When my 94 year old father was a lad of 9, he and his brother and a few of their childhood boyfriends met a tall lanky young man walking along Sunset Cliffs in San Diego only a few blocks from Dad’s home. The man carried his lunch with him and would walk for hours with the boys tagging along and engaging in friendly banter with the amiable visitor. His long daily walks on the edge of the cliffs aimed to increase his endurance for staying awake for long stretches of time. Nearby at Ryan Aircraft his plane was being custom built for an attempt at a first ever achievement. After about two months in San Diego the young man took off in his new plane, observed by the boys and my grandmother, stopping briefly in St. Louis, then on to New York, where he took off across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris and into history. You have guessed by now that the young man my father accompanied as a boy along the cliffs which were Dad’s playground intermingled with the beaches below of the Pacific Ocean was none other than Charles Lindbergh. It was one of those encounters a boy never forgets. And Charles Lindbergh’s achievement made him a household name around the world redirecting the rest of his life.
Likewise, Paul Anderson’s Olympic Gold Medal, world weightlifting championships, and later incredible, unmatched back lift of 6,270 pounds brought world-wide notoriety in places as far away as Russia. Mongolia, and Iran. It is not as well known that in 1961 to announce the opening of the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) Paul rode a simple one speed bike barely holding his 350 pound body 1500 miles from Vidalia, Georgia to Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska. Monday six young men of the PAYH, along with one alumnus, one volunteer, and two staff began a repeat of this journey on their bikes fifty years after Paul’s feat. This is the sixth annual PAYH Bike Ride. The first five were all 500 mile trips in and around Georgia. They were mastered by young men who had never previously attempted any physical achievement like it and were uncertain they could do it. In the lives of these young men with a troubled childhood and past, in many cases this accomplishment became life impacting. This year the challenge is three times as great and is taking place in the heat and humidity of a very hot summer. The combination of strenuous preparation physically and spiritually, rising to the actual challenge, and the final accomplishment of this feat should create life changing qualities in these young men’s lives. Such testing of their bodies and spirits will, we pray, call for a greater reliance upon Christ as they pray and peddle across parts of eight states, with the awareness of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is always the desire that such an achievement will plant this truth in the heart and take root.
The Apostle Paul writes of the value and spiritual analogy of athletic competition and physical achievement. Descriptions and lessons of integration of body and spirit in man are found throughout Paul’s epistles. It is the Word of God alone we read in Hebrews 4:12 by which one may discern the mysterious division between the spiritual and physical makeup of man; nevertheless, it is this Word which indiscriminately judges the thoughts and attitudes of every individual and unique heart. Achievements in our life we thought improbable if not impossible may indeed become a catalyst God uses to make a change in us that will never see decay.
Please pray for these young men and staff of the PAYH for transformation, safety, and for the awareness of the PAYH to proliferate because of this challenging ride to the praise of God’s glory. You can follow the ride at www.payhbikeride.com.
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