by Bob Grawey
Kelsey Bjorkman lost an argument and now the Elk River woman is set to bike cross country from Seattle to Breezy Point, N.Y. on a Just+Hope Campaign: Northern Tour ride.
Along the way she will tell people — anyone who will listen — about the plight of 27 million people around the world trapped by human trafficking, including in Minnesota.
A senior in the fall at North Central University in Minneapolis, Bjorkman was attending one of the school’s chapel services where she heard someone from Venture Expeditions tell about the organization’s many hiking and biking trips throughout the United States and the world.
These were trips that raised awareness about the affects of AIDS on children in Africa as well as other social injustices around the globe.
That appealed to the Elk River woman. She had seen a friend train for a similar Venture trip and thought, “It would be cool to do that … ‘someday.’”
As the Venture representative spoke, however, Bjorkman says God began impressing on her that her “someday” had arrived and that she should sign up for a biking trip.
“I began arguing with God about this idea since I already had plans for the summer,” Bjorkman says.
She lost the argument.
Training began in the university’s fitness center in February this year at 6 a.m. before classes. Once the weather warmed up, Bjorkman began taking longer bike rides and added cross training segments that included cardiovascular workouts. She also worked on her stamina with running and emphasized exercises for her abdomen and back muscles.
“You train as much as you can,” Bjorkman says, “and you know it’s going to be hard, and even half way through it’s still going to be hard, but that’s just the way it is.”
It is an expensive argument to lose, too, for a college student.
Instead of working this summer to help pay for her upcoming senior year, Bjorkman had to raise $3,995 plus another $1,000 that goes directly to the Just+Hope campaign.
Add to that the cost for gear and a specialized bike for the ride which cost several hundreds of dollars, and one might think Bjorkman is crazy to invest so much time, energy and money simply for a cause.
She is one of nine bike riders, though, along with a support van, to make the nearly 3,000-mile trip where they will travel daily anywhere from 112 miles in South Dakota to 35 miles through the Cascade Mountains.
It is Bjorkman’s first long-distance bike ride, but one she does not back down from.
“I love physical activity that has a purpose,” Bjorkman says. “This bike ride isn’t for me. It’s not about me. It’s not to say, ‘Oh my gosh, look at me. I’m so amazing. I biked across the country.’ It’s to do something so people can look at it and go, ‘You are crazy. Why are you doing that?’ Then I can say, ‘Well, here, let me tell you why I am doing this.’”
Bjorkman wants to let people everywhere she goes know of the plight of millions of people around the world who are enslaved in human trafficking.
“Currently there are approximately 27 million (people) enslaved worldwide,” Bjorkman claims. “We think slavery is abolished; that it happened 150 years ago, but there are more people enslaved right now than there ever was at any point in history.”
Bjorkman explains modern slavery includes things like human prostitution, child labor and children who are conscripted to wage war.
“In a documentary (‘Call+Response’) we watched, it said people are either totally unaware that human trafficking exists,” Bjorkman says, “or they find out about it, but it’s such a huge problem to them that they are totally paralyzed and they feel they can’t do anything to make a difference.”
The college student says if enough people work together to combat the problem of human trafficking, it can be fought and many lives saved.
“Minneapolis is one of the largest areas for prostitution in human trafficking in the United States,” Bjorkman says, due in part to a more extensive immigration populace.
Even in the United States, prostitution victims of human trafficking involve teens and adults, and a growing number of children as young as 11 and 12 years old are part of that billion dollar industry.
Children of all ages are entrapped by traffickers who promise a life better than their street existence. In other instances, parents or guardians sell their children as a way to survive or to better themselves economically. Still others are tricked into prostitution through drug addiction.
During the eight-week bike ride, team members will speak to various groups along the route to raise awareness and funding to fight human trafficking efforts.
Funds support things such as safe houses and education for victims so they can learn a trade or skill and escape their enslavement for good.
“Just+Hope strives to connect communities here in the U.S. to places on the front lines that don’t have the resources to be able to fight it (human trafficking),” Bjorkman says, “but they’re right there where it’s happening.”
Bjorkman and her group will travel through Minnesota in late June and early July, stopping at Montevideo, Burnsville and Minneapolis. Those interested can follow Bjorkman’s progress as she rides cross country by going to www.starnews.com for weekly updates from the Elk River woman.
To learn more about Venture Expeditions, go to www.ventureexpedition.org or www.ridewelltour.org.
About Venture Expeditions
•Venture Expeditions was founded in 2002.
•Sponsored at least 50 bike rides, hikes and mountain climbs to raise money and awareness for social injustice projects.
•Causes include efforts to help secure clean water, help refugees, build clinics and work to stop human trafficking.
•Funds raised to date: $1 million.
Follow Bjorkman’s trip
by Kelsey Bjorkman
Special to the Star News
Editor’s note: Kelsey Bjorkman will submit weekly journal entries during her eight-week bike ride across the northern tier of the United States. The Star News will post her journal entries on our Web site to follow her progress. Look for them each Wednesday.
May 29, 2011
Three months of preparation, of questions, of answers, of planning, of training and now it is right around the corner. When I first felt called to join the team at Venture Expeditions I had no idea what it really meant or held in store for me. Now I look back at all the lessons I have learned in the last three months of preparation and am amazed. I look ahead to eight weeks on the road and I feel a sense of anticipation for what is to come. My bag sits packed, ready to depart. My bike, Cimorene, waits patiently in the garage to be loaded in the car and driven to our meeting point in Burnsville. From there it will be a two day drive to Seattle, Wash., with half of the team. We will meet the rest of the team as they fly in and have three days of preparation and final training before we hit the road on June 5th.
I wonder what this trip will hold for me. The starting point, Seattle, is familiar. I was born in Washington State and spent the first eight years of my life there. It will be a joy to return after almost 13 years in Minnesota. The ending point, New York, is known only from the stories of friends and families, movies and books. But then there are the eight weeks that stretch between, from mountains to prairies and then some. And that is what adventures are made of: the unknowns.
I wonder what each day will look like. We’ve been given a rough outline: up around 5:30, depart about 40 minutes after that, bike to our destination with a water stop every 20 miles and lunch in the middle, arrive, shower, speak at local churches and communities, dinner, bed, and then up to do it all again. I wonder, though, at the details that will color between those lines, adding texture and shadow. I wonder about the people we will meet, the stories we will hear and write ourselves, the ways that God will work. The unknowns: the adventure.
And so I look forward to departing with a mind racing but a heart at peace. I am in His will and He is faithful.