Crossing the finish line, rather, the start line

USA (MNN) — After cycling 1500 miles across the country, Tony Fritz of Global Aid Network expected to be ecstatic. But he wasn’t.

The retired math teacher and current Food Process Manager at Global Aid Network spent the days after completing the ride fixing up his yard, sorting through mail, and defining what he was feeling.

Tony Fritz (Photo from Tourdemeals.org, Tony Fritz)

Tony Fritz (Photo from Tourdemeals.org, Tony Fritz)

He said he had a sense of relief from the ride itself, but he knew that he really wasn’t finished.

Fritz decided to cycle across the country in June to raise awareness and money for world hunger.

During the ride, Fritz encountered many people, which you might expect. But many of these people were just the right ones for Fritz to meet, at just the right time.

When his chain slipped off somewhere in Missouri, destroying about six spokes and highlighting a gear-shift problem, Fritz and his wife, Jenny, looked for a bike shop.

They chose one that was about 40 minutes away. The shop owner graciously attended the problem immediately, restringing the spokes and even replacing Fritz’ gear shift.

While he was waiting, Fritz met another cyclist who was there with his infant daughter. They began talking, and Fritz discovered the man cycled for several pro-life rides. The two were able to encourage each other.

One Sunday Friz got lost. He says, “I came to a place where my directions said ‘right’ and I turned ‘left’ because ‘left’ looked a whole lot more inviting.”

After sitting there for a while, trying to figure out where to go, Fritz was approached by another cyclist who asked Fritz if he needed help.

The ten-minute conversation revealed that he was only passing that way because while riding before church, he had a flat tire and was taking a short cut home. No one else was around. The man was a co-founder of one of the major bicycle clubs in the Little Rock Area.

Fritz was very touched by this encounter. God had provided for him at a difficult time.

In addition to these obvious times of need and privision, Fritz was made aware of God’s providence on a daily basis. At his age, Fritz explains, cycling isn’t automatic. He knows there are days where he cannot ride, and should not ride.

“The most difficult part of the trip wasn’t engaging the next day: it was really have enough faith to believe that I would be able to proceed the next day,” he says.

Often Fritz would wake up at 4:00AM, thinking that if he still felt like he did then when he woke up later, he wouldn’t be able to ride his bicycle.

“In every case, I woke up later with full assurance that I was ready to go hop on the bike,” Fritz says.

Fritz’ ride raised enough money to provide 17,051 meals: that’s one solid meal a day for 30 days for 500 children.

Why did he do it?

Reading through his blog, it’s obvious that Fritz is passionate about what he does. God has placed a burden on his heart to fight hunger.

Fritz realizes this is not everyone’s calling. When asked why every Christian should seek to do something, Fritz recalls a message he heard a long time ago.

The speaker essentially said that we are all called to help the poor. Fritz reports him saying,”You can almost evaluate the strength of your relationship with the Lord by how well you respond to the needs of the destitute, the marginalized, the people that are being taken advantage of.”

It’s important to note that this poverty is not always physical, and any work worth doing will address spiritual poverty to some extent. But it’s not necessary for every person to focus their work overseas in third world countries. There are poor and destitute all around us: at work, in our neighborhood, at the gas station.

Fritz encourages us to look up the word “poor” in a Bible concordance and read all the verses mentioned. After that, he recommends noting the ones that are commandments. “If you look at these verses, it’s impossible to get by them and say, ‘Well, you know, that’s really not for me. That verse is for somebody else, not me.’ But we are commanded by Scripture to look after the poor, the widows, the orphans, the marginalized.”

Fritz says none of this should be done out of obligation or “just from a sense of duty,” but “because the light of Christ is within us. That’s part of who we are.”

Part of getting people involved is letting them know the opportunities. “There are lots of individuals who, when you present this idea to them, it’s like their hearts are immediately open.” Fritz met many people who gave him money after simply hearing his story. He hadn’t even asked, and they were moved to help.

“I think there are lots of individuals that will respond to the need when it hits them. Our desire as a ministry is to go one step further and see if we can engage churches that would have the same kind of openness to providing for the needs of those that we serve.”

Fritz asks you to pray for wisdom on how to move forward. GAIN wants to promote their food packing activity within churches around the country.

At the end of his cycling journey, it was obvious to Fritz that his work wasn’t over. But his pathway, for now, was confirmed.

“I thought I would feel exhilarated, but I didn’t. And I was thinking, ‘Well why?’ And then I realized there was a lot of excitement about finishing, but… this isn’t the finish line: this is the start line also. And this is perhaps one step in where we’re going from here. There’s still a mountain ahead of us. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”