I’m sitting here with dear friends of the ministry, Craig and Nancy McAtee. This year will be Craig’s 12th year riding in the Agony and 13th as a participant. A few years ago, Craig broke his collarbone while training for the Agony, but still raised funds for CEM and came out as a sagger. Craig’s passion for Jesus coupled with his love for long-distance bike riding has made him a very effective spokesman for the Ride, raising over $45,000 for CEM. Over the years, the Agony has woven its way into the very fabric of the McAtee family. Here’s what they have to say.
Nancy: I’m not a bike rider. I don’t like competing with cars, so I don’t like training for it...But I’m a physical therapist, so I kept thinking about ways I could help out. When Craig would go, I was at home for the majority of our child-raising years. Once our kids got older, I wanted to give a little bit to the ministry because I really believe in what it’s doing for the kids... I thought, as a physical therapist, I can help out and do massage. But it was more than that, because when people didn’t need a massage I was out cheering with the kids, serving food. I could diagnose injuries and show people how to change their posture on their bikes.
I’ll never forget one of the young men out at Beckwourth. He said he came [to CEM] thinking he was going to run away within a week and get a new place. But when he came, within a week, he was sensing the love of Christ. He didn’t know it was the love of Christ, but he said he sensed something different and he decided he wanted to see what that was all about. And then he came to give his life to the Lord.
Craig: [The Agony Ride] gave me more of a purpose to cycling. It can be a real selfish sport, because when you’re riding, you do spend a lot of time [by yourself]. [The Agony] adds a spiritual component. I try to incorporate prayer. I’ll have a list of [CEM] students that I’ll be praying for [throughout training].
N: He broke his collarbone training for the Agony. He was a sagger that year which was really fun for me because he and I got to work at Beckwourth together. When he rides, he doesn’t want to stop so we don’t get a lot of interaction time as a couple. He just flies in, he doesn’t even come in…
C: Well, I do stop now at Beckwourth.
N: Well if I’m going to sag, you better stop and say hi to me!
C: Well, my partners don’t like the fact that I only stop at Beckwourth. Tradition is that that’s not the best place to stop...But I just say, “Sorry, I’m stopping at Beckwourth.”
N: It’s an agony for us, too. We’re all serving. The bike riders - the emphasis is on them a lot of times. But when you look at what the saggers do and the hard work and the hard labor they put in, they’re in agony too.
I love watching the joy and the energy of the kids...seeing the excitement and the hard work and love pouring out of those kids towards the riders. The kids are there serving the riders. When I took a break from massage, I loved blowing the horns and jumping up and down with the kids. Getting to know some of the kids and asking them their story and listening to their heart...The joy of seeing that they’ve found the Lord - to me that’s a treasure. Knowing the Lord is a treasure beyond any treasure you could find on this earth. These kids, when then come to CEM, they see that treasure and take it in as their own - the beauty of that makes you want to cry.
C: My current bicycle was purchased by my kids...I had a bike I was riding and I went into Tour of Nevada City (Bicycle Shop) and said I needed a new wheel and Duane said, “No, you need a new bike.” This was the week before [my third] Agony. I didn’t know what to do...My family got together and purchased this bike for me and I’ve been riding on it ever since. It gives it a little bit more perspective when you see what you have, not just in fitness but in family support.
N: My kids got the idea that they wanted to buy their dad a bike so he could ride. So they got together, and they emptied their savings accounts, and they bought him the bike. That was really touching. They were picking up on the love of Jesus in their dad and they were then sharing the love of Jesus with him. It was a pretty emotional time for all of us when we saw that in our kids.
C: As they all say, it’s not just the miles you do, but it’s also about how much money you bring in for the students. That has really become a bigger outreach than I could have imagined. As I share testimonies of the Agony and what Christian Encounter is all about - “rescuing youth from ruin” - it’s not for everybody to want to send money, but it has impacted people. My biggest joy is when I share with non-Christians and they’re willing to give to CEM. I ride my bicycle to school so when [others] see my bike I share the reason [why] I ride my bike…
One time a couple years ago - when I go into SAG stations, I go in and look for the student I’m praying for - I remember coming into this SAG station and asking this young lady, “Have you seen Julie* cause I’ve been praying for her.” It was actually the mom. The girl was her daughter. She was really touched. She almost started crying. She said, “That’s my daughter you’re praying for.”