Between the Liner Notes
Mark Schultz Across America
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
“Hey, that guy who just rode by on his bicycle looks really familiar.”
“Nobody looks familiar in these parts. We’re in the middle of ….”
“No, no, no. It’s the guy who does that thing?
“You know … the guy who sings the songs.”
“A lot of guys sing songs but I can assure you it can’t be who you think it is. Why would he be riding a bicycle way out here?”
“I don’t know but he is.”
If you have had a conversation like this in the western part of the United States in recent days, I can assure you that you are not seeing things. The unidentified whirring object is none other than contemporary Christian recording artist Mark Schultz. The musician who has brought us “He’s My Son”, “Walking Her Home”, and “Remember Me” has traded in his piano for the next two months to pound the pedals of a finely tuned bicycle across America. Why? To raise money for orphans and widows in need.
“I was adopted when I was two weeks old,” Schultz explained to CBN.com recently. “When I was adopted there were times when I was made fun of at school which for me was not understandable. Some kids would tell me, ‘Hey, your parents didn’t want you, they got rid of you.’ Not long ago I said to myself, ‘You know what? I couldn’t do anything about it then because of my age but I can definitely do something about it now.’”
Specifically, Mark intends to ride 3,500 miles across America on his bicycle beginning in San Francisco (began May 7th) and not stopping until his front wheel touches the Atlantic Ocean sometime in July. Along the way he will perform concerts in select communities to raise money for the James Fund, a non-profit organization founded by Family Christian Stores to meet the needs of orphans and widows in distress.
For his part, Mark will ride 80 to 100 miles per day to achieve this goal. He realizes there will be many hardships on his journey but believes this is a small price to pay for the ultimate outcome of his endeavor.
“Everybody has something they can do to benefit someone else, whether it is baking cookies or riding your bike across the country,” Mark says. “As Christians, we are called to serve. Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier to just spend money on causes than actually serving in some way. But there is really something that happens when you dedicate your time to something that will truly make a difference.”
But why bicycling? Wouldn’t it be easier for him to perform a series of benefit concerts? Long distance bike riding is among the most grueling physical activities a person can undertake, especially when riding up and down treacherous stretches of mountain roads in unbearably hot conditions. Mark is open to the challenge.
“I remember when I first started training I was thinking, ‘Hey, its hard work to ride a bike,’” Mark laughs affably. “It would be much easier to take a bus. I’m the last person you would expect to ride across the country. But because I am so passionate about my history, what I have been through, and what I have seen other kids go through, what a cause to rally around.”
Riding a bike really seems easy. Most people learn to ride as children. However, spending eight to ten hours a day perched atop a thin frame of alloy and steel can quickly take its toll on even the best athletes.
Realizing this, Mark started training for his cross-country ride six months ago. He began by taking cycling classes at a local Y.M.C.A. This led to riding 10 miles a day to the grocery store and back. Eventually, Mark worked his way up to rides of 50, 60, and 70 miles a day, all while touring to support his latest album “Broken & Beautiful”. Despite such intensive preparation, he still felt slightly inadequate on the eve of his cross-country ride.
“Somebody told me that the first three weeks will be just unbearable and after that your body gets used to it. It doesn’t matter if I hit winds or hills, I still need to peddle 100 miles a day. I guess I will have to program my brain as to what I am going to do.”
While the first two weeks have certainly been grueling, sometimes torturous, Mark has managed to complete each day successfully and even performed four concerts in places like Rancho Mirage, California, Prescott, Arizona, and Gallup, New Mexico.
“These will not be like my usual boring concerts,” Mark jokes before turning serious. “The concerts will have more of a community feel because many of them are in small churches. I think it is going to be different because of my stories. I want to gear them toward my experience with adoption. I really want to make it a celebration of these kids. And hopefully people coming to the concerts will have stories to share too.”
Beyond turning out for the pound of the pedals or the tinkling of piano keys you can do more than just cheer Mark on. His goal is to raise more than a million dollars to support the cause of adoption and widows in need. You can help by visiting his Web site, MarkAcrossAmerica.org. There you can make a donation, or, better still, you can actually sign up to come out and ride with Mark for a portion of his trip. His only request is that you raise at least $500 dollars for the James Fund before you come out to ride.
“I want to do this because it seems impossible for me to do it and I want to do it for you to show that anything is possible,” says Mark. “No matter what your situation is you can always make the best of it and realize that God has a plan and a purpose for your life.”
Author's Note: Your humble scribe hopes to join Mark for a 175 mile leg of the trip in late June. I am not a novice to long distance biking but am woefully out of shape. I too want to make a difference for such a wonderful cause. My wife and I adopted a child two years ago and the experience has completely transformed our lives for the better. Biking 175 miles for the cause of orphans in distress is the least I can do.
Me What You Think
CBN.com Sr. Producer Laura J. Bagby contributed to this report.
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