This is going to be a long read so you guys better stretch your eyes. How? I don’t know. Blink? Figure it out.
27 cyclists and 18 support crew members, 550km, countless hills and mountains, one long 5km mountain, liters and liters of water and Gatorade, unlimited kilograms of meat and bread, muscle pain, tears of defeat and joy, laughter of embarrassment and joy. This was not an ordinary event in my life for me, no matter how much I recall the events. Yes, Ride Against Traffick 2017 has left a certain feeling lingering in my heart.
There are some quotes that I made from this trip as you read along. I hope they make sense to you as well.
“I believe memories are dreams you make when you are awake.”
There are certain events in your life that you will always remember. Remember for the rest of your life. We all know that and we all experience that. Memories are very important to me, every single one of them. As I became older, I realized that memories do not fade but rather new ones are harder to make. Yes, I do have new memories but not one that can impact my life in a different way. It might not be extraordinary for you, but this was something that hit me really deep down.
When my church pastor mentioned Ride Against Traffick as a 4-day bicycle ride to raise awareness on human/sex trafficking in Korea. I asked myself, “What is this?”. But not with a sense of interest but more of a “Oh another one about trafficking.” Why? I grew up in a country that has trafficking issues, sexual abuse, rape and other related crimes. However, as I learned more about trafficking and the damage it’s been doing to innocent people. I was crushed and angry at the same time. The more I thought and learned about it, I felt it become more and more personal. (Don’t ask why it’s personal. I’m not going to tell you.)
“Everyone deserves to be loved, and I mean everyone. The love they have received will shine from them. Pass it on.”
Then it hit me, “They deserve love too, they need to feel love and they need to know that there are people who care about them and are willing to fight for them.” Whether you are broken, down, depressed, shameful or painful past. It doesn’t matter. Everyone needs to be loved. Jesus died for us because He loved us, and that is the kind of unconditional love we need to spread. I know this, but I need to practice it more.
It has been a huge blessing to meet each and every individual during this ride. I felt loved and cared for. It made me want to do more for them than I could even give. Might need to make myself into multiple Ji’s. LOL.
“When you’e doing what you love, even worries are enjoyable.”
I didn’t ride my bicycle, no. I was in the support crew as the main photographer. (Lord help me, I thought.) I was so nervous before leaving Seoul that I messaged my Pastor and told him that. All he responded was, “Why are you nervous? You’re not even riding” /facepalm. I know. But the thing is… I didn’t know and I was scared if I could do my job right. And getting to know new people somewhat scared me.
My fear was comforted by the Lord. Waking up 5:30 in the morning (sorry if I was late.) after running all day long organizing checkpoints and helping the cyclists throughout their journey. Running around mountains and hills and standing in a scary bridge where huge trucks pass by. Waiting under the sun for the cyclists to arrive. (I got tanned) All this for the right pictures – was a stressful bliss for me. It reminded me how much I can enjoy stress, as long as I was doing what I loved and enjoyed. The enjoyable worry in choosing the right background and composition. It was beautiful.
“Learning and acquiring patience requires patience.”
There were times when it was difficult and I couldn’t wait for the bikers to arrive and sat down or left the spot that I wanted. I was born impatient, I hate waiting. But as I took the pictures and framed the backgrounds that I wanted; I learned to be patient and I learned endurance. The wait is hard, being patient is difficult. But the result is amazing at the end.
(Well, though I did fail to be patient on the last day.)
“Prayer is not only talking to God, but it’s an instrument to bring supernatural happenings that only He can provide.”
However, the second night was rough. Every night I had to edit photos so that our blogger can use them and Instagram account can be updated. (@rideagainsttraffick) The sleeping late portion was okay, but there was something about that motel room. I didn’t feel good energy from it.
First, my rhinitis was bad. Definitely one of the worst moments. I was sneezing and couldn’t breathe properly, my asthma started to act up, my eyes were itchy and teary. One of my roomies had allergy kind of stuff on her back. Even when I laid down to sleep, I couldn’t. My mind was buzzing, thinking, it was on override. When I did get to sleep, I had nightmares. 4 hours of fully-disturbed sleep after, the next morning was torture. I couldn’t focus, but still driven to work. Pastor JM, our director (lol) asked what was wrong and I told him everything. He prayed over me.
I believe that prayer is strong. It is. But I always had that back thought in my mind, there was this doubt. A doubt that prayer is only a tool for talking to God but not for healing. I was so wrong. Prayer is powerful. After the lunch-time checkpoint, I slept a full 40 minutes inside the car (Thank you Jasmine!) and felt peace and anxiety leaving me. I was the weird me again.
“People’s smiles and laughter are precious warmth. Seek to preserve them.”
Lastly, I remembered why I started and enjoyed taking photographs in the first place. To spread laughter and joy. I love making people and seeing people smile. It just gives me so much joy and my heart is filled with abounding happiness.
The riders still laughing even when they’re crying. Smiling for the pictures and cheering on even when I know and feel the pain in their faces but triumphant at the same time. I was looking at all the pictures I took yesterday and today, and it made my heart burst. It was swollen not with pride but with a full feeling of blessedness. I got to meet so much people that were kind and giving, warm and generous about everything. Staying strong and comforting others. I was reminded how wonderful people can be.
“The heart was made to love and not hate. To bring joy and peace.”
And up until that last moment, I sensed God protecting each and every one as they rode their bikes. Giving strength, endurance and patience to those in the support crew.
So why go through all that? Why, you ask? Because the girls and boys trafficked need love too. They were born to be loved and to be happy. I am blessed to be born in a family that loves me and was there to protect me. Pastor JM mentioned that a father is important in a family and it is very true.
I learned so much in this event and I was reminded on how blessed I am. I felt God wanted me to be there, to have this experience and to remind me that I am not alone and those who are broken are also not alone in this world. There are people who care and work for them. I know I won’t be able to make a difference alone. But with these people around me, I believe I can.
Awareness is always the beginning. A beginning that can end something.
And until that end comes, I will continue to pray and help as much as I can.
If you would like to donate to this cause, the fundraising will end at the end of this month. Click here to donate. It should be available for donations until the end of October.
Where does the money go? More info here.
To find out more about this movement, click here.
To send me some love, click here. LOL.