Sunday, June 7, 2009

Warrensburg, Missouri (part 2: The Start of My Discouragement by the Church)

God reminded me not to worry in Manhattan and then Wamego, Kansas about where I was staying the night. He would provide and he has never failed. That said, I did not have to seek much help in Kansas for my reassurance that we would be provided for. Typically, within two or three calls someone offered help. In Missouri, that all changed.

As of our first day of riding in Missouri, we had no places to stay for our entire trip in the state. This is because once again all our riding, followed by spending uninterrupted time in community, and then reading and writing occupied much more time than was required to make phone calls far in advance. That, and I am sole phone call maker. It is time consuming, but sorta necessary. Tom and I stopped before lunch and started making calls. I left messages when no one picked up. We had only written two phone numbers to try (because that was all that was needed in Kansas), but decided I better do a quick google search on my phone for more to call. I don't remember if I was able to reach anyone at that time, but I resolved to try again later.

Tom got his first flat of the trip shortly after a break in Pittsville. I was cruising and lost sight of him around a bend. When I get going I typically don't like to stop because I don't want to lose my groove. But after the hill I was climbing levelled off, I stopped. No Tom. I waited a couple minutes. Still no Tom. I turned my bike around and started walking the other direction. Soon enough I saw him riding up the hill. He had to stop to refill his flat tire by hand pump. We were cautious the rest of the way to Warrensburg, but the tire held.

Not having made any arrangements on approach to Warrensburg, I thought to myself while riding that perhaps we should try to stay in Knob Noster. Maybe we weren't meant to stay in Warrensburg since every single church we called was either unable to help or unavailable to answer the call. I distinctly remember a pastor telling me that he had to leave in five minutes and couldn't help. I also remember asking him if I should try to call the secretary (because in Kansas, if I had been able to talk with someone on the phone, we had found a place to stay) and see if she could help (personally, that is). However, the pastor, in a very negative and discouraging tone replied, "I don't see how that would help." As if to say, "don't try it, we don't have the time or the desire to help you." Other churches simply didn't know how to help us. They tried to figure out what system they had in place to help requests like mine. In my mind, and according to my experience, my request did not require a system, but either a kind stranger (which certainly can be hard to find on short notice) or a church or even a lawn to set up camp. I have three theories on this matter: either I did not convey our needs well, they did not want to help, or they did not know how to help. I was certainly a little discouraged after talking with four or churches and having no leads on where to sleep and though I was unafraid (I believed I would be safe no matter what), I really would appreciate a roof again.

I heard stories of Missouri being less than friendly to Bill (from Topeka) and in my eyes that started to become true for me and Tom as well. I was starting to see Missouri as an unwelcoming, inhospitable place, where the people do not care. But, of course, I should not use my unsuccessful interactions with the people from those churches as the blanket situtation of all Missouri. It was a tempting thought. To get a little angry with them for not appearing to have the slightest care... not even offering ideas as to where we could pitch tent. So, as I said, we even tried to find a place in Knob Noster ten miles east (at least there was a State Park there where we could perhaps camp). However, finally, both of the last two churches I called in Warrensburg helped (churches number 5 and 6). The time was near 5pm. The first church gave us the number of Northside Christian Church, which is ulitmately who we connected with.

I called Northside and spoke with the secretary (Julie) who gave us permission to camp outside their church. After dinner (KFC was less than appetizing, I must say, but it filled the void in my stomach) we rode to Northside. Before we picked the spot for our tent, I decided to talk with whoever I could find to ensure someone knew we'd be there. That's when I first met Shamus and Justin. Vacation Bible School (VBS) just ended for the day and they were actually about to come out and greet us.

The good news was that Justin knew we would be there and told Shamus (just before we met). I shook Shamus' hand first and he asked if we needed anything (I left Tom with the bikes at the back of the building where we expected to camp). I said, "we should be all right" and that we had just eaten, but that was before he mentioned showers. Oh yes, a shower would be nice. It had been a hot day and I felt grungy. And before long, he had shown me the kitchen (and said we could more or less help ourselves) and the bathroom with the showers. I was in awe at the hospitality. I was expecting a lonely night... full of time to be tempted to be bitter about some of my conversations with churches earlier in the day. That would not have been good and I know it.

Praise God for rescuing me from that opportunity to be resentful. And praise God for good men like Shamus and Justin. After Shamus offered me a shower, I thought that it couldn't hurt to ask if we could sleep indoors. And he accepted without hesitation. He wanted to know, of course, what time we'd be leaving in order to warn the appropriate people that there would be strangers sleeping in one of the rooms when they arrived (we were up well before then). Justin left while Shamus was showing me the church facilities and Shamus asked once more (after Tom and I brought our things in) if we needed anything. Not that we could think of.

Before the end of the night, I had the opportunity to meet Cliff (a retired gentleman who worked for a truck manufacturing company) who was at the church to investigate a leaky toilet. I don't think he found it, but I was glad to meet him and share stories and life with him. He walked away for a while and Justin returned. There with Justin was his daughter Hannah and two white plastic bags. They had brought us fruit, granola bars, and Gatorade! Wow! It is these unexpected acts of kindness that blow me out of the water every time... When Shamus showed me the kitchen earlier, the only thing I asked about was whether they had any fruit (because that was definitely lacking in our diet that day). So, I got to visit with Justin too. His daughter was adorable (five years old, starting kindergarden and tying shoes).

Later in the evening, Cliff returned to see how we were doing and showed me where they had a washing machine and dryer. I already hand washed my shorts and shirt with the bar of soap my Mom sent me with. Starts with an N. Nepthah or something? Anyways. The dryer was useful in the morning.

I woke up at 6 or 6:30am and started getting ready. I usually get up before Tom. I take longer to pack. By 8am, we were able to say farewell to both Justin and Shamus and hit the road again. Missouri wasn't so bad after all. Well, those fellas showed me just how great some of the people there are... even though I started out with some negative experiences and corresponding negative thoughts, these guys refreshed me and restored my positivity. God blessed me through them when I least expected it and I pray God blesses them (and their church) greatly and that they may continue to live in a way pleasing in his sight.

We rode to Warrensburg, Missouri on Monday, June 1, 2009.

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