Hello, my name is Gavin Howell. I live in a small community of Stony Plain in Alberta, Canada. I am a husband to a beautiful wife and father to four lovely children and am just over 40 years old … 42 years old if you really need to know! I have been following our Lord for 8 years and He reveals more and more to me as my faith grows every year.
This leads me to a specific event that happened in the summer of 2011, where the Lord revealed many things to me. My friend, Matt Blacklock challenged himself to run 148 kms, non-stop, over mountains, across creeks, and possibly over other runners who had passed out from fatigue. Knowing that he was about to embark on this journey of endurance to raise money for kids in Nicaragua, I also challenged myself. I’m not a runner, like Matt, but I figured I would be able to help the cause by biking. The goal was to bike 291 kms through the Rocky Mountains all in one day, with my family being my road crew. As spring came and went, it was time to let “the rubber hit the road” and to do some serious training if this ride was to be accomplished. Mainly my training would consist of 60 to 80 km rides through the countryside, targeting lots of hills. There began to be a pattern that started on these rides. I would use these times of solitude (did I mention about having 4 kids?) to pray while riding and also listen to worship music. When I would get about an hour into my ride I would pass by an old friend’s house, and tears and an overwhelming sadness would overcome me. This “old” friend was very much a part of my life when I came to the Lord and we would sharpen each other and encourage one another in our walk with the Lord. But our lives had taken different directions and although there were no negative feelings, we allowed our friendship to wither away, and I had not seen him in over 2 years. Over and over again in the months of training, this sadness and grief would come as I came into the vicinity of his home. One day while on the bike, I asked the Lord what this was all about. The resounding answer was, “Do not take lightly, the relationships I have given you!” I knew I had taken this relationship lightly and knew that I had stopped putting effort into praying and encouraging this friendship.
As this revelation from the Lord was brought to me, I knew that this friendship needed to be connected again. One month prior to going to the mountains, I met my friend, Korey, for 2-3 hours every Saturday morning and picked up where we had left off. He was a great source of encouragement, donated money to the cause and I knew he was praying for me.
The day approached to do this ride, so I packed up my family, drove to the mountains and began, nervously to take this challenge on. My wife and I knew that I would have to head out very early in the morning so that I could finish before it got too dark into the evening. As I pedaled off at 5:30 am, it was 4° C and dark. The scripture that I clung to was Romans 5:4 “Rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
About 85 kms into the ride, I was cold, tired and discouraged with how much distance was left. When my wife and kids showed up in the truck to give me food and prayer, I sat in the truck, trying to warm up and shake off the discouragement. “Am I supposed to rejoice in this suffering?? Can I persevere past an overwhelming cloud of doubt? Will my Lord give me the character to overcome??”
I stepped out of the truck, after an hour long sit down, refreshed and renewed with an attitude that THIS can be overcome. As worship music sifted through my mind with promises of restoration, redemption, forgiveness and being bathed in prayers from my loved ones, the doubt began to be replaced with hope … the hope that will not disappoint!!
Now that the doubt and discouragement were fading, I began to feel stronger and faster. As the hours went on, not only was I rejoicing in the fatigue and the cramping, there was an unrelenting desire to finish this ride. The Lord had renewed my mind and now was giving me the character to see this to the end.
As it was becoming evident that the worst was over and I would complete this ride, I told my “road crew” to go set up camp and then meet me at the finish line because there was only 60 kms left. Dusk was coming, but I felt strong and confident that I could finish. But … with about 12 kms left to the finish, I got a flat tire (the only flat tire of the day) and darkness was upon me. Hope was fading that I would finish and discouragement once again began to set in. I rode on the flat tire for about 3 – 4 kms, but had to stop from complete exhaustion. I was now into my 15th hour of riding, discouraged, exhausted and I had no communication with my wife to let her know I was stranded on the highway. I got off my bike and began to walk in the dark. I could see a truck pulled over about 1km down the road in front of me and I could faintly see a man walking towards me. Stepping out of the ditch and now standing before me was my friend Korey! I was speechless. We gripped into a hug … him mostly holding me up. My mind was racing. “How can this possibly be happening? Did God send an angel? Is this the hope that will not disappoint? Is the Lord once again saying, “I’ve got your back”? How can this have a logical explanation? How can two men be re-united on a highway 800 kms away from home, without my “road crew” even being aware of it?” Needless to say, Korey gave me a ride in his truck the last 8kms to re-unite with my “road crew”. Korey explained that he parked on that stretch of highway to surprise me with encouragement and support as I would ride by. Little did we know what impact this re-union on the highway would have.
The real lesson is that God specifically puts relationships in our lives to love one another, encourage one another, and to live together. We must intentionally make an effort to nurture these relationships so we can hear Him speak to us through them. Do not take your relationships lightly … nurture them and rejoice that He has placed these people in your life to be “angels” in your time of need.