I first found out about the semi-annual Rosarito-Ensenada race (http://rosaritoensenada.com) during a casual weekend ride with my ChristianCycling teammate Rich Beeler. Most of my weekend rides are easy recovery rides because of the daily beatings I get during lunch from the likes of national cycling champions (Dan Martin, Stan Terusaki) and former pros (Chris Ott), so weekend rides with friends are typically chatty. I knew Rich took regular trips down to Mexico where his sister-in-law, Sarah Mayer, and best friend, Brendan Mayer, have been living as Christian missionaries in La Mision for the past 8 years or so. To give you a short history, Rich and I had met during our first small group meeting together at Cornerstone Fellowship (http://cornerstoneweb.org) about 6 years ago and I remember talking to him about cycling and being surprised to find someone just as fanatical about cycling as me. After doing a few rides together, we had decided to join ChristianCycling to take our cycling to the next level and gradually saw our fitness improve to the level where we were able to race our bikes as amateurs and not get too embarrassed.
Anyways, during this weekend ride along the Wente road race course, Rich uncharacteristically talked about an opportunity to combine our passion for cycling with our identity as Christians. I say “uncharacteristically” because most of our previous conversations had been about cycling and not so much about spiritual matters. Rich talked about getting a group together to drive down to Baja to participate in this ride, do some construction work with the local construction crew for a new wellness center in La Mision, and help raise money for the construction. It sounded like a very good idea, especially because most of my focus over the years had been on the “cycling” part of ChristianCycling and not on the “Christian” part.
Rich soon presented this idea during our monthly ChristianCycling spoke meeting but there wasn’t a lot of initial interest, probably because it involved a bit of travel and the ride also coincided on Mother’s Day weekend. I pitched the idea to my wife and kids and was quickly shot down because my younger daughter was playing in her first orchestra concert that weekend, my wife and older daughter would just be getting back from a school trip to Disneyland two days before, and it was a tough sell to leave my family for 4-5 days on Mother’s day weekend to…umm…ride my bike. The other factor I had to consider was whether I would be fully healthy for the trip, given my struggles with insomnia and the resulting headaches I’ve had since the beginning of the year, and my nightly reliance on sleep medication.
The Persistent Friend
Well, as it happened, about 3 weeks before the ride, Glenn Kashiwamura, who is a mutual friend of Rich and me, started calling me and trying to persuade me to go. At that point, only he and Rich were committed to the trip and Glenn really wanted me to participate. Glenn knew about my health issues and thought this trip would be good for me, just to get away and possibly help with my insomnia. Although I declined several times, Glenn would not let this go, just like the guy in the parable of the persistent friend (Luke 11:5-8):
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose someone has a friend. He goes to him at midnight. He says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. A friend of mine on a journey has come to stay with me. I have nothing for him to eat.’ “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked. My children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ “I tell you, that person will not get up. And he won’t give the man bread just because he is his friend. But because the man keeps on asking, he will get up. He will give him as much as he needs.
Like in the parable, I finally relented, partly so Glenn would stop calling me and leaving voice mails, but also because I knew how much this meant to Rich. I also thought maybe God would heal my insomnia if I took some steps, albeit minor, to help others. So I decided to try again to persuade my family to let me go. I knew convincing my wife would be the toughest part, since I could bribe my daughter with chocolates or sweets, but I also knew I had two solid angles that I didn’t use before. One was that I thought this would help with my insomnia, as my wife knew first-hand how difficult it was making my life. The second was that the ride also happened to be on my birthday, May 7, and traditionally, I would never be refused a birthday ride. It was a slam dunk.
Once I was on board, I made sure I expedited the renewal of my expired passport and I started learning a bit more about Siloe Ministries (http://www.siloeclinic.org), which was directed and founded by the Mayers, realizing that the fund-raising aspect of this trip was probably the most impactful part of it. This was true because the cost of labor in Mexico is cheap and our goal of raising $5000 would employ an entire construction crew for 2 months. Our goal was to raise money for a brand new wellness center, which allowed Siloe to expand from serving the local residents from the basement of their church to a full-fledged, multi-wing health care facility equipped with guest housing for volunteer doctors and dentists, prayer rooms, and counseling rooms. This wellness center would directly serve the community of La Mision and provide first-rate health care, free-of-charge, to its residents, most of whom did not have cars to transport them to the larger cities where they would otherwise have to go – if they could afford it. For a lot of the indigent population, this facility would be their only option.
Door of Faith Orphanage
The first day of the trip was spent driving from Livermore to La Mision, which took about 10 hours. We were flagged at the border crossing for a random search, which fortunately, was uneventful. Rich, Glenn, and I stayed at the Door of Faith Orphanage (DOFO) in La Mision for all 3 nights, where Brendan had served on staff for close to a year. DOFO (https://dofo.org) provided ministry opportunities for volunteers wanting to help serve the kids but also provided guest rooms and beds for volunteers for Siloe Ministries’ construction project. The guest house we were staying at had 3 rooms with bunk beds, a kitchen, and family room. It was quite nice and cozy and the weather was perfect this time of year. After a good night’s sleep, we spent some time the next morning interacting with the kids with our limited Spanish, throwing a football and basketball (that Glenn had donated) around with them, and getting a tour of the orphanage after talking with its director. I was really impressed with the orphanage, which served not just orphans but under-privileged kids from abusive and drug-infested homes and focused on making every child feel significant by celebrating each of their birthdays and making cakes using their in-facility bakery. The orphanage was also faith-based and focused on giving back to the community by having groups of them go out on a routine basis to hand out food and care packages to the homeless parts of the region.
After the tour, we had some Mexican food and then drove out to the construction site. There, Brendan shared his vision and blueprints for the wellness center, which was still in Phase 1 and was nearly ready for the concrete pour of the foundation, which would happen the following day. The scale of the project was impressive – a 6000 square feet state-of-the-art facility – which would easily be the best building in La Mision. Talking and listening to Brendan, it became clear to me that he and his wife, who is the medical director of Siloe and certified PA, as well as other staff and volunteers at Siloe, not only provided direct health care and health education to patients who had conditions ranging from infections, cataracts, diabetes, hypertension, dermatological conditions, and dental issues, but also served as advocates for patients who had more serious problems, like brain tumors, where only the best treatment from the U.S. would save them. In fact, through Sarah’s petitioning on their behalf to hospitals and doctors specializing in specific types of treatment or procedures, several cases were taken up as charity cases that allowed children to receive life-saving treatments and surgeries.
After the orientation, we got to work. We were introduced to Jerry, who was the on-site construction foreman, and followed his instructions to loosen the soil and rocks from a hill with a pick ax, shovel them into wheel barrels, and dump them into trenches that were previously dug up and would subsequently require compacting. For a cyclist with limited upper body strength and soft white-collar hands, this was a difficult and daunting task. However, with Jerry’s help, we managed to make a minor dent in the hill and got a better appreciation of the crew that would be there every day until the building was complete. We also got to know Jerry better, who had lived in the US illegally for a long time before getting deported back to Mexico after several stints in jail. He had been addicted to hard drugs for 30 years, but was introduced to Christ after being invited to attend a church and was now completely sober and full of gratitude for the opportunity to work on this project.
After 2-3 hours of work, our soft bodies had had enough and we headed off to Rosarito to register for the race the following day. By then, it was evening, so after a nice dinner at Betty’s Burgers, where I had the best burger I’ve ever had in my life, we headed back to our guest house at DOFO to rest and prepare for the next day. Brendan stayed with us that night and we enjoyed talking in depth about various sports-related topics that would make our wives instantly zone out but which provided scintillating conversation for us, the initiated.
The race itself, though timed, was really a sportive and there must’ve been close to 10,000 participants. The atmosphere was festive and included elite cyclists (like us – just kidding) and beginners on beach cruisers. We woke up early to pick up our bikes, which were stored in Brendan’s garage, and to rendezvous at the construction site with a driver from Strong Tower Ministries (http://strongtowerministries.info), which was the volunteer group constructing the new wellness center and which previously constructed DOFO. Strong Tower had brought a group of volunteer construction workers that morning from southern California to La Mision to do the concrete pour of the foundation and had offered to transport us and our bikes to Rosarito for the race using their large van. Two of them also participated in the race with us. We were a bit concerned about the weather, as the forecast was about a 50% chance of rain, but as we started, the weather was cool and dry. This ride was absolutely beautiful and scenic as we rode along the pacific coast. Rich provided a light-hearted account of the “race”, as it went down (https://www.gofundme.com/siloeministries). Graeden and Brendan did a fantastic job, significantly exceeding their previous longest distances on a bike.
Dinner at the Mayers
There was a bit of a hiccup after the ride, where the theme of the next 2 hours was “Where the heck is Glenn?” Glenn had started with us but had stopped to help several riders with mechanicals (dropped chains, flats, etc.) over the course of the ride. Unbeknownst to him, the driver for Strong Tower (and our ride back to La Mision) was on a really tight schedule and had to get back to the site within a reasonable amount of time to get their volunteers back across the border. After waiting in futility for about an hour, the van had to leave, so Brendan and I stayed back and waited for Glenn. We were relieved to find him amongst the last riders coming in and we arranged for a bus to take us back to La Mision. We finally got back about 3 hours behind schedule, but that prepared us all the more for the feast we were about to have at the Mayers’ home. The meal included: chicken fajitas, fresh flour tortillas made from scratch, salsa, guacamole, chile rellenos, black beans, Spanish rice, sour cream, lettuce, and everything in-between. Needless to say, we easily ingested more calories than the amount we burned during the race. Between Rich’s wife, Amy, who made a birthday cake for me, Sarah, who made the guacamole and other various items, and the Mayers’ cook, who made the gist of the Mexican meal, we had a fantastic time to cap off the day and trip.
Back to Livermore
The rest of trip was smooth-sailing, as we left early the next day to get across the border and return home. The border crossing, which was backed up several hours, only took us a few minutes because we had a special pass we had purchased the day before. Overall, I was really glad I went on this trip and enjoyed meeting the Mayers and seeing their incredible work on behalf of the residents in La Mision. I was proud to represent Cornerstone Fellowship and ChristianCycling (in our brand-new kit) and raise money (~$2000 overall from our team) from all our generous donors towards the construction project. Seeing everything first-hand gave me a better appreciation of how impactful this wellness center will be to the community in La Mision and the continuing efforts it will take on Siloe’s part to see this project come to fruition. I am looking forward to making this trip again and seeing the building progress (below is the most recent picture, taken after returning from our trip) over the next phases of construction.