"We believe that riding our bicycles can change the world."
It's an optimistic statement.
And, while it may seem bold to claim the benefits of bicycling extend beyond reduced pollution and a trimmed-down waistline, the Ride for Refuge has proven its point, raising over $5,000,000 for charity since its inception in 2004. On October 4th, riders across Canada will join together to raise money for displaced, vulnerable and exploited people worldwide.
The cause is a specific and especially timely one. I could overwhelm you with disturbing statistics of the sexual exploitation of children, the harsh reality of sixty-year-high worldwide displacement rates, and the international plight of countless orphaned children, but I fear that we have become numb to statistics. Words like "sexual exploitation" and "Syrian refugees" have become buzzwords, phrases thrown about by the media that deflect off of our information-saturated minds, doing little to concretely affect change or motivate action.
The thing is, we don't ride for statistics. We don't ride for buzzwords or media headlines or faceless groups of strangers half a world away. We ride because many of us are personally, desperately involved in the fight to "vindicate the weak and fatherless" and "do justice to the afflicted and destitute" (Psalm 82:3).
At Crossroads, no one is more personally invested in the ride than Freedom Rider captain Cheryl Weber. Cheryl first felt a strong call to fight sexual exploitation when she saw the NBC Dateline documentary "Children For Sale" in 2004. The documentary revealed the alarming details of young girls, some as young as five years old, who were daily subjected to horrifying acts of sexual abuse. The girl's stories gripped Cheryl immediately, and she found herself regularly praying for them, asking God to rescue them and promising to do whatever she could to help.
The Ride for Refuge is one of the ways that Cheryl is keeping her promise. Crossroads Relief and Development has partnered with Ratanak International, an organization founded by former RCMP forensics specialist Brian McConaghey. Brian launched Ratanak in 1989 in response to the devastation he witnessed as a result of the Cambodian civil war and genocide in the 1970s and 80s. McConaghey also happened to see the Dateline documentary in 2004, and linked some of the girls in it to a high-profile case of sexual trafficking in Canada. Because of the details in the documentary, Ratanak immediately began partnering on projects that rescue and rehabilitate victims of sexual slavery in Cambodia. They provide the girls with counseling and offer long term strategies that help to reintegrate the girls after years of physical, mental, and spiritual abuse.
In 2009, Cheryl and Brian's stories merged, as Cheryl flew to Cambodia with Ratanak to meet and interview many of the girls she had been praying for over the past five years. Since 2009, Cheryl has returned to Cambodia three times to report on the work being done there.
At Crossroads, we are passionate and determined to connect good causes with people that can support them. When you give to the Crossroads Freedom Riders Team, your money will go towards the rehabilitation of the victims of sexual slavery in Cambodia, as well as funding a coalition of anti-trafficking organizations that offer 24-hour phone service to help prevent the abduction of children before it happens.
It is difficult to think of a greater evil in the world than children being tortured and raped for the pleasure of men. As Christians, we have to take a stand against it.
Thanks to the Ride for Refuge, taking a stand really is as simple as riding our bicycles.
Please visit the Ride for Refuge website to donate now.