By: Matt Hagsten
"It’s safe to say that if it weren’t for James Bond,
I never would have been a missionary."
I’m not sure how you’d understand that statement, but it almost certainly isn’t what you’d think. It’s just that when I was initially approached to participate in a 300 mile bike tour across Florida for youth in Bulgaria, my first thought was “why would anyone spend so much time sitting on a bike seat?” But my second trumped the first. It was a quote from Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond series. “Never say no to adventures. Always say yes, otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”
With the impetuosity of youth, I said yes. This decision has undoubtedly been one of the best and most profoundly impactful I’ve ever made.
"Because if it weren’t for the first Key West Bike Ride,
I never would have met my wife."
I had ridden my bike before, but this was the first time I ever cycled. At the beginning of the week we were twelve strangers who wanted to ride bikes and change the world. At the end of the week we were a family who knew each others’ strengths and weaknesses—both as riders and as people. There was something about the atmosphere that was electric. We were on mission together, and the resulting community was infectious. As we rode, prayed, worshiped, and testified together, it was a real glimpse for me into what I had hoped and longed for the church to be. I would never be the same.
Two years later, at the end of the third annual Key West Bike Ride, one of my fellow riders became my wife as I married my her in Key West. We had met on the first ride, and started dating on the second. It only seemed fitting. Dynamic community, indeed.
"And if it wasn’t for my wife (and that first ride),
I never would have been a missionary in Bulgaria."
It turns out that Britney, my wife, was about to spend the next two summers working with the students and missionaries we had been praying for on the very first ride. She saw many of those prayers answered. Shortly after we got married, we felt God moving us in a new direction. A long story short, we were on an airplane to Bulgaria with all our possessions and our new baby within two years.
Many of the themes that emerged that first year are things we’ve continued to build on. Britney and I are still together, on mission, regardless of where we have been sent. We still see our marriage as a team activity where together we can go further, faster. We still see ourselves as answers to our very own prayers in being sent by God to help make disciples among the youth of Bulgaria. And, by the grace of God, that work continues and we continue to say yes to adventures that seem extraordinary and bigger than us.
I can’t tell you how the Key West Bike Ride will change your life. I can’t predict where God might take you if you say yes to this adventure. But I can tell you that it’s dangerous business going out your door. You step (or pedal) onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
Top Left to Bottom Right: Our youth frisbee team after a tournament - Matt with young Bulgarian leaders - Some youth at youth group in Bulgaria - Our city Asenovgrad.