We left Colby pretty late. It was after 9am, but it was worth spending more time with the family. In hindsight, all our stops so far have been a little rushed. That's a part of the reason that about that time I decided to suggest to Tom that we shorten our average daily mileage from 80 to 60 miles per day. That way, we should have more time in each community (to visit, to be in scripture, etc.), more time for planning and reflecting, and we wouldn't be as exhausted when we arrived.
Our day went pretty fast. I remember we stopped by Don and Vera's farm and took some pictures (of a farm that was most likely the one next to theirs) and pushed on fairly easily to Hoxie. We grabbed lunch at a gas station and rested. We found out from a local (and from Wynn's husband Ray) that the biggest drop in elevation in Kansas is to be found between Colby and Hill City (maybe it was between Hoxie and Hill City in particular). That meant we'd end up going down in elevation about 300 feet or so, but there were still a fair share of inclines on the way to Hill City.
The scenery started to change. We started seeing less crops and more pasture. Cows are apparently very inquisitive creatures. They all stop what they are doing and intently watch Tom and me ride by. I also saw more trees, which may in turn have a correlation with the number of carcasses we saw (if you see those in advance you hold your breath, trust me). We also started seeing some neat rock formations (limestone).
We had a southern wind that day and we were riding east. That said, not having a headwind was just about as good as having a tailwind. It was just after 5pm when we arrived. We weren't expecting a place to stay for the night (I hadn't been able to connect with anyone), but I did not give up on hope that God would do something to take care of our need for shelter (besides us setting up our tent). So, Tom and I stopped at the first church we saw (the Catholic church) and I went inside to talk with whoever I could find. The father I had talked to the day before came out and asserted once again that he didn't think he could help us. He said we could come back during mass at 6pm and ask some ushers for help. Tom and I decided not to wait and headed to a gas station to buy some food for supper.
I was still not resigned to sleeping in the tent and waited almost expectantly for God to perform a miracle. And He did. While Tom was in the store, a man walking to his car asked me where I was going and how I could afford it. I explained our situation and... nope, no miracle there. Tom returned and as we were getting our bags ready to go a boy on a bicycle rode up to us. His name is Gage and he asked us where we were heading. Sometime during our conversation we learned that he attends the First Assembly of God Church. That was interesting. I had tried to contact that church the week before with no luck. Dean (our host in Cope) also gave us the phone number of the pastor there, which also yielded no results. I asked the boy the name of the pastor wondering if Dean's information was somehow incorrect but the boy said it was Stephen just as Dean told us. And some way or another, Gage offered to lead us to his pastor's house.
As it turns out, Stephen and his wife Julie had been in Kansas City all week and therefore couldn't answer their phone or check messages. They had only returned home two hours before Tom and I arrived. Gage and I explained the situation and soon enough Steve and Julie welcomed us into their home. All five of us had pizza for dinner (food never tasted as good as after any of our rides ;) ) and Steve and Julie slowly adjusted to having two strangers at their table. I personally have felt pretty at ease with being in a stranger's home each day. I'm not entirely sure why, but I feel like nothing is entirely out of the norm... it's just people.
I was impressed that Steve and Julie welcomed us despite only arriving home two hours before us. It reminded me of when John the Baptist died and Jesus went away on a boat, but a huge crowd was gathered when he reached shore. Despite being in mourning, he took compassion on them. The situation I found myself in is clearly different, but I'm glad that Julie and Steve took compassion on us strangers. By the end of the night they had extended an invitation to their church in the morning (a guest speaker from Delta, CO was in town for his 50th reunion) and they even arranged for Julie's sister-in-law to give us a ride to Plainville after church to save us the trip and give us a day of rest.
After dinner we all visited in the living room. Steve is very fascinated and interested in technology... particularly in regards to his cell phone. He was trying to work on his twitter and facebook all night. Tom and I added him as a friend and did what we could to help him address all his tasks (like getting a photo on his twitter). Everyone went to be before 11pm, but I stayed up to work on my blog. It has been a time consuming task, but a worthwhile one I hope.
When I awoke in the morning I washed my face and brushed my teeth as per ritual. I saw that Julie was reading out of her Bible aloud for herself and Steve. They read the daily segment of a one-year Bible each morning. Julie said that "scripture renews your mind" and emphasized the importance of being in the Word. As part of my mission statement and my desire to learn more about God, I should be reading scripture each day, but have not been making it a priority amidst all the other things I could be doing (namely visiting our hosts, riding my bicycle, eating, and sleeping). I could read during some of our breaks (our 10-15 minute breaks every hour or so of riding) and perhaps I should encourage Tom to join me. Now that we have decided to shorten our average daily ride, Tom and I should have some more time to pursue God in scripture after arriving in our destinations as well.
We left for Sunday school around 9am. The message of the guest speaker (Ted) was prayer warfare and spiritual warfare. One of Don and Vera's children (Carl) mentioned spiritual warfare two nights before. This is a topic I do not have much exposure to and I was curious to see what I'd learn. I'm still processing. Prayer is an important part of this journey for me because I want to learn how to pray. That is, I want my heart to match God's heart and I believe praying often is a useful, peaceful, and beautiful act.
Ted spoke with great conviction. He told us about the armor of God and protecting ourselves from the evil one. I've read about the armor of God before and I still need to digest what the Bible says in those regards. I wasn't particularly moved by this portion of the sermon. However, I noticed that Ted had a definite fire in his words to whatever end. I become wary of what is being said when I hear someone speak in this tone. During church service Ted continued by speaking about prayer. I feel as though sometimes when people talk solely about one aspect of something I lose sight of the whole. Ted started by saying "all prayer is warfare." He had the congregation repeat after him. "All prayer is warfare." I wasn't sure I agreed, so I stayed silent.
Well, that statement actually upset me a little. I was not sure how to reconcile that with Jesus's love for everyone. If I am to do everything out of love then I would have a hard time declaring war. Right? War seemed so aggressive a term to use. That's what I meant by fire earlier... strong, burning words said in a tone that you couldn't ignore.
Eventually, I decided a couple things. First, that Satan is against us, whether we realize it or not. There are temptations lurking in all our lives. And we can fight those temptations and conquer them with the help of God. Second, when we seek God in prayer, reading scripture, and fellowshipping, we are opposing Satan. That said, if you like to see it as war, I suppose you can. Maybe that gives you motivation to fight. For me, God's love is my motivation and if this is an inescapable battle I will trudge forth with love (and gratitude) in my heart for my Creator and for my neighbor, perhaps for now oblivious to the trenches and foxholes all around me. God will give me strength, prepare, and protect me when danger comes my way.
We ate dinner (that is, lunch) after church with the family and the guest pastor. I knew that Tom and I were getting a ride to Plainville, but I was expecting it during the early afternoon. We all sat in the living room for several hours and I was waiting for the word from Julie's brother, Jeff. Jeff had to leave for work and he didn't have room in his truck, so it turned out that we were going to be taken by Jeff's wife, Nancy, after the evening church service. Julie may have noticed that I was a little unhappy by the circumstances and I briefly shared my feelings of unease at having to wait. I was not so used to idle time and if I had known we were going to wait a couple extra hours I would have napped or blogged or read. Alas. Sometimes we do not have control and at the least I was happy and grateful to be with caring people, under a roof, and well-provided for.
Church service in the evening was about praying before witnessing to people in order to release Satan's hold on them. That was interesting. I think it is good to pray, but I don't believe there is a formula. There were a lot of strong opinions and beliefs preached that I haven't had exposure to and I just haven't done enough study or had enough experience to refute or accept some of what was said.
After the service, Tom and I were in a truck, speeding to Plainville at our fastest pace yet!
We rode to Hill City, Kansas on Saturday, May 23, 2009.