When we introduced League Coach and parent Josh Crenshaw this past May as he was gearing up for the cycling challenge of a lifetime: a 480 mille charity ride through Rwanda to raise money for neighboring Burundi. Josh made it and accomplished his goal. Here’s Josh’s post ride thoughts:
The last miles have been logged on the final day of our incredible and challenging tour of Rwanda. Over 480 miles traveled and 48,000 feet of serious elevation, without a doubt the most physically challenging week of my life. Our group of 12 riders from the US, UK, Spain, and Ukraine was a diverse group, from practicing triathletes to recreational riders, late 20’s to mid 50’s, 10 men and 2 women. 4 riders, including myself, who had done the tour before either in Burundi or Rwanda. Other stats for the week include only 4 punctures, 1 minor downhill crash at speed (rider scraped and rattled but ok), every single hill in Rwanda climbed (some twice), 97 monkeys spotted, 467 energy bars and gels consumed, and 3 liters of chamois cream used (give or take). Our tour guide for the week was Kiki, a local celebrity as one of the original members of Team Rwanda Cycling and appeared in the documentary ‘Rising from the Ashes’. He seemed to know someone in every town we stopped in and as a retired pro-racer he was full of riding tips and techniques, stories of glorious races, and crashes, and was always ready for good sprint to stretch out the legs.
Things look pretty good traveling through Rwanda, roads are good, people are at work and there is a sense of security. While the current regime has taken strong criticism there have been many improvements that have resulted in economic growth allowing Rwanda to rise out of the ranking of the ten poorest countries. There are still physical marks of the genocide, broken buildings and bullet holes in windows. On Friday we visited the Kigali Genocide Museum, a place filled with emotion where many people left in tears, I knew that for them this was very real and personal, that there were friends and family members lost and the wounds were deep. We heard many stories of survivors that had lost their entire households, forty, fifty, sixty, family members all gone, wiped out. It’s a grim reminder of what the human race is capable of.
Meanwhile, Burundi is backsliding under leadership that trades the security of the people and natural resources of the country for personal gain. The capital city of Bujumbura is unsafe if you are on the wrong side and if you say or do the wrong thing you may find yourself imprisoned or worse. The queues for gas, some a day and a half long, are shutting down daily activities and waiting for a bus to get home can take 3 hours. There is no way of knowing how long things will go on like this. Some think Burundi is heading back to another boiling point, a place of revolution and revolt, that a violent uprising is inevitable. But others that we met like Mutebutsi Jean Bosco (known as Bosco) believe differently. After witnessing the killing of many of family members, including his mother and father, he became bitter and angry, waiting for an opportunity to seek revenge. In 2002 this dead end path took a 180 as he experienced healing and forgiveness. He now leads a GLO supported project called J-Life which seeks to bring reconciliation to past enemies and healing to communities. They also run a discipleship program which educates people to break the cycle of poverty. We also met Everest who runs the Milk for Transformation program. There are now 700-800 milk producing Friesian cows in Burundi, and while much of the milk is currently being donated to help ease the suffering during the crisis, the infrastructure is in place to return to a viable business once things stabilize. There are many others like these two, who have seen and experienced things that are hard for us to image, yet choose to hope and work tirelessly for the country and people that they love.
The money that we are raising is quite literally saving lives, Simon shared a story of a woman whose son died in her arms at the hospital because she could not afford the $5 for the medication to save him. My fundraising goal for GLO is 15k and there is still a gap to fill. The challenges of our cycling have come to an end but the struggles in Burundi continue. Many thanks to those that have donated, so greatly appreciated. If you had wanted to donate but have not there is still time. The donation site is up at www.razoo.com/story/Burundirider and to save credit card fees you can mail checks directly to Great Lakes Outreach, PO Box 14465, Charleston, SC 29422. Write “Josh Crenshaw GLO tour 2017” in the memo line. Thank you for your prayers and support.