Stories of Impact Blog

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! 
-1 Chronicles 16:8

The Old Man And The See Train

The Old Man And The See Train

In March 2023, Ends of the Earth Cycling held its twelfth annual Key West Bike Ride for the youth of Southeast Asia. Thirty-four cyclists and nineteen volunteer support staff journeyed from Fort Myers to Key West together. While the total is not in at the time of publication, more than $50,000 has been raised for the promotion and resourcing of youth ministry in Southeast Asia. Rick Willis learned about Ends of the Earth Cycling at RAGBRAI in 2019 and made this his first tour with us. This is his story.

The smooth, paved road has turned to cobblestone. I bounce up and down on my bicycle as I ride slowly down this street, listening to the crashing waves on the beach just over the hedge. I have ended up here after 140 miles of pedaling along Highway 1 over the past three days. I have ridden from Homestead, Florida to Mile 0 and the southernmost point in the continental United States, both in Key West. I’m not alone. My team of seven are with me. I look to my side and see a sign saying we are passing the Ernest Hemingway home. As a young boy many years ago, I read his famous book The Old Man and the Sea. Now, at 70 years of age, I’m the oldest of our riding team, which includes my wife, Rexanne, our leader, Sean, and fellow riders, Matt, Justin, Tim, and Heather, along with our support guy, Matt. We have been named the “See Train” because we are the slowest of the four riding teams on this tour. We get to see things. Thus the play on words in my title. I am the old man, and we are the See Train.

The See Train Rounds the Final Corner

This is not a “fun” ride, per say, although I’ll admit we had plenty of fun. We ride to raise money for a really good cause; this time it was for kids in southeast Asia who are being rescued from human trafficking. The event is organized by Ends of the Earth Cycling in Ft Myers, Florida, and the agency we are helping is called In Better Hands. They provide safe houses for the rescued young people with resources to change the trajectory of their lives. We are reminded of this regularly before and during our cycling trip.

My wife and I have been super impressed with the Ends of the Earth team that run these tours. They do several of these each year. This one was actually a five-day ride starting in Ft Myers with a three-day option. We just did the last three days, which took us all the way across the “keys” off the southern tip of Florida.

The See Train at the Southernmost Point, Key West

Yes, there is Key Lime Pie. Yes, we ride across large bodies of water (including a 7-mile bridge), and it is beautiful. Yes, the camaraderie with fellow riders is great. Yes, there are cars and trucks whizzing by just inches away as you ride on the shoulder of the highway. Yes, we ride through rain, and we have flat tires that must be fixed (sometimes in the rain). One day on this ride, two cyclists ended up in the hospital due to an accident when a vine beside the road “tripped” the first rider, and the second rider couldn’t stop and went headfirst over his bike. But it’s more than any of that. Each day is filled with prayer, encouragement, thoughts of the mission we support, fellowship, and each evening ends with a worship service in the church where we spend the night. Participants provide testimonies, we sing, and a speaker provides a biblical message. The night of the cycling accident, one of the riders gave testimony of how he had a chance to witness to the hospital staff!

Feeding the Tarpon at Robbie’s

As a member of the See Train, yes, we see things; we see amazing scenes of water and wildlife. For example, feeding the tarpon on the second of our three days was a chance to see one of God’s creations. But we see much more than that. God created humans to love him and serve him, and that is evident with those who take part. We “see” God’s people working together, people from various church backgrounds, from various places all over the US and beyond, but united in the cause for which we ride. One rider said it reminded him of the Christians mentioned in Acts 2, where “the believers were together and had everything in common,” and they “gave to anyone who had need.” The Bible also says they “ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God.” All of this is evident on this ride. And we pray the “Lord (will) add to the number daily those who are being saved.”

The See Train with Betsy the Giant Lobster

As the See Train neared our destination on the final day, coming to the final turn, we saw all the riders from the other teams waiting there with the many tourists they’d convinced to join them. They were all yelling, “Way to go See Train!” And they cheered us to the finish. One day in the future, a similar welcome will await all who call on the name of the Lord in faith as we make that final turn to heaven’s gate. “Well done good and faithful servant!” (Matt 25:23). Meanwhile, this side of heaven, we remain faithful, and we serve. And this old man, including the rest of the See Train, will continue to pray for the kids being rescued from human trafficking in southeast Asia. Who would have thought the scripture written on the back of our ride jerseys would have part of my favorite biblical verse, John 16:33: “Take heart; I have overcome the world!” Well done, Ends of the Earth Cycling!

Scenes From The 2023 Key West Bike Ride

The Lord used you and the 2023 Key West Bike Ride to help make these stories of impact possible!

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