My name is David Jones and I live in Wickenburg, Arizona. I ended up here three years ago when I took a break from a 12,000 mile ride around the US to help my father out. I am 60 years old and have been riding now for about 5 years. The first time I rode across the US was in 2010. After a 25 year career in the healthcare software industry I was ready for a change. My kids were raised and I wanted an adventure. So I bought a bicycle and after 118 miles of “training” my daughter dropped me off in Astoria, Oregon. 4,100 and 4 months later I was in Wilmington, North Carolina.
I’ve always been troubled by the notion that the solution for violence is more violence. That makes no sense to me on any level. It seems to me that violence begets violence. As a Christian I found militarism to be offensive so I began looking for another way of reducing or diffusing violence. It was a long slog because like most Americans I was inculcated by society to worship the military and by extension militarism as a way of solving or preventing conflict.
My first exposure to the effects of war came in 1999-2000 when I went to SE Asia for three months. I backpacked around Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia. What I saw in Laos and Cambodia shocked me to my core. The Vietnam War had ended a quarter of a century earlier yet for many people it never ended. Landmines and unexploded ordnance still littered the landscape. There were countless victims of these unseen demons. Now, in the interest of full disclosure I was in the US Navy toward the end of the Vietnam War safely off the coast on an aircraft carrier. The only thing I saw was aircraft being launched with wings filled with bombs and returning with empty bomb racks. Frankly, it never occurred to me that these were used to kill innocent people. But they did. In numbers that were overwhelming. This was the nexus of my journey to non-violent activism.
The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the most misunderstood and least obeyed words ever spoken by Jesus. Those three chapters in Matthew (5-7), those words comprise the longest uninterrupted speech recorded by Jesus in the Bible. And they both confound and challenge many of us. “Turn the other cheek” “Don’t resist evil” “Love your enemies”. When Jesus came on the scene in Palestine during the Roman occupation and presented Himself as the messiah He wasn’t really the messiah that most Jews were looking for and that had been prophesied. Instead he was a lowly carpenter who associated with the dregs of society. The worst of the worst. And he taught a doctrine which was antithetical to what the Jews were taught for generations. No more “A tooth for a tooth” but instead “turn the other cheek”. It must have been very confusing to these people. Jesus called them – and today calls us – to a different way of life.
“If any one will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life: and this we do not rashly venture to promise, but gather it from the very words of the Lord Himself. For the sermon itself is brought to a close in such a way, that it is clear there are in it all the precepts which go to mould the life.” – St. Augustine’s “Commentary on The Sermon on the Mount”
It is armed with this knowledge that I am embarking on a new chapter in my life. A life of active non-violent activism. Awhile back I became familiar with an organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) which works around the world to transform war and occupation. In December of 2014 I participated in a delegation with CPT to Palestine. To say it was an eye opening experience would be a gross understatement. It was life changing.
I met Michael in Palestine and although there’s a huge age difference we enjoyed our time together. Over the last few months we stayed in touch. Because we are both bicyclists I mentioned this pipe dream of mine, riding 50 centuries in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. So here we go.
Hello, fellow peacemakers! My name is Michael Himlie, I am from Harmony, Minnesota, and Root River Church of the Brethren is my home congregation. I attended McPherson College for one year, and then decided to join Brethren Volunteer Service where I worked with Brethren Disaster Ministries, and lived and worked at New Community Project, a sustainable living center that lives small and dreams big! In December of 2014 I attended a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation in Palestine and Israel, and started classes again, this time at Manchester University, in Indiana, majoring in peace studies. I have been blessed to work in the Church of the Brethren in a variety of positions and boards, each being a stepping stone of learning. Some of my hobbies are running, biking, ultimate Frisbee, reading, traveling, and being a trouble maker for Jesus!
I have always been a biker, but never would have guessed that I would have taken on the challenge of biking 100 miles in each of the 50 states in 50 consecutive days, especially at such a young age. My parents have taught me many great things over the years, one of which being ‘if you can visualize it, you can do it’, which has come back to frighten them maybe a little more than they would have expected. Dropping out of college to volunteer for a year, traveling to Palestine and Israel with Christian Peacemaker Teams at the age of 21, and now bike 5,000 miles in 50 days, in each state of the U.S. are all dreams I find to be normal simply because I can visualize a better world with each decision I make.
This trip holds meaning and desire for me because it is a fundraiser for an organization I find to be phenomenally impactful on a personal and global level. Christian Peacemaker Teams is historically radical through their means of peace and justice work both in deep, systemic, political systems, and loving their neighbors world-wide. My hope is that we will, through this trip, share the voices of the oppressed, share confidently the abounding love of the human race, challenge myself and others, and help those who help thousands worldwide through Christian Peacemaker Teams.