In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
A German pastor cycles from Holland to the south of Italy, gets in touch with local churches and raises money for three missionary projects.
Half-way through his journey, German evangelical pastor Michael Maas, arrives to northern Italy. Tired but fired up by his personal ‘mission possible’ to reach the town of Ispica in the province of Ragusa by bike, thus travelling from the north of Germany to the south of Sicily.
It was rather an original project, thought up by the fit 57 year old, and its aim was to make all he came in contact with aware of the need to support three important Christian missions, ranging from the social to evangelistic.
Three thousand kilometres from the very first pedal push-off in eastern Frisia and Michael Maas has made it, like any good German, by meticulously following a daily itinerary programme – half of which was in Italy - for three weeks.
After cooling down his muscles and looking back over the experience, the pastor gives evangelici.net an account of his ride using the numbers involved in the journey.
“Let’s start with zero” jokes Maas, “no accidents and just one technical problem. Quite a miraculous result for three thousand kilometres and especially considering Italian roads.” That’s right, Italian roads, the pastor-cyclist, with some anxiety, remembers the state of our rather uneven tarmac and all the potholes with all the risks involved. He needed “two wheels with excellent stability” for those conditions.
“Three weeks of cycling” Maas continues with the numbers, “four goals, five churches contacted along the way, 6-9 hours a day in the saddle and 8-9 weeks needed to prepare for such a difficult journey.”
In comparison, the 160 minute flight back to Germany after completing the journey were nothing.
Ten kilometres of mountain roads crossing the Alps. “That might seem a short distance,” commented the pastor, “but I can tell you that they seemed never-ending when I was in the saddle.” And hard work too, especially getting to the Brennero Pass, the ‘Cima Coppi’ (Coppi summit) in Maas’ journey which took him to altitudes of 1,374 metres.
Now the numbers get harder. “Eighty to ninety litres of water and drinks consumed during the 3 weeks” says Maas and “every afternoon at 2pm knowing there were another 100 kms to cycle each day”.
Long hours pedaling away with the sun beating down on you on roads that were not always brings another number to the fore: “121, the Psalm that I meditated on during my journey if the traffic allowed. I don’t know exactly why I chose that Psalm but it was really helpful and encouraging.”
The final toll was 2,970 kilometres for Maas, from the eastern Frisia to southern Sicily “and that included the deviations that even the omniscient Google was unable to foresee” was the pastor’s somewhat ironic comment.
It was a journey full of enthusiasm, sometimes spent in solitude but also in the company of several friends following at a distance. A journey made up of one-off meetings, photos and videos that portrayed its most interesting and significant aspects.
And, at the end of the day, it was not without results. “I’m pleased to announce” reveals Maas, “ that the sum total of donations made for this campaign has reached 4,000 euros, actually more than had been previously anticipated.”
Like any true traveller, during the journey from Frisa to Sicily, Maas had time to reflect on his own life. The hours spent in the saddle allowed him the time to think about his life, his faith and other people. “Above all”, smiles the pastor, “I discovered that at 57 I am not really old. I’ve understood that we shouldn’t let others influence us with their doubts just because we have plans to do things they would not dare to do.”
“I discovered that God always thinks one step ahead of us so we do not need to worry. I’ve also realized that nowadays faith just isn’t really necessary for many Christians, simply because they never leave their comfort zone. Instead, we should make plans, day by day, that involve real challenges for us so that, as Christians, we are motivated, not only to carry them out, but also to give the things we do greater significance.”