While the Covid pandemic has presented challenges for our Youth-Reach Gulf Coast (YRGC) family, it’s also provided a unique opportunity for staff and residents to spend more time fellowshipping together. As we gather together day after day, hearts are being stirred, dreams are being re-kindled and visions are being born. About a month into the lockdown, YRGC Property Manager & Counselor Tony Jackson began to share a dream he’d had since his 20’s – a cross-country bike trip.

His latest attempt at planning the trip was a few months before the pandemic began but the details never materialized.   Tony asked recent YRGC graduate and Transitional Home Counselor Cole Irvin about the possibility of experiencing a cross-country cycling journey together. At first, Cole thought Tony was just kidding but soon realized that he was quite serious.

YRGC Director, David Williams, loved the idea considering the benefits of having a seasoned man of God like Tony travel the country with a young man like Cole who was so new in his relationship with Jesus. After receiving David’s blessing, thee two men began the long, detailed process of planning their adventure together.

“Just the the planning of the trip has been an adventure in and of itself. It’s been the most detailed oriented trip of my life. I’ve had to totally trust the Lord to give me patience with this process,” said Cole.

When he wasn’t engaged in the hands-on ministry of YRGC, Cole was working with Tony to map out the bike route, researching supplies needed, and taking side-jobs to to purchase equipment. As the two moved forward, the Lord began to reveal a purpose for this trip beyond anything they’d initially envisioned. Cole realized the value for this adventure and his eyes and heart were opened to the possibility that other new YRGC graduates could also encounter the Lord in this way.

The vision the Lord put on Cole’s heart is an extension of the YRGC Transitional Living initiative called Restoration Cycles. Graduates would have the opportunity to get outside the confines of YRGC to experience something new before starting  the Transitional Living phase of their journey.

“Every young guy wants to feel a sense of adventure and do something wild – that’s why a lot of guys choose drugs and alcohol. It’s a cheap, ‘easy,’ route to adventure,” said Cole.  “Biking trips are a healthy adventure that force you to slow down and unpack everything inside of yourself while doing something physical at the same time. Going 50 miles on a bike at 10 miles an hour, you have no choice but to deal with your thoughts and grapple with God.”

Tony and Cole will be cycling for a total of 4,228 miles on the Bicentennial TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. The trip is expected to take 70-85 days and they will pass through 10 states, starting in Astoria, Oregon and finishing in Yorktown, Virginia. They are planning to cycle from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day, setting up camp for the evening after a full “work day.” They’ll also be journaling their experience to bring wisdom back for the benefit of Restoration Cycles.

“At 58, I’m still learning to crawl before I walk. I always had the mentality that once you get older you get wiser, which is true, but I’m learning so much through this process. We’re praying that the Lord will show us the way through this journey,” said Tony.

Leaving April 1st with a late June return planned, Tony and Cole will be paying special attention to note trial and error experiences with camping equipment, parts that need frequent repair, what is essential to carry and what they can do without. At this time, Restoration Cycle trips will be one-week adventures for YRGC graduates.

If you would like to support the vision for Restoration Cycles, please consider giving. You can help make it possible for YRGC graduates to receive this opportunity to do “something wild” that will bring them into deeper communion with Jesus instead of returning to a life lacking real adventure. The more you get to know God, the more there is to discover and there is so much more for our graduates to learn in their fight to become strong, Godly men.