatorades. She opened the whole church to us. I also had the pleasure of meeting members of one of the praise bands too. They were all so friendly and I felt God's love pour out from our interactions and I saw their desire to pursue Him in scripture, prayer, and fellowship. I was in awe of this community. It was immediately clear that God is doing some really cool things in this church.
Before the end of the evening, Carolyn told me that there was a 40% chance of rain in the morning. Truth be told, I was really looking for an excuse to stay an extra day because I felt something tugging at me there. That said, I jumped at the opportunity to spend another day to get spiritually right. I felt a little off in the past couple days. I think since Plainville or Hill City.
I had started to feel a burden. That maybe Tom was not in this mission on the same level as I was... I felt like he wasn't trying to connect with God like I was. Well, Tom's a pretty quiet guy and won't really open up without me asking him questions and I hadn't gotten much out of him in regards to what he wanted from this trip. When I wrote the mission statement he agreed with all the parts, but didn't seem to have any passion to actually follow through with them. He acted very nonchalantly about the entire spiritual side of the trip. When we expounded upon the mission statement most of the additional details came from me. He expressed his consent, but I didn't feel any excitement from him. I wasn't really sure what his mission was. I was glad to have him, but I didn't feel any support. I feared his motives might be a hindrance to my mission. What if he has a mission that does not align with mine and as a result forces me to do something I'm not comfortable with. I don't know. I had asked him about why he was coming, but he had very limited responses along the lines of "it felt right." I think my discomfort finally hit a boiling point and I opened up about it to Carolyn (although, I should have talked with Tom first). Another reason for my unease is that he hadn't responded positively to my attempts in asking him about his spiritual experiences thus far (that is, he seemed to be just along for the ride). I did talk with Tom on the trip from Manhattan three days later and I was reassured that he is in it for spiritual growth too (albeit a little different from my own pursuit) and I'm not alone.
I shared my story with Carolyn. She also shared some stories and she prayed with me. Carolyn was so earnest and prayed fervently. She cared about my mission more than me right at that moment I think. I believe in part that I had grown into a sense of complacency in regards to the trip. I had accepted that I would do it long ago, but I'm not sure I really understood (and I still don't fully understand) the implications of this journey. The spiritual high I was on when God first told me to come on this journey had warn off. I had a struggle the week before leaving because I was not excited as I thought I should be. I really didn't know what to expect from the trip (would I have fantastic revelations, would this be like a Biblical story played out before my eyes, etc.). Well, I take that back. I felt under pressure that something great had to happen from this trip. My expectations were undefined, but high. In addition, I had become afraid of how my trip was developing. I had not spent any time in scripture (because we had not set aside the time. Now I have suggested to Tom that we read at every break and I think he supports that idea) and my prayer while riding has not always been easy. I feared that I was failing to fulfill my mission. Yes, I was physically riding, but there was a spiritual side of me I didn't feel was moving. I could see something special going on in the church and that comforted and encouraged me. I was surrounded by people pursuing God. That's a big reason I stayed one more day. Because the community encouraged me and my spirit needed rejuvenation.
The next morning, I woke up with the following scripture in my head: "Be still and know that I am God." For whatever reason, it was in my head and it reaffirmed my decision to stay that day. Tom and I went to bible study at 6:30am. The fellas were really nice and we had a good conversation. Pastor Todd took us out to breakfast afterwards at a local cafe. Good food. We came back to the church and I took a two hour nap. Then Tom and I went to Carolyn's house for lunch, laundry, crossword puzzles, etc. It was a very good day. After Carolyn's house we went to the church for a prayer meeting (which was honestly tough for me because I was sleepy, but I was so impressed by the hearts of the women praying). After prayer, we left for dinner. Carolyn and Pat (a lovely woman and mother of Becca, who is in the praise band from the night before) drove us to Minneapolis, Kansas for pizza.
The company we had in Bennington could not have been better! Everyone we met was fantastic and I just loved them. Carolyn has an amazing heart and she was precious. On our final day, two angels arrived and made us breakfast (Pat and her daughter Becca). The smell of bacon wafted upstairs to the high school room we were sleeping in. We said some final goodbyes, took pictures, and were off again.
We rode to Bennington, Kansas on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. We also stayed Wednesday, May 27, 2009.
-We were going to go to Junction City on Wednesday. We did not have a place set up to stay, but were considering a homeless shelter on the advice of a Catholic church. That sounded promising.
-I did not get much into scripture on Wednesday even after recognizing that was something I was being convicted of. I decided that the message of being still was also significant. I need to trust God. Calm my own thoughts of worry and confusion and keep following Him. I need to slow things down. When I wake up I need to pray and start my day in His presence. Instead of getting up and "go, go, go" right away, I should consider God, this life, and why I live.
-I talked with Tom on Friday (after Manhattan) in more depth and I was reassured that his purpose for this journey is spiritual. I was glad I asked. I am taking more initiative in fulfilling my mission because otherwise it will slip by and I won't be happy letting opportunities escape me.