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News & Stories: 2007-08

Students Will Cycle "Sea to Sea" March 3, 2008

Three Calvin students will spend this summer cycling across the United States to raise money for and awareness about eradicating poverty.

Lisa Brouwer and Jess FoxThe three, Lisa Brouwer, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native in her first year at Calvin, Jess Fox, 20, a junior from Fremont, Mich., and Eric Stehouwer, 21, a junior from Kalamazoo, Mich., will be riding in the annual Sea to Sea bike tour sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).

“As college students, we hear a lot about brokenness, poverty and strife—and what can I do about it?” Fox asked. “This is one thing I can do; I can bike.”

The Sea to Sea tour, which will consume nine weeks of the students’ time from June 30 to August 30, 2008, begins in Seattle and takes the riders through Kennewick, Washington; Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Fremont, Nebraska; Madison, Wisconsin; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and St. Catherines, Ontario; winding up in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The cyclists will connect with various Christian Reformed churches along the route. Each rider must raise $10, 000 to ride on the tour as well as providing his or her own cycling gear, airfare and other expenses.

The tour is a collaboration of the CRC and its partners in poverty awareness and eradication: the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Christian Reformed World Missions and Partners Worldwide. Each of these agencies will receive 25 percent of the proceeds of the tour, and the remainder will go into a fund, from which the CRC will give grants to churches and para-church ministries that work with the poor.

“It’s the largest-known cross-continental bike tour anywhere,” said Brouwer, 18, a chemistry major. “Both my parents biked across the country when they were my age, and I’ve always wanted to do it.”

Brouwer shared her cycling dream with Fox when they worked together as counselors at Camp Roger this past summer, and the two made plans to ride Sea to Sea together. (Brouwer’s father will also make the trip.)

“It’s very intimidating,” said Fox of the projected ride, which will take almost 200 cyclists all or a substantial part of the 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) over every conceivable terrain.

Eric and Mark StehouwerStehouwer, who will ride Sea to Sea with his brother Mark, is also a bit daunted, though excited about the prospect of such a long trip: “I enjoy riding quite a bit, though I have not ever done this size of a thing,” he said. “I’ll really have to learn how to train.”

All three are taking the physical preparation for the trip, which the riders will accomplish in 68 mile segments, very seriously. “We try to get to the gym to do something every day,” said Brouwer of herself and Fox. “It’s not just the physical training. It’s the emotional training, thinking about how we’re going to get through the mountains and keep going.”

“And we’ll be taking breaks,” said Fox, “Jumping into cow ponds and things like that.”

It’s not simply the physical challenge of Sea to Sea that is driving the students, they said.

“We just want to see the country for what it is—the little towns that people don’t think are interesting,” said Brouwer.

“People in small towns are much nicer to bikers,” added Fox, who last year cycled the Australian coast on a Calvin January Interim class. “It’s like they’re blown away that you’re in a little, out-of-the-way area, and you’re on a bike. It’s a great way to start conversations, and those are openings to sharing our faith.”

Stehouwer is hoping to get to know his fellow cyclists. “I’m definitely looking forward meeting the people who are riding, hearing the stories about their life. As a college student, you’ve always trying to learn from other people,” he said. “And it will be good to ride with my brother. He’s going into his freshman year at Calvin next year, and I’ll be a senior.”

The trip presents a few drawbacks, admitted Fox: “We’re losing our summer at camp. We’re spending our summer on the road. We’re not making any income. But we hope that the benefits will outweigh the negatives. And, no pun intended, it is letting the rubber hit the road with our Christianity—and hopefully it won’t just be a summer-long thing.”  

Brouwer agreed: “I probably wouldn’t be riding the trip if I wasn’t fulfilling my dreams and helping others at the same time.”
~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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