An Incredible Adventure

If you’re interested in finding out more, head to Ride for Compassion.

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Going the Distance

It seemed like a strange thing to do for a young man who had never really been interested in any kind of sport. Riding over four and a half thousand kilometres across Australia was surely the domain of fanatical cyclists yet there I was, an overweight guy in my mid-twenties getting ready to pedal from Perth to Canberra with around a dozen other cyclists.

That was thirty years ago.

Thankfully I made the distance and loved it so much I did the same fund-raising ride the following year. Two years after that I cycled from Perth to Adelaide. Some years later I also undertook rides from Perth to Sydney and then from Perth to Hobart.

So far I’ve cycled across the Nullarbor five times.

I’ve tackled the ride in my twenties, thirties and forties but I haven’t attempted it in my fifties. That all changes next year when, at the age of 55, I’ll be back on my bike for another crossing of our wide, brown land. The thought of taking to the roads again both terrifies and thrills me.

So, what’s getting me back on my bike after all these years? For the last three and a half years I’ve been working for Compassion, a Christian international holistic child development organisation.

I’ve visited Compassion’s work in 7 of the 25 developing countries we serve and I’ve met many children living in extreme poverty who are being released from poverty in Jesus’ name. I recall the faces of children like little Ammanuel in Ethiopia as his mother stood in the small room with its dirt floor that is their home.

She told me through her tears that neither of them would still be alive today if it weren’t for Compassion. That compels me to do whatever I can to bring hope to more children.

The Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will see around 25 cyclists and their support crew travel over 4300 kilometres from Perth, Western Australia to Newcastle, New South Wales. There’ll be 28 days of riding an average of just over 150 kilometres with the biggest days reaching almost 200 kilometres.

There’s no denying that my ageing body won’t find the journey as easy as it did thirty years ago but I’m looking forward to cycling into Newcastle in October next year.

I’m still looking for some team members, both cyclists and support crew, who might like to join me on what will be an amazing adventure. So, if you’re looking to stretch yourself and to make a difference for the most vulnerable people in our world, children living in poverty, get in touch either through my Contact Page, leave a comment on this post, or head to the Ride for Compassion page. Registrations are now open.

Compassion’s programs are delivered in partnership with local churches. These local congregations can best identify the specific needs of children in their community, supporting them through every stage of life, bringing lasting change to their families and communities. While Compassion is a distinctly Christian organisation, they assist children and their families living in poverty regardless of their beliefs, gender or background.

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Talking about a very big ride

I’ve been on my bike a bit more recently. I need to get fit. There are big plans ahead.

For just over three years I’ve been working for Compassion Australia in our Western Australian office. We run an annual fundraising ride of just over 500 km named Ride for Compassion, but next year we’re taking on a much bigger challenge with a ride from Perth, Western Australia to our head office in Newcastle, New South Wales.

The Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will be a huge event that will make a major impact for children living in extreme poverty. We’re now at the point of wanting to attract suitable riders and support crew who would be happy to raise significant funds as well as undertake such an epic venture.

The ride will start on Saturday the 15th of September 2018. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Tuesday the 16th of October, having cycled over 4000 km. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be 150 km. Our longest day will be just under 200 km.

I have quite some experience with the ride aspect of the trip having cycled across Australia five times previously but knowing that this time will be in support of Compassion is an extra thrill for me.

I recently had the opportunity to return to my old workplace, Perth’s Christian radio station 98five, and be interviewed by longtime colleague and friend JD, about both our annual ride and next year’s Coast to Coast event.

You can hear our chat by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

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Working on the Stuff We Love

It’s a weird concept but I’ve been thinking again recently about the self discipline we require to do the things we love.

We might imagine that we’ll just get on and do the stuff we love doing and that we only need to discipline ourselves to do the things that we don’t like to do; the things we have to anyway.

It takes real discipline and resolve for me to do any gardening and a bunch of other things that aren’t really my thing but what about the things I really enjoy doing?

Shouldn’t those things come easy to me?

Perth’s beautiful weather makes my city the perfect place for cycling. It’s one of my favourite passtimes yet if I don’t discipline myself to get out there on my bike I’ll miss out on something I love. It’s easy to sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of rising early to ride with my cycling friends but I know that if I put in the effort I’ll get greater benefits from cycling than I would from an extra hour in bed.

When I force myself into the habit of regular cycling I feel fitter and more energised, yet that discipline can slip away so easily. With a ride right across Australia on the horizon next year, I’d better get that discipline happening soon or I’ll miss out on my big adventure.

If I love reading so much why do I need to discipline myself to sit down with a book for an hour?

A week or two can often go past without me sitting down to soak in some words from the pages of a good book yet when I make the time to read I can easily get lost among the words and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it. Sitting down with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other is one of the most satisfying things in the world yet I can waste my time on the trivial things of life rather than reading.

We need to work on our relationships.

Some relationships are easier than others, but we even need to put in a great deal of effort on our relationships with those we love.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. ? Theodore Roosevelt

Do you find the same thing happening?

Are there things that you really love yet you find you have to discipline yourself to invest your time pursuing them?

I find the same thing with my faith. I’m never happier than when I feel that I’m in tune with the Creator yet I can let time slip through my fingers without making the effort to recharge my spiritual batteries.

The simple spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading the scriptures, reflecting and others that are absolutely life giving can be easily crowded out in our busy world.

Why do we let ourselves get robbed of the real stuff of life?

It’s somehow strange that we should have to exercise discipline and self-control to do the things that make us feel most alive but sadly it’s true. I guess that’s where priority setting comes into play.

What are you like at doing the things that you love? Are there things you love, things that truly energise you, that you have let slip away?

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My First Adventure in India

(Click on any of the photos in this post for a better look.)

I really had no idea what to expect. It was February 2003 and I was travelling to India with my friend Mark Simpfendorfer for the first time. We were invited by Richard Kahn, Senior Auxiliary Secretary of NWIA, The Bible Society of India. I was going to ride, Mark was going to capture our adventure on video.

Recently I was looking through some old photos and the memories of that amazing adventure came flooding back. Even though it was around fourteen years ago some memories are as fresh as if it was yesterday. At the time I was working for the Bible Society in Western Australia, coordinating the Bike for Bibles program. The plan was to lend a hand in starting some form of Bike for Bibles in India.

We flew into Delhi feeling apprehensive, but the moment that I walked out into the carpark of the international airport and saw a few cows wandering past I felt relaxed and ready for whatever we were about to experience.

A major part of our trip was a ride from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, to Delhi. I had my trusty Mountain Bike. There were several young locals who joined me on their Indian bikes. The cycling was a lot of fun but the people we met and friendships we forged made our time there unforgettable.

When we rode into Delhi there was a huge ceremony at India Gate.

There were hundreds of school children among the crowd there to enjoy a number of performances from dancers and even Bollywood singer turned gospel performer, Vijay Benedict.

We were welcomed by many dignitaries and church leaders including the Chief Minister of Delhi at the time, Sheila Dickshit.

There was also a large media contingent waiting for our arrival.

The event was widely reported with articles such as the one below from the Hindustan Times.

Biking For The Bible, Olsen Has The Right Spirit
Meeta Mishra (Hindustan Times – February 2003)

Cycling down from Agra to Delhi threw a lot of surprises at Rodney Olsen, and traffic was not one of them. “Riding here is similar to that in Australia. We ride on the same side of the road. The highway between the two cities is wonderful. It took us three days to reach Delhi but it is a lot of fun because at every kilometre there is something different to see. What is striking about the people here is that they are so giving,” says the Western Australia coordinator of Bike For Bibles.

On his first visit to India, Olsen was here to lead the bicycle rally organised by The Bible Society of India, North-West India Auxiliary, to mark its Golden Jubilee celebrations. The rally was organised to promote peace and prosperity. Olsen and Mark Simpfendorfer, a video cameraman accompanying him, were felicitated at India Gate by chief minister Sheila Dikshit on February 8. The funds raised from the rally will go into spreading literacy in India. “This is also a way to strengthen the ties between Australia and India,” said the 39-year-old cyclist.

This is not the first time that Olsen has cycled down such a long distance, he has been part of Bike for Bibles Fund Raising since ’87 when he covered the ride from Perth to Canberra.

Olsen has also worked at Perth’s Christian Radio Station. As he packed to leave for his home country, the cyclist says the predictable: “I’d like to return and explore other parts of India.” He is, of course, welcome.

There were many other articles written about our ride. More than 15 newspapers carried stories on the event as well as a lot of attention from both radio and television.

That first visit gave me a real love for India and its people. I’ve had the opportunity to return a couple of times since then and I certainly hope I’ll make it back there again some time. It’s an amazing country.

As I mentioned, my great friend, Mark Simpfendorfer joined me on that trip and captured the trip on video and produced this short clip. Here’s the clip to give you a quick idea of the two weeks of that trip.

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