Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour Across America Archive

Strangely Familiar

Posted November 28, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I wound my way from my house to the main road, turned north and headed toward the nearest town five miles away. I passed the local Walmart and, my curiosity getting the best of me, I just had to see what lay beyond the next hill. So, I pressed on.

As I approached the traffic light where two major US highways intersected, it felt strangely familiar. I could not recall having come this far north since moving to my little corner of Tennessee, and yet, it was as though I’d spent time here.

When the Golden Arches came into view on the left, I realized I HAD been here! Not only had I traveled this way on the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour, I’d stopped at that very McDonald’s! That is where I’d met Hazel, the little girl who’d been abused by her father.

My mind replayed the day I stopped there to blog and had been surrounded by the locals. It had seemed so far away from anything at the time. We sat for over two hours as I regaled them with my stories of the road, and the women God sent me to help.

Little Hazel had been waiting in the wings to meet The Bicycle Lady. She was shy, sweet and loving. It angered me that her father would harm her in that way. Her only concern was that God might be mad at her for causing her daddy to go to jail.

It was a magical moment of ministry when I told her that not only was God not mad at her, but He was angry at her father as well for harming her. It was as though the weight of the entire universe had been lifted off her little shoulders.

Of all those I met on the Road to Freedom Tour, Hazel always stood out the most. I never imagined that some two years later, the place I call home would be just up the road. Perhaps one day our paths will cross again. Maybe she will grow up to save others from the despicable acts she was forced to endure. One thing’s for sure. She entered the fast food joint that day as a shy withdrawn little girl but left a tower of strength and courage.

I believe God has moved mightily in Hazel’s life since I rode off into the great American heartland. Such a divine appointment could not have come to any other end. I’m grateful I got to meet Hazel. I’m amazed at her resilience. I’m envious of her smile.

As I drove away and the Golden Arches faded in my rearview mirror, I felt as though I’d come full circle. Somehow, and in some way, The Bicycle Lady had ministered to a little girl in rural Tennessee and today my reward is calling this amazing place home.

Hazel.

Home.

Life.

The Heartbeat of America does not beat any more loudly than this.

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Trust God…No Matter What

Posted September 18, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I’ve gotten an barrage of emails, phone calls, texts, messages from all over the country wanting to know where I am right now. No one-including me-knew where I’d be after my conference in Indianapolis.

Preparing for Departure in Greenville, SC 7-13-3So, to set the record straight, I’m homeless! Seriously! But it’s not what you think. Two months before I departed on the Road to Freedom Tour, I gave up a rented condo in Orlando, put my belongings in storage and headed to South Carolina to do some hill training. Today, my belongings (yes, all my woodcarvings I created out of pieces of wood) remain in storage. There simply wasn’t room to take them on the bike. 🙂

Today, I’m in northern Florida. I’ve had to recharge my cell phone four times today because I’ve been on an endless number of phone calls plotting and planning the next step of my journey. Before I tore my rotator cuff in my shoulder and the medial collateral ligament in my knee, I knew Road to Freedom was growing very big. I was already getting picked up by local and regional media.

I’d also talked to 1346 women in 1700 miles of pedaling. That’s almost a woman per mile average. There are too many women who must hear this message and get set free from the emotional prison to reach them all by bicycle. When I tore the ligament in my knee, I knew it was bad. Really bad. It would take weeks and probable surgery to repair it.

Interestingly, except for the two hours I spent on sitting on the side of the road dizzy from my injury and unable to stand, I’ve had not a single moment of angst regarding the injury, or the fact that I wouldn’t be mounting Dakota again for a while. I trust God. This is all part of His divine plan for me, countless women and Road to Freedom.

How do I know? I can’t list all the miraculous things God did on this trip in a single blog post. There are just too many and blog posts are way too short. Guess you’ll have to get the book when it comes out, but I would like to tell you a couple. I only recently revealed these publicly. You’ll see why in a moment.

When I knew God led me to do this, I told him I would go wherever He wanted me to go and do whatever He wanted me to do. That was my reasonable service. He, on the other hand, would have to be Jehovah Jireh, my provider. I put away credit cards, debit cards and access to assets of any kind. When I rolled out of Greenville, South Carolina on July 13th, no one but God knew that I had only twenty-two dollars and change in my pocket.

twenty-two dollars and change

I spent 60 days making my way across the country and traveled over 1700 miles. Not once did I ever ask for money or tell anyone about how much money I did (or didn’t) have. In fact, I never mentioned money to anyone. In 60 days I never ran out of money. I never missed a meal. I never lacked for any need to be met. God stirred the hearts of His children, complete strangers, to buy my lunch, or give me water.  I decided early on to trust God…no matter what.

When I injured my shoulder and my knee, I didn’t fret. I knew God was in this tour and there would be a way to continue Road to Freedom even off the bike. Turns out, I’ve done more ministry and met more women off the bike than on it. More women have received the message that God loves them and wants them to be free of the fear, shame and horror of their attack than  in the two months of riding. 

While I was sitting with my leg propped up in a recliner chair, my friend Melody offered these words that have since turned out to be rather prophetic, “If you can’t go to them, God will bring them to you.” At the time, I thought she was referring to a particular speaking engagement I had that week. Turns out, God had different plans. 

I’ve learned to trust God… no matter what. Whether I have a flat tire, a torn ligament or no clear direction, I know I can still trust God. That truth brings peace. And God is completely trustworthy. He’s proven that over and over again. So take it from a woman who rode 1700 miles by faith, you can trust God… no matter what!

Are you trusting God? When was the last time you were placed in a position when you had to trust Him? Share it here! 

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Farewell Henderson… But Never Goodbye

Posted September 12, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Helga Gish and me... new budds

Helga Gish and me… new budds

As you read this, I’m in Indianapolis for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference. While I’m so excited to see all my author friends, I must bid farewell to all my new friends in Henderson, Kentucky. It has been a joy to be with you.

From the moment I rode in on Dakota until today, I have never felt out of place for even a single moment. The people of this town embraced me like one of their own. I was immersed in the activities, culture and amazing friendships that make this town what it is. 

I could not bid farewell to this wonderful place without expressing a special debt of thanks to so many people who ministered to me in such a tangible way:

Clydean Gish and Me

Clydean Gish and me

Danny and Clydean Gish, for welcoming a total stranger into your home. Thanks for not being scared off by the weird lady in spandex and helmet hair.

Brad, Amy, Bailey and Alex Ayer, for introducing me to Danny and Clydean. And to Brad who insisted he drive to McDonald’s to give me directions to their home. I would not have stayed in Henderson had it not been for you. Look at all the blessings I would have missed out on.

To Helga Gish, for your never ending stories of the old country Germany. I visited my father’s homeland in my imagination thanks to you. May God heal you and bring you home from the hospital very soon.

Lisa, Melody, Me Debi and Clydean at lunch on the Ohio River

Lisa, Melody, Me Debi and Clydean at lunch on the Ohio River

To Rick and Melody Thompson who allowed me to recover from my injured knee on your farm. Your hospitality is humbling.

To Sue, Debi, Judy, Sally and the ladies of wounded hearts who made me feel so at home. I learned so much from you.


To Pastor Mark Galloway and the congregation of Zion Baptist Church who never treated me like a visitor. From the moment I entered, you made me your own.

To Beth in the Henderson County Library who felt sorry enough for me that she gave me a library card. You

Zion Baptist Church Inner City Campus

Zion Baptist Church Inner City Campus

made my day.

I know I’m forgetting people. It is not intentional. There were just so many blessings, I can’t keep up with them all. Please forgive me.

I pray that God will lead me back to Henderson very soon. Until then, may He multiply blessings back to you for the blessing you have been to me…. my new family… 

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When the Storm Rages

Posted September 10, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Ohio River4Yesterday I spent the day in downtown Henderson, Kentucky with a new friend I just met. Debie Michael and I made arrangements to meet and spend the day together. We only met two weeks ago and saw each other for the second time on Sunday at church.

She invited me to be part of a special church program at Zion Baptist Church as they celebrated 160 years of service to this community. We were destined to be friends. 

Debie has a very special story. She is a survivor of breast cancer, not once, but twice. She underwent chemotherapy, surgery, surgery and more surgery. She had every complication a woman could have with breast cancer… and then some.

She’s been through so much. She was sick from the chemo. She was mishandled by physicians handling her case. But that was not to be

As she made her rounds to her doctor and hospital appointments, Debi put the word out about this new support group. It would quickly be recognized in the community as a lifeline to women who were facing horrific challenges. With all the medical services in their town, there was no place women could go to get loved on, encouraged, anchored in hope and built up in faith. 

Debi didn’t face the storm that raged inside her body by cowering in the bottom of the boat. Instead, she jumped right out of the boat Coastline, Irelandinto the raging sea, kept her eyes on Jesus and was used by Him to encourage others who were faced with the same storm.

I wrote in one of my books once that, “True wisdom is forged on the anvil of suffering.” If you meet someone you know is really, truly wise, you don’t even have to ask whether they have suffered in their life. You know they have. That’s the only way you obtain that wisdom. 

After being in Debi’s presence for only a few hours on a Monday filled my spiritual change purse to overflowing. She’s gracious, yet attacks life’s challenges ferociously. Her ear is tuned to Heaven and her legs walk out what she hears. 

You can find Debi staying all night at the local Relay for Life, or sharing her faith and healing with anyone who will give her an audience. Her zest for life is only shadowed by her tenacity to keep every gift God has given her, including life.

 

Debi Michael and me

Debi Michael and me

If you passed Debi on the streets of Henderson, you’d never know she faced anything more serious in life than a hang nail. Her smile melts you into joyful bliss. Hearing her story after witnessing God’s glory radiating from her draws you into the light of His embrace. 

Debi is a mighty warrior for the Lord. She’s out there every day singing God’s praise and inviting others to enter in. She approaches each new day with courage, fervor, faith and gusto. I am in awe of what God has done in her life and what He continues to do through her. 

She teaches us that when the storm rages, get out of the boat and walk on the stormy seas of life. As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, she can do anything… even walk on water.

Thank you Debi for the privilege of spending time with you yesterday. It was truly a blessing I won’t soon forget. 

 

 

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The Heartbeat of America is Alive and Well

Posted September 9, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Help Henderson4They lined up as far as the eye could see, the sun over the stadium casting the all-telling shadow over them as they waited. Inside the stadium, volunteers unpacked boxes, set up tables, cooked food. In just moments, lives would change.

For the workers, it seems like not enough time to get things ready. For those who waited outside, the moment would not come soon enough. 

I walked slowly through the crowd with the other workers, praying for and pronouncing blessings on these citizens of Henderson, Kentucky. An elderly man saw my knee brace and said he needed one too. He raised his shorts and showed me scars from surgeries. Had mine fit his enormous leg, I would have given to him. 

Mothers with children asked that we pray that their daddies would be released from jail. They were too young to understand he’d Help Henderson T-shirtcommitted a crime. They just felt the gigantic hole it left in their hearts since daddy left. A lone child stood in the wings listening intently as we prayed for a particular family. As the team walked away, she tugged at Melody’s hand and quietly asked if she could pray for her daddy. He was in jail, too.

Those in need lined up in complete orderly fashion, patiently waiting for their turn at each booth. No pushing. No shoving. Just grateful realization that people in this town understand they have needs and are doing something about it.

Mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters walked together, hoping against hope that their lives would improve today. Wide-eyed children took balloons and candy from agency tables as moms filled out applications to receive aid and Help Henderson8other assistance. One end zone was filled with clothing, shoes, books and toys donated and manned by Goodwill Industries.

The other end held a prayer tent, filled with volunteers ready to intercede for the needs of others. Between helping with the event, I walked around observing how this town takes care of its own. Rich, poor, young, old all together in one place working together to make life better. 

As a praise band sang and prayer blasted from the stadium PA system, I knew in no uncertain terms that the heartbeat of America is alive and well. God is still on the throne in Kentucky and hearts are still tender toward Help Henderson6neighbors in need. 

I left there and went to a block party in an underprivileged neighborhood. We cooked hotdogs, hamburgers and offered fun and
fellowship to people who just don’t normally receive and outreached hand… well, except in Henderson. Kids played on inflatable obstacle courses while others looked on, eyes gleaming as they anticipated their turn. 

They were grateful. Joyful. Filled with wonder that total strangers would reach out to them where they live Block Partyand extend the right hand of fellowship. It was a good day Saturday in Western Kentucky. God is very much present on the Ohio River and the heartbeat of America is alive and well. 

There’s a lot of gold in Henderson, Kentucky. It fills the hearts of the kind people here and they can’t rest until they use that prosperity to help their fellow citizens who are in need. Thank you for reminding me how people should act.

 

 

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Things are Black and White?

Posted September 5, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Fountain in Downtown

The Fountain in Central Park

Yesterday I spent the day in the park in downtown Henderson, KY. It’s a great place to prop my leg up… and to meet the local people. It was cool and sunny. I simply could not resist.

After lunch, I moseyed back to the gazebo and met a very interesting character. Pertis Cosby (no relation to Bill, he was quick to point out) is a 73 year old man who was born and raised in that area. One of 17 children, he told story after story from his childhood.

I hung on every word.

He also gave me the historical account of growing up in Kentucky as a black man. I looked in the direction he pointed when he referred to “the white funeral home” or “the black church” in town. I could almost understand why some churches were primarily segregated.

The Ohio River

The Ohio River

It’s more of a cultural than racial thing. But dead people? Seriously?

I could not resist asking him why they had different funeral homes for different races, he replied, “Well, I’m gonna tell ya. White folks just didn’t want black folks coming to their funeral homes.”

“Why?” I just didn’t get it. After a person draws their last breath, their body is just a shell… an empty house.

Mr. Cosby took a deep breath and ventured, “well, it’s cause when a black person dies, we black folks loves to eat. And the white folks just don’t like all that food in their funeral homes.”

I sat in silence as I let it sink in, realizing that I had just assumed it was something racial. Before having the facts, I incorrectly concluded it was about black and white, something with prejudice. And all the time, it was about food. 

I looked around and didn’t see black and white. In this small town, I saw all the colors of the rainbow (at least I think I did. I’m color blind). 

Pertis was surprised when I shook his hand and called him Mr. Cosby. He said no stranger had ever shown him respect like that. He’s my elder and that was the way I was taught. I never thought twice about that. 

Ohio River4

Railroad Bridge Over the Ohio River

Many of the displays of prejudice from him and from me in our lives was not out of hatred at all. There was no malice in his going to the “black only” juke joints and I had no hatred at all towards an elderly black woman when I, at the age of five, willingly showed her the way to the “colored only” restroom.

On both sides of the color wheel, we innocently accepted things saying, “That’s just the way it is.”

I hope I enriched Mr. Cosby’s life yesterday. I know he did mine and I will be forever grateful that I learned a better, more respectful way to treat other human beings God created. Hearing his perspective of the world in the south was amazing. I’m so grateful that I got to share it and hope I see him again before I leave.

Godspeed, Mr. Cosby. 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not About the Bike

Posted August 28, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Heading Out at Sunrise

Setting out at sunrise

Since I began this Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour across America, I’ve said that it’s not about the bike. It’s about getting into the lives and hearts of the women who I come in contact with day after day whose lives are changed.

They have been liberated, healed and have gained courage to face their fear and find the freedom they were meant to enjoy. I’ve met such incredible people on this trip. It’s been amazing and I’m so grateful to God that He chose me to ride my bicycle for women who don’t have a voice.

While the Road to Freedom will not end, it appears the bicycle portion is completing its course. I injured my shoulder on day four of the tour. It’s been up and down but I’ve been nursing it back to health. While pushing my bike last week through ten miles of soft gravel, I apparently completed tearing what was only a partial tear to the rotator cuff. I received a diagnosis of a full thickness tear.

My original  plan was to ride back to Evansville, Indiana Monday, stay for a couple of days and slowly meander northeast to arrive in

Farm Road in Illinois

Farm Road in Illinois

Indianapolis on September 11th for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference. That would give it a chance to calm down and begin the healing process. Five more days there would be just what I would need to complete the rest of the tour. 

I set out on Monday morning at sunrise heading back east, careful to avoid the soft gravel road. I’d covered about 55 miles of a 70 mile ride when I tore the medial collateral  ligament in my knee. I was on the side of the road for about an hour sitting and praying. Every time I stood up, I would get dizzy and nauseous, a clear indication it was more than just a tweak. I had a serious injury.

Thankfully, I was close enough to my destination that my two new friends, Clydean and Melody, were able to come pick me up. I rode safe and sound in the comfort of a vehicle for the remainder of my journey.

As word began to spread of my injuries, I have received an incredible outpouring of well wishes, concerns about how disappointed I must be not being able to continue my ride. Although I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and support,  this recent turn of events has done nothing to deter me from my mission. The Road to Freedom is alive and well, and soon to be well traveled.

Though I can’t get on the bike right now, it’s not about the bike. Every mile I’ve ridden has been filled with challenge, ministry, hardship, fulfillment, excitement, fatigue. God has always led me to minister to others. That’s who I am. That’s who He’s called me to be.

My friend Melody said it perfectly, “well, if you can’t go to them, we’ll just have to bring them to you!” We already have ministry scheduled in her home for tonight!

 

The Ride back east to Indiana and Kentucky

The Ride back east to Indiana and Kentucky

The Lord is showing me that the Road to Freedom began on the bike, and will continue as a foundation to help women who have been the victims of violent assault and sexual abuse. That will be the direction Road to Freedom takes. What began on an bike in the vast wilderness of country roads in America will reach more people than I ever thought possible.

The bike gave birth to something that the country has hooked on to and will be used for years to come to minister to women who have suffered in silence far too long.

I will remain in the Henderson, Kentucky area until September 11th writing, planning and preparing to take Road to Freedom to a greater level. 

I will continue to blog about the experiences, adventures and truth God reveals to me through this amazing journey. I need you more than ever to help me spread the word about Road to Freedom. Though it began on two wheels, it was never about the bike, but rather about the 1 in 3 women in our country who will be violently attacked or suffer sexual abuse in their lifetime.

I will also work on the book that is coming out of this amazing adventure. I now have the time to do it!

Through your help, encouragement and prayer support,  I’ve been able to reach thousands of women, some–like Kayledean–we’ve met and shared the celebration of

Oh, that hurts!

Oh, that hurts!

triumph. Some we’ve wept with as they poured out the stories, finally having someone who would listen and understand. Others we may never meet but they are being touched nonetheless.

We have momentum and it didn’t come from the bike. It came from you helping me get the word out. And the word continues to spread. We have to keep it going. I may be shipping Dakota home but the Road to Freedom will continue to be the path I take. Please continue to take the journey with me. I’d miss you terribly if you didn’t.

Women need us. We need to bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free.

 

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Homemade Ice Cream and Surprise Blessings

Posted August 26, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

2013 Bike Tour 005I wrote this yesterday afternoon just after getting off the phone with a very good friend of mine from Florida. She and I have known each other since 1986 and we hadthe best time. Cathy is definitely a blessing.

Until the last week, I hadn’t had homemade ice cream in over forty years. In fact, the last time I had it, they had to manually crank it all out. It was a huge chore. In the last week, I’ve had it three times. Who knew they have electric models now?!

I know God has used me to bless so many people on this trip and I’m grateful for that. But I have to admit I’ve received the greatest blessings. I’ve learned so much about our great nation, about its people, about myself and about God.

Last Sunday morning, I was about to visit Zion Baptist Church in Kentucky and mentioned to my friend Danny that I missed Fish Island Store Lake Barkley, KYmy Bible. I explained that when trying to pair down weight for my trip, I’d opted for a Kindle version of the Bible. I really miss my hard copy Bible. 

Less than an hour later, I received a visitor’s goody bag that contained a paperback version of God’s Promises for Every Day. 

Another day as I was pedaling, I realized I hadn’t had Mexican food since I’d left Huntsville, Alabama. I love Mexican food but there haven’t been many opportunities for it. I also realized I really missed it. A couple of hours later, a woman passed me on the road and stopped. She knew I was the “Bicycle Lady” and had already made arrangements for me to meet a reporter for an interview.

We all met at… a Mexican Restaurant in the smallest town I’d ridden through to that point. It didn’t have a Burger King, Dairy Queen or even a chain grocery store. But it had a Mexican restaurant.  I had my fill of chips and salsa!

 

Author Suzy Parish and family at Rosie's Cantina. Pure Heaven!

Author Suzy Parish and family at Rosie’s Cantina. Pure Heaven!

God really does care about the little things in our lives. Our deep desires of the heart. He wants to bless us. Of that I’m completely convinced. If we trust Him, He will lead us, bless us, and give us homemade ice cream and Surprise Blessings.

As you read this, I’ll be making a 65 mile trek from McLeansboro, Illinois to Evansville, Indiana. Looking forward to seeing friends I made there last week and ministering to more hurting people. 

Tomorrow you’ll read about the adventure but for now, look for God to bless you with your own flavor of homemade ice cream.

How have you been blessed recently? Share it here!

 

 

 

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Super Glue, Duct Tape and Dollar Bills… Oh, and a Miracle or Two

Posted August 24, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Dakota in the Cornfield of Western KYI spend most of yesterday going over my bike to assess damage from my ten mile ride through soft gravel. The bike itself was amazing. My tires, on the other hand, didn’t particularly care for the road at all.

I had two flat tires. As I took one  off to patch it, I noticed the tread is separating from the rest of the tire. That didn’t look good at all. Especially since there are very few bicycle shops withing a 50 mile radius of where I am at present.

But, my new friend took me 25 miles to a bike shop. I knew I was in trouble when I asked if they had any tires in my size. They replied that tires weren’t made in my size. Hmmm… I must be having a bicycle tire hallucination.

But, it is an uncommon tire size for this part of the country I’m finding out. So, I did what any other woman would do in my 2013 Bicycle Tour 010situation. I went online to see if I could find a tire. I also called friends to help me with my search. And, I super glued the tread back on.

I also pulled out the duct tape to have it ready… just in case. A total stranger called me this morning to ask me if I knew the dollar bill in the tire trick. Turns out, they work great to help cover a hole in a tire that debris could get through and puncture the tube. That tip was priceless!

 Nothing was working out. I couldn’t have a tire delivered until after Labor Day. The super glue might hold, but I could get sixty miles in the middle of nowhere and have it separate. So, I just prayed. 

Man's hand pointing on street mapThen I got a call from the same total stranger saying he looked and has two tires my size hanging in his garage and wanted to donate them to me. I was floored. I couldn’t get a tire today for anything. Every avenue I took became a dead end. Now I know why. What’s more, a couple of phone calls found a person going that way running errands and is going to pick them up for me. I don’t have to go anywhere!

There are some very important lessons from my experience that I’d like to share with you:

If you get creative with what you have, you can fix your problems. No one super glues a bicycle tire… well, unless you’re the Bicycle Lady in rural Illinois. But I have no doubt it would hold as long as it needed to!

Roadblocks aren’t a bad thing. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get a tire. God orchestrated the whole thing so He could bless me and a man I’ve never met named Hank.

God is trustworthy. In my time of need, He was already working to meet my need. I didn’t see it but I did trust that if I had to ride on a wing and a prayer, that would work.

God’s timing is perfect. He may not allow us to stockpile our blessings, but He will always show up with provision at just

Dakota, my custom-built Waterford touring Bicycle

Dakota, my custom-built Waterford touring Bicycle

the moment we need Him to. 

Miracles do happen today. Those two bike tires in Hank’s garage are the only two tires that size in southern or central Illinois. And I never would have known about them if God hadn’t had a stranger named Hank call me. 

Out of the kindness of his heart, Hank gave tires. Out of the desire to bless, Brian drove to the nearby town to pick them up. Out of God’s abundant heart, all things worked together for good. 

Does life really ever get better than this?

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Across the Table

Posted August 23, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

BibleYesterday morning I was invited to a Bible study in the home of a retired female pastor. I eagerly accepted the invitation and before I knew it, I found myself sitting around a long table with other women.

I was asked to share about the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour and as I did, the lady directly across the table began to tear up. She went on to share a story of pain and ultimate forgiveness.

She’d had been treated inappropriately as a child by her half brother. As they grew into adulthood, they parted ways. Her brother repeated these acts and landed in prison with a twenty year sentence.

I was released from prison and recently this dear lady got word that he had died. She was at a loss as to what to do. She John Audobon Lake 2allowed God to heal her childhood wounds but she’d also build a mighty protective fortress around her emotions and didn’t want to open that gate again.

At God’s prompting, she finally met with her brother’s children and experienced a grand and glorious healing.

The Bible study continued for several moments. Suddenly the lady next to the one who’d shared began to cry and said she was having a very difficult time trying to forgive the drunk driver who struck and killed her son back in May. This mother’s heart bled for her son.

I opened my mouth and love mixed with grace flowed out. There is a difference between grief and forgiveness. A grieving mother must first grieve, then the forgiveness is possible. For a long while I poured out God’s love to her. It  is incomprehensible what this mother was facing. It’s unnatural for a mother to bury their child.

Southern IllinoisIn my finite mind, I planned on sitting in on a neighborhood Bible study while sipping Thursday morning coffee. But, as God would have it, women were there who needed ministry… to share their stories… to receive a word of encouragement from a stranger to their town, albeit one who blew into their community wearing spandex and helmet hair.

As I hugged them goodbye and headed to my temporary home, I was struck by the reality that we never know who’s sitting across the table. They may appear happy, healthy and whole but they could be suffering in silence.

I’ve faced that during this trip more often than I have words to express. Women–and some men–who put on a brave face but in private relive the same nightmare over and over again. 

I urge each of you to take note of the person sitting across the table from you. Whether you know them or not, you really don’t know what they may be experiencing… the pain they endure… the silent suffering that fills their day.

Take a moment to encourage them, to pray with them or to discover how you can help them. If we all do that, the world will be a better place.

 

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