USA (MNN) — When Tony Fritz answered his cell phone earlier this week, it was clear he had planned on doing his interview while riding his bike. Talk about multi-tasking! He patiently asked to hear the questions again whenever roaring semis or screeching tires drowned them out.
Fritz, a retired math teacher and the Food Process Manager for Global Aid Network, is currently riding his bike from the ministry headquarters in Plano, Texas to their distribution center in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. The trip in total will be around 1600 miles.
When we spoke with Fritz, he had just crossed over into Missouri and was headed towards Kennett, then to Cairo, IL where he’ll cross the Mississippi and head towards Indianapolis. Then he will be on the final stretch.
So, why is Fritz riding 4-5 hours a day? He says, “I just thought this would be a great way to use my love of biking and create awareness for a worldwide problem.”
The bike ride is a pledge-per-mile fund-raiser called Tour De Meals, which is simultaneously raising awareness for worldwide hunger.
Fritz, who has done long rides in the past, thought Tour De Meals would be a great way to combine his passions for ministry and biking. Since he was heading to Texas anyway to celebrate his grandchildren’s birthdays, he thought, “Why not?”
In June, GAIN USA had several hundred volunteers daily for a week prepare supplies to go out around the world. They are one of very few organizations that sees the process through from donation to shipping and distribution (read more about that here). This includes packing rice and beans off to refugees in Syria, Northern Iraq, and to Guatemala and several African countries.
When asked what drove him to sacrifice all this time and energy outside of the work he already does, Fritz replied, “You know, if we had one child in America that died of hunger, it would make the national news instantly. And yet, here’s a problem that’s worldwide: it happens thousands of times per day and just becomes a statistic and not very impactful. So anything that I can do to bring awareness to this problem and get people to pitch in, it’s just a real plus.”
Fritz attributes much of his passion for this ministry to how he was raised. He says, “I think it’s kind of part of my DNA–you know, probably the way I was raised, the way I was nurtured in the Church.”
Providing food for people in need is Fritz’ application of helping the less fortunate.
“We’re not looking necessarily just to give a hand out on a long-term basis; that doesn’t do a lot for people’s self-esteem. But in emergency situations, which is where we [operate], it can be very beneficial because there’s a short-term need.”
Fritz explains that while many are dying from lack of nutrition in emergency situations, there isn’t necessarily a lack of the resources themselves. “It’s a matter of distribution. I mean, we have resources that could be shared, SHOULD be shared.”
Emergency relief comes way before the process of sustainable development, Fritz explains. “These people are in dire straits through, in most cases, no fault of their own.”
Followers of Christ are called to live like Christ. Part of that includes helping those in need. But the response looks very different from person to person.
Fritz shares a story of a grateful king who declares everyone should be a firefighter after a fireman saves his burning castle. What kingdom would function if everyone had the same occupation? It is the same idea as far as Christian ministry goes.
“Every person has to decide for himself,” Fritz says. “There are a lot of good causes out there, a lot of things to pour your life into, and this is one of them. I don’t think everybody needs to do this, but everybody needs to have awareness of it.”
Over the winter, Fritz trained at least an hour five days a week, inside. Once spring hit, he began to hit the road outside. A month and a half before he started this trip, Fritz was doing several long bike rides (up to 80 miles) a week. He calls the last bit a “short-term cram session.”
“The long miles don’t seem to be the major problem,” Fritz explains. He says that rest, proper hydration. and nutrition with attention to electrolytes are the keys to success on a ride like this. He believes anyone who can stay on top of those things can go for such a long bike ride.
If you have a passion for helping hungry people, or for people in need, Fritz is making it very simple for you to participate.
Along with raising awareness, Tour De Meals is a pledge-per-mile fundraiser.
“A penny a mile is $15, [which] feeds a child for a month,” Fritz says.
He asks for prayer that he would use caution in preparation and in riding. Also, he requests prayer for his wife. Jennifer Fritz has planned the route and does her best to meet her husband every 10-15 miles. Sometimes those rendezvous don’t work due to weather and other complications.
Also, pray for Fritz’ safety and perseverance. He fell recently, and he says, “There are accidents kind of waiting around the corner.”
Fritz is grateful for all of the support he has received. For the first 650 miles, the only bikers Fritz met were Christians. They were very excited about Tour De Meals and offered their support.
“I’m just thankful to have this opportunity. We have a great team. There are a lot of people behind the scenes that you don’t see in this process,” Fritz says. This team consists of people updating his blog, promoting Tour De Meals, creating the Web site, etc. One woman even orchestrated a note-making station during the packing event last month, and now Fritz’ wife parcels out the notes to encourage him daily.
“I am just kind of overwhelmed with the number of people that pitched in and made this thing come together,” Fritz says. “It’s been fantastic, really. There’s no other way to describe it.”
GAIN USA encourages you to support Fritz’ efforts: “Your gift today will change a life. Because you chose to support Global Aid Network, more people will receive tangible confirmation that God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them. Thank you for expressing the love of Jesus Christ in this meaningful way!”
You can keep updated on Fritz’ progress at his blog here.