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Churning the wheels of hope

Cross-country bike ride honors wife’s passion for saving unborn

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Mike Washington and Thad Champlin arrived in Washington, D.C., on July 4 after a 2,989 mile, 55-day bike ride across America to raise money for Save the Storks.  

The two men left Spring Hill on May 11, but the actual bicycle trip began at the Santa Monica Pier in California on May 16, Mother’s Day. On that day Mike, 66, set off on his bicycle with Thad, the trip route planner, following in a van filled with tools, spare parts, supplies and emergency equipment. The van also provided a place to sleep when they couldn’t find accommodations.  

“It all began in my wife’s heart,” Washington said about the inspiration for the bike trip. “I wanted to honor her.” 

Tina Washington had a passion for children and was a “strong advocate and voice for the unborn child,” Washington said. 

Tina’s voice was silenced in 2014, when the wife, mom and New Hope Academy teacher lost her battle with cancer. As the first anniversary of her death approached, Washington told his sons he wanted to do something to honor Tina’s memory and her passion. An avid bicycle rider, he decided to ride from their Spring Hill home to Newnan, Georgia, the Washington’s hometown, where they both still had family and where Tina was buried. 

“It took five days to go the 300 miles to Newnan,” Washington said. “I arrived on the anniversary of her first year passing.” 

After the ride, Washington felt drawn to do something more. 

“The Lord stirred my heart to do something bigger,” he said. 

Washington began volunteering with the Hope Clinic for Women Spring Hill/Columbia Pregnancy Center and later became involved with Save the Storks, a ministry that works with pregnancy resource centers across America. Using mobile units, Save the Storks brings vital medical care, including free and confidential pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to women with unplanned pregnancies and who are in need. 

Driving vans for Save the Storks inspired Washington to do more. 

“I started praying about it a year and half ago,” he added. “The Lord kept moving me closer and closer.”  

On Christmas Day, Washington received a book about a friend’s father, who, during World War II, responded to a call to action by flying a plane.  

“That moved me to go forward with the trip,” he said. 

During their men’s weekly prayer group, Champlin heard Washington’s plans for the bicycle trip and volunteered to plan the route and drive the van.  

“Thad was incredible with planning,” Washington said. “He planned the route and made all the reservations.” 

They started on Route 66, traveling to Joplin, Missouri. They continued east through southern Missouri to the Mississippi River, then through southern Kentucky to Virginia, where they turned north toward Washington, D.C. They would cover between 70 and 90 miles each day. 

When the pandemic hit, the men wrestled with idea of putting the trip on hold for a while, but they decided they needed to go, even though the risks were greater. 

“We put our lives in order before leaving and after months of prayer, the Lord gave us the liberty to move forward,” Champlin said. 

On their way to the West Coast, where the bike ride would begin, they received a call from Mark Lancaster, pastor and founder of One Stone Nashville, an area church. Lancaster had heard about the trip and wanted to meet the men when they arrived in the nation’s capital. 

“He said the Lord put it in his heart to meet us in Washington, D.C.,” Washington said. 

Lancaster and a group from the church met Washington and Champlin on July 4 at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., where they prayed. They went on to the Supreme Court, the Capitol and the White House, praying at each location before the journey home.  

While talking about their journey, Washington and Champlin recalled a few of the many stories they heard along the way. 

While parked in a motel parking lot in Kingman, Arizona, a man named Jack spoke about the guilt and shame he’d carried with him for 30 years after his girlfriend aborted his baby.  

“He handed me a $100 bill,” Champlin said. 

While having lunch at a restaurant in Erick, Oklahoma, Sheila, the owner, shared her daughter’s story. Just after she graduated from high school and was ready to move on to her next journey in life, her daughter realized she was pregnant. According to Sheila, there were many hard decisions to be made regarding her daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. Then Sheila pulled out a photo of her grandson and said, “She has no regrets in her life.” 

They also spoke of Tanya, who had been following the RV for miles waiting for a chance to tell her story about an abortion she had years ago that affected her life. She also donated $100.  

In a Reston, Virginia, hotel where Washington and Champlin were staying before entering Washington, D.C., a hotel engineer told them he was born out of rape in Texas. His underage, mentally disabled mother was raped by her stepfather.  

“He was one week old when he was adopted by a Christian family,” Champlin said.  

After he was married, the man made an inquiry to the state of Texas regarding his genetics. That was when he learned, because he was born and not aborted, the stepfather who raped his mom was “taken care of” by the state of Texas. 

According to Washington, the man felt his birth saved his mother. 

“There were so many stories,” he added. 

In honor of Tina, Washington and Champlin raised $30,000 toward the purchase of a Save the Storks mobile unit for the Carlton, Georgia, pregnancy center, which serves several surrounding rural counties.  

“We tried to stay local,” Washington said. 

Locally, a mobile unit at the Hope Clinic in Murfreesboro serves Nashville. At this time, the Hope Clinic in Spring Hill is not set up for a mobile unit. 

Both men are willing to speak to church groups and others about their trip. For more information or to donate to Save the Storks, contact Champlin at 65.thad@gmail.com or Washington at mwashington77@hotmail.com. For more information about Save the Storks, go to SavetheStorks.com.

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