Autobiography Dieter Rolf Fischer Book 11
Book 11 / Ch. 5 Written / Published 9.11.12 / 15.11.2012
[God our Saviour] "... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth". (1. Tim. 2, 4)
5. Omni Victorious
In the middle of June the days are long in the Midwest of the USA. Sleeping in a tent you wake real early. I had risen, packed and was leaving Springfield, Illinois to continue my cycle south, toward the Gulf of Mexico That day was to be the first of a number of mishaps, all which were to happen around the city of St. Louis.
With a slight side wind, in perfect weather, I had reached Carlinville already at lunchtime. As I was searching the town square, unsuccessfully, for drinking water, a kind young man let me refill my water bottles in his nearby office. Those moments of personal contact with locals, especially when real help was offered, was always refreshing. And only hours later I needed real help.
After the town of Jerseyville the terrain became slightly more undulating. The gears on my bike, for some days prior, had not worked smoothly. I did not find the cause, possibly a frayed cable. My highest and lowest gears did not engage, unless I pulled the wire by hand. In the middle of vast cornfields, miles from nowhere, or so I thought, the cable snapped.
I continued for a few hundred meters in top gear, which my Giant was now stuck in, but soon realized I would not last the distance. It was already 6.30 PM; my destination that evening, the Pere Marquette State Park, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, many miles away. I stopped once again and tried fix the wire, so the bike would be stuck in a more manageable gear.
This makeshift repair turned matters from bad to disastrous. The entire derailleur assembly got caught in the spokes of the wheel. It snapped off completely. Now I was really stuck.
As I was stranded on the side of the road, my luggage strewn all over the grass, a van approached. It looked promising, just like a cloud in a draught. But no rain just yet. The driver drove right on, which was doubly disappointing, since on the side of the van I read that it was a church vehicle.
Luckily, it was still very much daylight and the weather rather mild. There was little I could do, except walking the bike along that lonely, gently undulating country road, praying for HIS will to be done, even in this mishap.
After walking my bike for about 11 to 15 minutes I was approaching a small village. What would I do? Would I find a helpful soul? It certainly did not look big enough to have any caravan park, store or bike shop. However, one institution most settlements in America have is a church.
Not only did this village have a church, but on that mild Friday night a big event was taking place on their laws. This was evident from the jumping castle, children playing and the table and chairs in front of this Baptist Church. As I later found it was the launch of their VBS - Vacation Bible School, which that night included they showing of a movie on a big outdoor screen.
I could not have come at a better time. After explaining my dilemma I was invited to stay on their grounds in my tent, and enjoy the fun and the food. The pastor offered to drive me the next day to have my broken bike repaired. So It was. God answered my prayer, as HE loves to do.
HE also loves to throw in a little humour. The Baptist pastor's name was (translated into German): Help rich! (Not sure, if he was rich, but he certainly was a help to me, going the extra 40 miles or so). Waiting for the pastor the next morning I had plenty of time to look around. There was only one vehicle parked in the church car park. Had I not broken down I would certainly have missed some interesting data. Take a look:
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After my bike had new gears installed at a large bike shop, I really enjoyed the ride on a disused railway line into St. Louis. Near Horseshoe Lake Madison Park a deer had wandered onto the trail. What a surprise to see wildlife so close to a big city! I once again crossed the mighty Mississippi near the suburbs Madison / Venice.
On the other side, the contrast from serene, rural to industrial, derelict was rather harsh. The amount of dormant infrastructure in that part of St. Louis felt somewhat depressing, especially as everything was closed for the weekend.
I only had to ask once and found my way to the Huckleberry Finn Hostel at the other side of town. After checking into the hostel, I took an evening ride downtown. There was much life, tourists everywhere, some driven around in horse-drawn carriages, children playing in the city fountain, plus the usual Saturday night party goers. It was a change to the usual solitude of my evenings in a quiet state park, with only racoons, squirrels or a deer as company.
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The hostel in St. Louis was very basic, but as the only one of two occupants in a large dormitory, I slept very well and long - until 9 am. Before leaving that Sunday morning I pumped up my tyres. The rear tyre made a swishing noise. Something was amiss - another mishap, a dreaded flat tyre. Of course I had not expect to cover thousands of kilometers without one, but it still was a nuisance.
At approx. 11.10 am I had installed a new tube and was on my way again. But only for a few seconds, until I spotted the sign of a Baptist Church. Since it was already late, I didn't think I'd be going to church that Sunday. But suddenly I remembered a thought I had had woken with that morning: Would I be finding and visit a church that day? Would it be one of those lively places, where the audience shouts out, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord. brother! Amen, sister, Praise God, Hallelujah!" La Salle Baptist Church was just like that. I loved it.
Not until I had entered the small, brick Baptist Church (15 minutes late, at 11.15 am) and sat at among the 70 or so congregation, did I realize I was the only white person in the room. It surprised me, since no true believers, Baptist or otherwise, would in any way make a distinction between white or coloured brethren. (There were more, unplanned, all-black church visits ahead).
La Salle Baptist Church, Sunday 17th, June 2012
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It was well after midday that I left the church, knowing I had to cross the mighty Mississippi again and to pedal a fair few miles to my next destination, or wherever the other half of that day would take me. It was not far at all.
Soon after crossing the river more derelict houses, a whole suburb it seemed, gave witness to better days gone by. Pedalling through these districts I saw the other side of America, the one we don't see very much of on TV. How America needs restoring physically, as well as healing spiritually.
I considered making an appearance in nearby Columbia. But it would be a detour and only a symbolic visit. (But then, this entire segment of my 2012 overseas trip was symbolic). About an hour south of St. Louis, at the Belleville to Red Bud turn-off, I suddenly felt the same horrible sensation as that morning. This time it was the front tyre which was slowly going flat.
No problem, I thought. I carried a repair kit and had mended many punctures in my days. However, I feel a little silly admitting this, I tried three time to mend that leaking tube. Each attempt failed for various reasons, as if I had two left hands or I was not meant to on that Fathers Day afternoon.
Just as the tyre went flat the third time, an old chap, who looked like a farmer, stopped right beside me. I loved his rego plate JIM 150. (I assumed his name was Jim, but he didn't look anywhere near 150, more* like 105. )
I asked Jim, if there was a bike shop open in town. He doubted very much that one would still be open on Sunday afternoon. When I asked regarding a camping ground, the answer was again a negative.
He then came up with the idea, I might try the fire station: "They might let you put your tent up on their grounds", he suggested. I recalled that my fellow cyclist Brian, back in Santa Monica, had also mentioned this. It so happened there was a large fire* station right there.
So it came about that I camped one night at the back of a fire station and loved it. The officer on duty said in all his years in the job he never had had such a request. (Thanks Larry).
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One week later the word victory made an uncanny appearance on my long, supernatural journey. I had left Memphis, Tennessee real early. It was around the longest day of the year, on June 24th, as I was chewing the miles on Route 51 travelling south. On radio more than one station broadcast Christian programs. One preacher I tuned into was (to the best of my knowledge) called Chuck Herring.
Just after cycling through Hernando, Mississippi, the preacher during his sermon on the radio spoke the word victory. Just then, not a second later or earlier, as my ears picked up the word victory, my eyes fell onto the sign of a church - 'Faith Victory'! A young man looked like he was just unlocking the building.
I turned back. I could not pass by without telling him of my experience. Two other men joined us, as I told my story. (Their names were Wally, David and Boney, according to my diary). We had a mini, impromptu prayer meeting. How refreshing!
I continued riding and listening to the radio. The very next preacher, on the same station I was listening to, spoke on the theme, how fitting it was: God's timing! Why had I not taken a photo of Victory church? I simply forgot. When a little later that morning I passed another church by the same name, I took its photo instead:
Left: Victory Baptist Church / Right: Main Street Baptist Church, Goodman (Mississippi)
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Having had two major mishaps, before and after St. Louis, I did not expect another, not so soon anyway. The weight of my luggage proved too much for the aluminium frame of my carrier. It snapped off without warning. Luckily, I carried some small hose clips, so I used a spoon handle as a brace. It worked, but only for a few days.
As I entered a place called Steele (with e) my temporary repair snapped again. Luckily it was not a mile further back, as I had just left Interstate Highway 55, riding a short distance illegally. (A police officer had advised me to use the 55, since it was the only way south out of Hayti.)
Ironically, it was here at Steele that I realized I would need a stronger piece of steel than my spoon handle. It took me a while to fix, but a solid steel bolt from a Napa store, plus an additional third hose ring, fixed the problem.
There is another reason, why Steele stands out in my mind. Before entering the state of Missouri I had bought a map of that state. There was some confusion about Steele. According to my map Steele was in Tennessee, when I was told that I was still in the state of Missouri.
The piece of steel episode at Steele was ironic for another reason. Take a look at the scan of the map I had bought and look how they spelled Steel? It also shows the error Missouri / Tennessee.
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Friends, don't think that I am being smart finding mistakes. It is God, who not only knows our thoughts, HE guides what we think, if we totally surrender our whole being to HIM. In Verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 139 we read it very plainly:
David goes on to write how God knows all about HIM, the paths he walks, the words he speaks.
Let me end with two discoveries God gave me during writing this chapter. God's all knowing, all powerful character is often described, using adverbs with the prefix omni (omnipresent, omnipotent. (Not, however, with this latest - omnishambles!)
Let's revisit San Diego in Chapter 1. At a place called Mission Beach I had written the words Mission Possible in the sand. This is how it looked:
Re-arrange MI ON = OMNI
The second discovery came early on the morning of writing. I was watering our front lawn for the first time this season. South Australia is experiencing very hot, dry conditions and it's not even summer yet. Earlier in the chapter you will find a picture with the word water and the number 1115.
How amazing - during watering the garden I was listening to the news. Thankfully, our prayers have been answered regarding the fires raging near Port Lincoln. During yesterday's catastrophic weather conditions no lives were lost on the Eyre Peninsula, only 7 houses, 12 sheds and 4 motor vehicles, according to ABC Radio.
As the fire chief spoke the name Port Lincoln, I suddenly saw a link between 1115 and 315.
In Book 10, Chapter 10 I wrote about Port Lincoln. The odometer on my Suzuki had produced some amazing numbers. Arriving from Adelaide at our Motel - Bay 10, the reading on the Suzuki's odometer was 315 315.
"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.
It is high, I cannot attain it".
Psalm 139, 6.