Updated: Jul 22, 2018
Everything started when I joined the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church's bike tours in the 80's when I was still about 16 years old. I was growing up in Aberdeen, SD and each summer I would join these bike trips with the church. I was not even a Christian. I joined the trips because I liked biking.
Eventually, I began biking year around. In 1978, at age 14, I bought myself a 10 speed Schwinn, and in 1982 I bought myself a TREK 728. I would use the Schwinn for commuting to work and school and I would use the $749 TREK for my more serious riding.
My bedroom floor was covered with bicycle magazines, and I read nearly every book at the Alexander Mitchell Library about bicycles, bicycle touring, repair and maintenance.
Eventually, I had my picture in the school paper for bicycling 300 miles over the weekend. My mom had her photo on the front page of the Aberdeen American News for hitting 9,999.9 miles on her odometer at age 69. She was a biker too. She bicycled 50 miles on her 50th birthday, 60 on her 60th, and 70 on her 70th. We were the first in my home town to wear helmets, I think. Even my sister, she did the same on her bike at age 50 and 60.
I would join the races at Richmond Lake and some other races in Mitchell, SD around their lake. I had a bike rack on my car's roof top in 1982 (age 18), and even took one month to go to a United Bicycle Institute (one month course) in Ashland, Oregon as part of my "prodigal son" one month season. I had a plan to start a bike shop in my home town.
After my training at the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR, I applied at over 30 shops in Eugene, OR but could not get hired. Feeling defeated, I began the long drive back to South Dakota with only enough money for gas, one jar of peanut butter, and one loaf of bread. For me, this was hitting rock bottom.
I went back to the restaurant, in which I worked before the trip to Oregon, and started cooking again, while starting a small bicycle repair business in the garage of my parents.
I began repairing bikes for my friends and started buying up gear, tools, and repair equipment. One day, I responded to a newspaper "For Sale" posting of 200 surplus-junk bicycles for $250. I bought them all!
I rented a storage shed at Weismantel Rentals for $30/month and loaded it with all the bikes. I began to repair them one by one and sell them—and this was all during the terrible winter months of South Dakota.
I spend hundreds of hours, and often all night long, in that garage assembling bikes, building bikes, painting, and building wheels. One of the hardest things in the world to do is build a wheel. If you can build a bicycle wheel and the spokes and rim are actually true and straight when you are done, you can say you have arrived. It is the hardest repair to do aside from building and welding frames of course.
As I combined a restaurant job of 65 hours a week to, often, all night long in the bike shop, tiredness, and getting burned out began to take over. Eventually, I got fired from my restaurant job because of a bad attitude, tiredness, and cussing and swearing all the time in the kitchen. The waitresses would complain and I was hard to work with.
I transferred to McDonald's and started working for them on nearly the same day I was fired from the other restaurant. It was a quick solution to my unemployment but I grew increasingly frustrated. I was striving for meaning in life and had tons of energy but couldn't seem to be hitting the mark so I joined the Marines.
At the age of 20, I flew off to U.S. Marine Corp boot camp in March 1988. I was in great shape from my biking and my running. We had an obstacle course in my home town in which I trained myself for three months before boot camp even started.
In the first physical fitness test for Marine Corps recruits I excelled in all all three fitness tests. I received 100 points, or 100%, in each event getting 300 points—a perfect score. By the time the 12 weeks of boot camp was finished, I was doing 120 sit-ups in two minutes, nearly broke the Marine Corps record for pull-ups doing 47 (it was 53 at the time), and dominating the three-mile run in just over 17 minutes!
My scores were so impressive, I received my first stripe from Private to Private First Class before graduating from boot camp! I was in the best shape of my life after boot camp! I was 20 years old.
After boot camp, the military sent me to Millington, Tennessee for 10 months of Avionics Training—which is electronics on airplanes. This is when I hit a major crossroads in my life.
The classes were so difficult for me, and my roommates were difficult to get along with, I found myself wanting to stay focused on being a good Marine but I was cussing and swearing more and more as I began to grow angry and increasingly frustrated.
When the timing was perfect, I walked into my barracks one day, and catching the corner of my eye on the bulletin board was a poster advertisement for a church. On the bottom of the poster it said, "Church Bus Pick Up at 0900 each Sunday at the Chow Hall." I thought to myself, "I think I'm going to go."
I attended the church for three Sundays in a row. One of my problems was that I thought I was a believer. I didn't consider myself to be a "bad" person: I never drank, never did drugs, and was still a virgin—so I guess I am a good person. "I'm a believer," I thought.
After three weeks of listening to the preaching, the opposite was true: I was a sinner who had broken every commandment (lusted, hated, stolen, and lied, dishonored my parents) and lived primarily for self for 20 years and was on my way to hell!
On June 10th, 1984, I called upon the name of the LORD, according to Romans 10:13. I asked forgiveness according to 1 John 1:9, and surrendered my life to Jesus. I began a life of repentance, changing my mind and my ways, and changed very quickly. I was born again according to John 3:3 in the Bible—new life, new beginnings, new start, new priorities.
2 Corinthians 5: 17 says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new."
Two years later, while stationed in Olongapo City, Philippines, while fixing planes during the day and volunteering at the Youth With a Mission Center in the same city, I sensed that God was speaking to me about missions—about being a missionary, about being a preacher, an evangelist, and launching into full-time Christian service...this is when I started selling all my bikes.
By the time I finished my four year military contract, I started selling all my bikes, and panniers, tools, helmets, shoes, everything. I gave away and sold everything—GLADLY and REJOICING! I was so excited about launching out into the mission field. I even sold my favorite, child-hood, Marlin .22 caliber, bolt-action, gopher hunting rifle! I never looked back...
For over 30 years, I continued on the mission field. I traveled and preached in 28 countries and all 50 States in the USA. I wrote two Christian books, started a few churches, taught in missionary training schools for over 25 years, pioneered a SUGE' Outdoor Adventure Course, a School of Evangelism, and a summer program called: Discipleship Training Week. I led the SUGE' 37 times and led dozens of teams around the Philippines and abroad.
The list goes on and on with people I have led to the LORD and exploits I have had the privilege of being a part of between 1988 and 2018. 2018, marks my 30th year in full-time Christian missionary service. God has been faithful but...there is more...
...Back in 2016, when I was traveling across the USA (in which I traditionally do every four years), I stopped in a Amish area of Pennsylvania. As I went out for a walk that morning on the quiet, black paved country highway, I sensed God speaking to me again. It was the similar voice and impression that I have experienced many times before. He was speaking to me about "biking these highways once again" some day.
Since 2016, I've been thinking about it, and after two years, it has become obvious that God is wanting me to "revive" the old dream I had of biking the TransAmerican Bicycle Trail. An old dream from 1980.
The same God who had me "lay down my rights or dream" in the 80's was returning it to me once again—34 years later.
So I've started over. I asked some friends if they would like to help sponsor me for this type of project and one of them quickly responded. He made a pledge to send me $2,500 to help me re-purchase a bike and some of the necessary start-up gear I will be needing. In May 2018, I ordered the bike frame from a shop in Manila and we will build/add the components afterwards. I am expecting the bike to arrive in June or July 2018.
It's hard to believe this is happening! I have had a very inspired month of May, as I begin the process of making "shopping and wish lists" of all the gear I will need and laying out a theme for my trip. It took me over a week to discover that this trip will be named the...
Dream & Declare TransAmerica Bicycle Tour.
The word, "Dream" is simple. It comes from a dream or desire I had in the 80's to do this trip but I never had the chance to do it because of my missionary mandate until now.
The word, "Declare" is a word that means, "witness, share, preach, proclaim, herald, testify of, give defense for, etc" This is all concerning who God is and what He has done and what He can do for others.
For sure, this trip across the USA by bicycle, spanning more than 10 States, 90 days, and over 4,230 miles (nearly 7,000 kilometers) will be filled with talking to hundreds of people. I can't wait to testify, preach, witness, give an answer to, all the people I will be meeting—at gas stations, rest areas, intersections, red lights, camp grounds, parks, grocery stores, truck stops, lakeside camping grounds, and on and on and on and on.
I am expecting hundreds of new stories, divine appointments, and an adventure of a lifetime. Knowing myself, and how I have habit of responding to this type of event in the past, I would not be surprised if God will inspire and give me a dozen of new ideas concerning the future. Without a doubt, 2019 is going to be a year I will be talking about for decades to come and you...
You can have a role also...
You can pray for this trip.
You can join me on this trip for certain distances, as you are able.
You can help me with housing contacts along my route if nearby.
You can help me with church contacts for housing or for speaking if I am some place strategic on a Sunday.
You can help me with cash gifts or support now and in the future
You can partner with us financially in missions now and when I come back again on a regular basis or one-time gifts.
You can help share all my future posts, photos, videos to spread the awareness.
You can help me buy some of my equipment and gear for the trip.
You can help me raise about $1,000 for dehydrated meals (once a day) for 90 days.
You can help me with a plane ticket from Virginia Beach, VA to Manila on August 1st.
The 2019 Dream & Declare Trans American Bicycle Tour will not be my normal furlough trip in which I have done every four years since 1990. It is only a "hit and run" 90 day trip in which I will fly from Manila to Portland for the Starting Line in Astoria, Oregon and fly back to Manila, from Virginia Beach, VA after reaching the Finish Line 90 days later.
Target dates are May 1st to August 1st, 2019.
I will return to the USA, for four months in 2020 once again for our normal family trip in which we cover an average of 40 States, 30,000 miles, and stay in an average of 60 different homes, in partnership with approx 30 different churches. This is all in 2020—election year again.
2020 is also the year our daughter Evangeline will graduate from college in Manila and I am actually expecting both of our daughters, Evangeline and Victoria, to probably move back to the USA to begin their lives and career there—not in the Philippines. I am somewhat expecting that after 2020, Liberty and I will be "home alone," again, here in Manila setting our sites on our continual ministries with Youth With a Mission Philippines.
written May 31, 2018 – Brother Mitch