We follow up with Paul Shol after completing his bike trip across America, where he gave away thousands of copies of Jesus Calling to people all along the way. Raising over $50,000 for at-risk children in his community, Paul shares how God worked with him and through others for the entire 4000-mile trek.
A Ride of Faith: Biking Across America with Jesus Calling – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 26
Paul Shol: His path is where we’re going to make the biggest difference for others and show His kingdom the brightest; it’s when we’re on His path. I think it’s a very big challenge for everybody to discern and follow that path because often it goes against what the people in society around us are showing and telling us. Take a look at my journey and listen to my testimony and how God came out in the end and changed me and others through it exponentially. You can start by taking some small steps of faith and internalizing those, keeping those inside of you and when you get to a bigger leap, they might not be such a big leap anymore. I think if we give ourselves exercises in those faith opportunities for exercise in faith and trust, we can continue to build ourselves to handle big leaps of faith and trust. If we take them, God answers.
Narrator: Welcome to the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we reconnect with teacher, Paul Shol, whose story we told in a previous podcast. Paul was about to embark on a journey across America on his bicycle, raising money to help at-risk children and to give away hundreds of copies of Jesus Calling. He shares with us now the amazing things that happened during the three months of his trip.
Listening to God: Paul Recounts His Bike Journey Across America
Paul: My name is Paul Shol. This is a second podcast for me with Jesus Calling. I did a podcast back in May of this year; 2016. It was just prior to embarking on a big journey. I biked across the United States. I went through the northern states and started from July and biked through until very early September. The journey was incredible in all ways, and 3,900 miles. Just shy of 4,000 miles.
My journey was for really two outside purposes and one kind of personal purpose. The two outside purposes were for a children’s organization in Fargo. That was the first chronologically that I chose my reasons for riding this big journey. Children’s organization in Fargo, I’ve been living in Fargo for the last seven years and was a high school math teacher there. It’s called Legacy Children’s Foundation. They are a wonderful, wonderful support, nonprofit support organization for the at-risk youth in Fargo.
I chose them as one of my fundraising efforts, and I’m proud to tell you post-trip that I doubled my goal. My goal was $25,000 to raise for them and I raised over $50,000 for them through this trip. I love to share that with people. Just the effort it took on my own personal part, it was a lot of time and effort. But in the end, looking back, it was a lot of effort and time, but I just had so much passion behind it that it just was so easy.
Giving the Gift of Jesus Calling
I really felt like God put it in my heart to ride for His purpose as well. I don’t know when or how or why that happened, but I just woke up one day and I think I was reading my Jesus Calling devotional and it popped into my head. I thought, “You know what, this is an amazing opportunity for me to make a difference. This might be the biggest opportunity of my life to make a big impact.”
I thought looking down at my book, I immediately had that idea like, “well, do something else,” and I thought, “God, this book has meant so much to me. Why not get that book out to other people? Why not fund raise and buy a whole bunch of books and leave them across the United States?”
I think if we give ourselves exercises in those faith opportunities for exercise in faith and trust, we can continue to build ourselves to handle big leaps of faith and trust. If we take them, God answers.
That was my second goal and mission on the trip and the second reason I rode was to basically, long story short, just leave a huge trail of books behind me of Jesus Calling devotional books. Up to this point, I’ve raised over about $20,000 and given away a little over 2,200 books. I’m excited to tell you that as well because that’s been just an awesome feeling for me personally to give all that away. I love it.
A Leap of Faith: Trusting God in the Journey Ahead
Before I went on the trip, I had a big decision to make. It looked like if all days aligned and weather aligned, and everything went well, which I knew was a small chance of everyday lining up that I could make the distances I needed to, that I would get there right near the beginning of the school year.
I asked to get some sort of leeway there, in case I didn’t make it back at the beginning of the school year. That was not approved. They told me basically I needed to choose between the ride and my job. I felt a lot of passion, but I also felt just the strongest calling I’ve ever felt. Once I accepted that calling, this decision to ride versus job actually became relatively easy. That was the choice I had to make. I resigned my position and it was a pretty big leap of faith by me, in a financial or worldly sense, because I didn’t have a job lined up. I quit my job as a teacher in Fargo without a having a job lined up.
Getting Over the Hill: The Good Times and the Tough Times
The very first day, I’m biking along the West Coast from Florence, Oregon up to, I don’t know 50, 60 miles up the West Coast. And I run into the only long distance bike rider I ended up biking with was that very first day. He was riding north. His name was Doug. I think Doug was about 60 or 65 years old. He was going solo, had all his gear on his bike just like me.
The very first day to run into somebody and bike with him for 40 miles is pretty awesome. God was along the whole route, he put people on my path that needed to be put there, so Doug was one of those people.
Now, I had reached the point where I didn’t have any sorts of pain, but I did get injured once. I got injured in Montana. It was the worst spot to get injured. it was desolate and dismal. It was rough. That was my lowest point of my trip; central to eastern Montana.
Amazing views, yet so brutal on anybody trying to bike through it and I found that out the hard way. There were definitely times at the beginning and in central Montana where I thought, “This is harder than I thought and am I going to make it?
I remember that moment and biking through this amazing scenery yet mentally being just depressed. That was a good learning moment for me too. Just like in all of our lives, be in the present, be in the present. God is in the present. I got down thinking of the future. We so often do that. We think about the past and the future and not right now.
Recognizing the God Moments: Encounters Along the Way
Along the way, I put my name and message out there to towns and places and media sources and they grasped on to those in quite a few places. I wrote stories or would interview me on radio or do a short news segment. You know to be honest, it’s not my personality at all to promote myself.
I viewed it as, this is not about me and the purpose is higher than me so I did it. I decided that people hearing my story–I could affect way more people than just the people I give books to, because I’m only going to be able to give a couple thousand of these books away. But if people can hear my story whether it be in the newspaper radio or TV, that’s going to reach a lot of people. That could lead to them saying, “Wow. This guy has dedicated 4,000 miles and three months to riding for this book and this children’s organization.”
Man, there are so many people, so many God moments from other people helping and encouraging me just in general. Just in general sense of people, amazing love and grace I found out there; poured on to me. It was amazing.
The People That God Places in Your Path
I met Ruby at a gas station. She was the attendant at, I think, Hood River, Oregon or somewhere in Oregon there along the Columbia River. I came in at about 10:30 at night, later than I hoped to, into a town and I stopped at the gas station to get a little bite to eat.
What was really cool was when I started, she asked me, “What are you doing?” I started to describe what I was doing and what I was riding for. When I started talking about Jesus Calling, her eyes and excitement just lit up.
…there are so many people, so many God moments from other people helping and encouraging me just in general.
I said, “Well, could I give you some books? That’s what my mission is, to give books away.” She paused and just said, “I would love that. I would love that.” I gave her three books, one to her and two for her sons. She emailed me a few weeks later and it’s one of the most meaningful parts of this whole thing. basically the email said what a blessing that had been for her to receive those books. That was really inspirational.
Ending With Inspiration: The Last Few Days
Another example might be in Michigan. We crossed paths and Nancy is her name. Outside the grocery store and she said, “What are you doing?” I described it and started describing a little bit more. She said, “Where are you staying?” I said, “Down at this state forest camp ground, another five, eight miles down the road.
She paused and she said, “Come stay with us.” Here I was in the late evening, I was grungy, dirty, sweaty, gross-looking kind of guy. It looked like I had been on the road for many days which I had been. A little rough looking and here she invites me and she’s known me for five minutes. She said, “Come stay with my husband and I,” and so I did. Just a blessing to me. It was just amazing.
It ended up her husband was a pastor to two churches there, so we obviously connected well with the Jesus Calling book purpose and ended up sending him a couple cases of books to give to his congregation. Now, I love to think about Naubinway, Michigan getting to know this Jesus Calling book.
Drawing to a Close: Finishing Strong
The last week, I suppose that was from probably such small states up there, Eastern New York to Maine and I went from, just to describe the route, New York up through Vermont and New Hampshire and then to Maine. That was probably about the last week. I tell people that that was the most beautiful area of the whole ride.
I absolutely love that area and I can’t wish for any better ending. That last week was amazing. Amazing weather, amazing people, amazing views and an amazing feeling of where I was and what I had done behind me. I also tell people just how sad I started to get. Internally, I was sad. I was bummed that this was ending. I started counting down the days and I thought, “No. This has been such an incredible journey.”
A few days away from my last couple days, I hear from a guy named Mike Robertson on Facebook and he said, “I heard what you’re doing. I think it’s tremendous. I’m a biker. I heard it from my pastor. I’ve taken two days off from work and I’d love to finish your trip with you.”
I thought, “Wow. This guy doesn’t know me at all and he’s taken work off to come join me.” I said, “Heck, yeah. I’d love it.” Mike Robertson, Mike and I absolutely struck up a great friendship right away and he’s one of those people along the trip that are one of those meaningful people along my trip and who I’ll take with me forever.
I think Mike was God riding alongside me there for a couple of days. He was a great presence to bring me in the last two days. I wouldn’t ask for anybody else to ride.
He felt inspired by my trip. He is legally blind and a bike rider. He is going to bike across the United States next summer for an organization in Maine who helps people with seeing and vision problems. I think that’s just amazing that he’s going basically do what I did, but yet he’s legally blind. Incredible.
Reflecting on God’s Answer
Since I’ve been back, I’ve heard from a few people. I’d pull into a town and someone would host me or someone would randomly host me, like the people in Michigan, like I’ve mentioned earlier. The relationship that was formed within 12 hours was terrific. It’s just incredible. I just love these people from the bottom of my heart for what they did for me along my trip. Coming off the trip and being done now, it’s sobering a little bit.
I quit my job as a teacher in Fargo without having a job lined up on the backend, on the backside of the trip. It was easily the biggest leap of faith I’ve had to take in my life so far, was that decision there, and it all worked out. I found a teaching position down in my hometown, Fergus Falls, Minnesota and I am teaching there now. I think God answered that leap of faith.
Narrator: Paul continues to share his story with others and is already dreaming about where God may call him next. He encourages everyone to seek their own personal journey with God and to be open to venture out to where He might be leading.
Paul: I think you can often find God and His presence most outside of your box, outside of your comfort zone in those moments where you’re having to trust and taking a leap of faith. That was my third reason for riding was my own personal faith pilgrimage and journey, was I wanted to do this alone and to take that leap of faith and put myself in that position to experience that trust and faith at a really high level.
I think if we have those opportunities, you’re going to grow closer to God than you may in anything, by taking those leaps of faith, not necessarily physical. They can be in other forms, but if you do it, just how much you’ll grow from it and what an even greater connection and trust in God that you’ll have.
Narrator: Our featured passage for today’s show comes from the September 25th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook:
Pour all of your energy into trusting Me. It is through trust that you stay connected to Me, aware of My Presence. Every step on your life-journey can be a step of faith. Baby steps of trust are simple for you; you can take them with almost unconscious ease. Giant steps are another matter altogether: leaping across chasms in semidarkness, scaling cliffs of uncertainty, trudging through the valley of the shadow of death. These feats require sheer concentration, as well as utter commitment to Me.
Each of My children is a unique blend of temperament, giftedness, and life experiences. Something that is a baby step for you may be a giant step for another person, and vice versa. Only I know the difficulty or ease of each segment of your journey. Beware of trying to impress others by acting as if your giant steps are only baby ones. Do not judge others who hesitate, in trembling fear, before an act that would be easy for you. If each of My children would seek to please Me above all else, fear of others’ judgments would vanish, as would attempts to impress others. Focus your attention on the path just ahead of you and on the One who never leaves your side.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.
To find out more about Paul’s trip, visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/paulslegacytour/.