Well friends, after 39 years of riding the Agony you would think that getting my sponsor letter out in a timely fashion would be a piece of cake. I could get quite morbid here and talk about chaplain things that kept me distracted. But mostly it was “tonight I am sending out my letter…” then flopping into the easy chair and getting tired or distracted.
But one of the great perks about riding 39 years and soon making it 40 (caveat: James 4:13-14) is that you (my sponsors) pretty much know what’s coming at the end of July and are more righteous than I and self-motivate to sponsor and give.
I have long since abandoned the idea that it’s because you love me. I have had to accept the fact that it’s because you love to see me suffer in my old age. I suppose some might call that karma. I just take it as Paul did while in prison and his detractors did it to annoy him. (Philippians 1:15-18) OK, kidding on the detractor part. I know you enjoy my suffering only because I “enjoy” it too.
And I thank you for your support through all these years of my madness. Together we have provided for the opportunity for dozens of at-risk teens to have a chance at life through Jesus’ healing love. You all are “rock stars”, and I thank you. I know you didn’t do it for the extra jewels in the crown, but there will be some waiting for you. Which is an odd euphemism (probably too American) since all those jewel-laden crowns will be cast down at His feet and far outshone by the glory of His presence anyway.
Sorry, my adult on-set A.D.D. kicks in sometimes and I get distracted with various imaginings. But you have to admit, that’s a pretty cool imagining. Anyway, thanks for another year of support. It is greatly appreciated by me and by Ranch personnel and especially by the students who have the opportunity for discovering themselves in Jesus.
Here is a link to my CEM newsletter article:
So this is ride number 39. I am not getting any younger, and since I am not yet retired, my free time is not increasing. My theme again this year is just ride and get through another year. Maybe I can retire after next year's (40th) ride. But even at this late sign up date, as I search for words to motivate myself and to inspire you give generously; I am reminded of 3 things. 1. God is still at work in this world to draw folks to Himself so he can lavish His grace on them. 2. CEM is in the business (quite effectively) of pointing damaged kids to God to feel His call of love and grace. As long as #1 is true, I cannot sit back idly and wish Him success. I must be a part of the search team in some fashion. I urge you to be on the Team too with generous donations to a worthy (yes He is) cause. Thanks again for your support of my pedaling efforts. ~Mike
Yes again, This is number 38. Sheesh!
July 12, 2020
Agony is 12 days away. I wish I could say that would be 10 training days. That is not to be. I may have had 10 training days this season. (an exaggeration, but not by much)
This is going to be most unusual Agony fundraising letter I have ever written. Mainly because it is the most unusual Agony I have ridden. When the current pandemic struck and our society came to a standstill, I don’t think any of us expected the impact to last this long. But now, as a result of so many restrictions and closures, this year’s Agony Ride will be a virtual event. CEM couldn’t get the county event permits.
Initially I was excited about that. I could watch riding videos for 24 hours… Tour de France reruns, Paris-Rubaix remixes, Olympic track competition. Then I found out I still had to get on my bicycle and peddle the miles and report my mileage online. Oh well.
Seriously though, as an essential service, CEM has continued to help disadvantaged young people throughout this entire health crisis. With health safety guidelines in place, “kids” with immense familial, relational, spiritual, emotional, and personal needs have been loved, taught, guided, disciple, counseled, encouraged, and tangibly shown the love and renewal of Jesus Christ. That work could not stop, because God’s love does not stop.
However, as with many faith-based non-profit funds have slowed and this Agony Ride fundraiser is as important as it ever has been in its 38 year history.
So, please consider a generous support of my feeble riding efforts so that these young people may continue tangibly experiencing the renewing, forgiving love of God.
Ride #: 38
Date: July 24/25
Goal: 150 miles
Weather: Likely daytime temps of triple digits.
Yes, Again. The 37th time.
For my faithful followers, you know this is both a solicitation for sponsorships and my equivalent of the proverbial Christmas letter. So, please donate to this great cause.
Last year on the morning of the Agony I attended a funeral for a fire fighter who was killed in a non-work related accident. It was a very emotional service. As a result I started the ride two and a half hours late. Starting out of sequence like that I was emotionally drained to start and never got my fuel intake or fluid intake properly managed. I bonked at least twice and truly the Agony lived up to its name.
Since that time I have changed jobs and now am the Senior Chaplain/Executive Director of the Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy. I the last few days prior to this writing, I have attended the line of duty funeral for SacramentoPD Officer Tara O'Sullivan and assisted the Sheriff with notifying a deputy's wife that he had died during a diving accident. That is kinda my life right now. I get called into service when there is some bad or fatal that has occurred.
In reflecting on that, I am reminded that Staff at CEM daily intervene with students for whom relational and spiritual death is knocking at the door. They have the privilege of bringing Life through Jesus and thwarting the victory of the Enemy. Your generous donation goes directly to keep that happening 24/7/365. Your pledge will allow dozens of young people to have the opportunity to choose Life over spiritual death this year. And next year we will do this again.
Please be generous, take a peek at the Ministry website and be encouraged by the great things happening in students' lives. Thanks; and GO B TEAM AGONY!!
The World Cup is well underway. Underdogs have survived. Favorites have fallen. The world awaits its Champion.
Two days from now the Tour de France will commence with stage 1. There will be pain, there will be anger, there will be elation, there will be road rash. In the end one rider and one team will emerge as Champions.
In both of these contests the world watches, it waits. Some cheer, some curse, others weep for grief or for joy. There is anticipation, drama, and excitement as entire nations are engulfed in a nearly desperate hope that their champions will emerge victorious.
Although the world has always sought a champion, it has not always watched the competition nor has it been aware of the most significant contests. Every day there are contestants engaged in a struggle, a winner-takes-all contest for their souls. Although this is universal, it is visibly, tangibly true at Christian Encounter Ranch.
Students, interns, and staff are daily countering the moves of the Enemy, seeking to shed the hindrances of hurt, guilt, pain. They charge up the mountain of God’s love seeking the polka dot jersey (climbing champion) of His Grace. They wait with hands clasped in prayerful anticipation as Jesus stands in goal fending off the penalty kicks of Satan, the Accuser.
All of this goes unobserved by a distracted world. But for 24 hours that changes in a microcosm called the Sierra Valley. For 24 hours riders compete, not against each other but against the elements and their own frailties. They do it not for a maillot jaune (yellow jersey) but to bring hope and love, tangibly, to young people who need encouragement to persist in their struggle toward healing. At the same time, the encouraged students are wildly cheering on their champions to that extra mile until that last minute.
These are the Champions of Grace, the riders, the saggers, the cooks and the record keepers of the Agony. This year’s ride is July 27-28. This is ride number 36. Although the financial survival of the Ranch (CEM’s residential facility) is dependent on the Agony Ride, it’s difficult to determine the most significant outcome of the Ride. Is it the money that God uses to keep the ministry solvent? Or, is it the motivation and hope it provides the students?
Regardless of where the answer lies in that question, I guarantee that your monetary and/or prayerful support of my pedaling efforts will significantly contribute to both. For my faithful supporters, thank you again. To my new supporters, welcome to B*-Team Agony. (*Boon)
Friends, B-Team Agony, I think this year’s theme is “DeJaVu”. This is my 35th Agony Ride. A rough count indicates that I have been over every inch of road, every pothole, every crevice in the pavement over 350 times in the last 30 years of this route. It’s all de ja vu.
Every year I have firm intentions of getting out my letter by June 1. And every year it’s after the 4th of July. More de ja vu. And every year I strain my brain to say something I haven’t said in the past 34 letters, and every year I try to come up with new excuses for the delay in sending this letter. I usually fail miserably at both. More de ja vu.
Well, just reminders then.
* Christian Encounter Ministries serves in a much needed way to those who are desperate for healing.
* The Ranch continues to produce amazing and heart-wrenching stories of young lives being turned around by God’s love, power, and grace.
* The Agony Ride is the largest single source of funds for CEM. And as B-Team Agony (B for Boon) sponsors you are participating in supporting a much needed, specific niche in the Kingdom of God.
* I once again come to you for prayer support and financial support while you ponder just how ridiculous I am for doing this again.
You have found my Agony page, check out the Agony video (very inspirational) and submit an online sponsorship or mileage pledge. (or you can send your pledge vial snail mail to
P.O. Box 1066
Grass Valley, CA 95945
A-lmighty G-od O-nly N-eeds Y-ou.
God owns, by nature of Creatorship, every resource in the universe, mineral and monetary.
He is self-sufficient and has no need of anything.
He neither hungers nor thirsts, sleeps nor seeks shelter from a storm.
But he desires you, wants you, has prepared for you.
In many respects this is what the Agony Ride is all about. Essentially it is what the students of the Christian Encounter Ranch come to hear and, hopefully, come to accept and own as their understanding of themselves and who God is. The Agony ride is simply a 24 hour demonstration of that message played out through the pedaling efforts of dozens of riders, and generosity of hundreds of sponsors.
Once again I come to you seeking your support of this effective and needed ministry.
This year has seen major changes at the Ranch. God infused new energy into the ministry through a new Director, Chuck Boatman. Although he had no plans to make any changes for a year, God thought better. Four major staffing changes have been made since January. All of them positive moves as God rearranged the resources of His Kingdom. As a board of directors we have renewed our commitments to influence, oversight, and support.
Personally life has gone crazy since the last Agony. Work at the University has become more challenging, ministry with the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy has become more significant and, with that, more time consuming, grandkids have become more active (which means more games and school activities to take up my Saturdays and evenings), and El Nino has brought much needed moisture to northern California (which means less good weather in which to ride). So, without making it sound too much like whining, it’s going to be a looong 24 hours of Agony. I will set my mileage goal at 200 miles, knowing that I haven’t paid my dues for that.
Please consider another year of support as we team together for this fantastic ministry.
The ride is 1:00 pm Friday, July 29th to 1:00 pm Saturday July 30th. If you receive this via snail mail, you can visit me online at ____ or mail in the attached sponsorship form.
Feel free to drop me a note or email at < email@example.com >.
Riding off into the sunset;
|Michael's Recent Events|
Glad to have partnered with you over the years, Mike (not the whole 40 though). Your commitment is admirable. God bless your efforts this year. Ride far, dear friend. ♥️
Thank you Mike for your love and devotion and for your energy and participation in this event and in this ministry! Love you, brother!
You riding the Agony every year for the last 40 years has shown who you truly are: a man of commitment, determination and compassion for others. Thank you for seeking to do your best in all your endeavors in spite of many obstacles, God has led you on this 40 year challenge! Thank you for following Gods lead!
Sponsoring at one dollar for every year of Agony -- you're amazing Mike!
Sorry, Mike, I couldn't resist sponsoring you per mile. I've been remembering all the way back to one of the early Loyalton rides, when you, Suzie and I were desperately searching for motivation to do this thing yet again. Now it's number 40 for you. "Only Excellence." "Just Stinkin' Do It." Thank you for so many years of commitment.
Mike, I will be with you in spirit and prayers
May God richly bless you for your commitment to His work for 40 years! Ride strong!
Way to go Mike!
We will be praying for you as you ride !!! Go for it!!
40 years! As long as you can still ride, I will still donate! Keep doing good work for the Kingdom my friend.
Mike, I truly appreciate your dedication to this cause as this cause has been one of the catalysts for changing so many lives. Whether a young adult or a participant.
I hope you have a great ride. Don't over do it. Remenber your wife comes first. Blessings, Mark
Mike, I can remember the first Agony Ride I assisted with in 1988 and now here you are still going strong in 2022. I truly appreciate your dedication to the ministry and this great cause which allows so many young lives to be changed.
Mike, we're supporting you this year in honor of your long history of doing the Agony. God bless you with strength, stamina, and a strong sense of satisfaction for having done so much for the Ranch through all these years!
Well Boon, I really look forward to seeing and supporting you in your AGONY! Honoured to do so. God blessed me with, very likely two. NT son's. Little did I know back then that, through you, God was preparing me to love and understand that personality preference. See you soon, Suzanne (Suzie) Barnhill
WooHoo!!! 🎉 You did it! 101 miles!!!! I am so impressed! Congratulations Mike! You are amazing!!🎉
Wow! 40 years of Agony rides! 🚴🏼♂️So impressive!!! Congratulations!!! What a blessing you’ve been to the youth at CER over those 40 years in your varied capacities! I’m praying for your ride. May God bless you abundantly!!! Love you!
What a great encouragement it is to see you continuing to ride and to minister. I know the physical piece can get a little harder with each year, but you make it look easy. Thank you for the many lessons I personally have learned from you from the years we crossed over at the Ranch. I hold a few Mike-isms in my mind. May you be encouraged as you go through this Agony.
Mike, I wish I was there to celebrate 40 years of Agony rides with you! You are an amazing man of God and of grit! I am with you in love and spirit and praying for you through the ride. You continue to inspire so many.
Forty years of faithful commitment, sacrifice, and commitment. Thank you for your example.