Friesen has embarked upon Cycle MDS, a six-month, 10,000-mile solo tour of the continental United States, including a brief jaunt into Canada. Friesen is using the tour to raise awareness of the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and the disaster management program at Hesston College in Hesston, KS.
Friesen set off from a Mennonite Disaster Service site in New Iberia, LA, on May 31. Since then he has traveled across the Gulf region and up the interior of the East Coast, hitting more than 20 states along the way. By the time he reached Wilmington, he had traveled 2,443 miles by bike – almost a quarter of the distance he plans to travel before the trip ends in Louisiana in November. Friesen chose New Iberia as his departure point because students from Hesston College, where he worked as a resident director for the last three years, were working at the site.
Friesen is cycling without the aid of a support vehicle and carries all 80 pounds of his equipment, including a portable camp stove and a small one-man tent, in a pack strapped to his bike. He hopes to cover about 400 miles per week, entering each of the contiguous 48 states at least once on his journey. Friesen may be all on his own, but he does have support and encouragement from family, friends and those interested in his journey. Many are following him as he documents his experiences on his blog at cyclemds.blogspot.com.
Mennonite Disaster Service, a disaster-relief agency that comprises Anabaptist churches (Mennonite, Brethren in Christ, Amish, and others) in the United States and Canada, organizes volunteers to assist in disaster-stricken areas in both countries—including areas now being contaminated by the Gulf oil spill. The agency’s main focus is on helping the most vulnerable in a community: the elderly, the handicapped, single parents, the unemployed, the uninsured, and the underinsured—those who are not covered by traditional means of recovery.
MDS trains volunteers in all aspects of disaster relief and recovery, from working with FEMA and local permitting procedures, to construction skills.
The Disaster Management program began at Hesston College in the fall of 2005 as a co-operative venture between Hesston and Mennonite Disaster Service. With an increased number of disasters and greater economic losses, Hesston recognized the need for trained leadership in managing disaster response and recovery.
Visit the ride’s website at www.cyclemds.org for ride updates, to learn more about the organizations, and to make a donation to support the MDS program or follow Friesen’s blog at www.cycleMDS.blogspot.com.