Even in his youth, Alan Hodgkinson enjoyed cycling to cause disruption. Motorbikes empowered him. On a Sunday morning, together with friends, he would race around the outside of a church to interfere with the service inside.
Now, Alan is still cycling to cause disruption. This time it's to help break the oppressive entrapment of poverty which puts Vietnamese children at risk. But a lot has happened to change Alan's tendency to cause havoc.
Motorbikes and gorgeous girls
In the early 1970s, young Alan pursued his happy life which centred on motorbikes and cars. His family lived in Northwich, Cheshire. When his father took exception to a minister whom he felt was not helpful to local business, it gave Alan another outlet. That's when he and his friends had fun motoring around the church at high speed just to be troublesome.
One day, a minister from a different church, the Reverend C David Le-Seeleur of Barnton Methodist Church came into the garage where Alan worked. He invited Alan to a youth meeting. Staunchly convinced that there was no God, he turned down the invitation.
According to Alan, some ministers don't know when to give up because this was repeated.
"He came back a third time, saying that someone could give me a lift to his home for the youth meeting. I finally said yes just to get the guy off my back!"
Instead, Alan was taken aback when he heard what others had to say.
"Someone talked about how Jesus came first in his life. He insisted that he would give up everybody and everything, if he had to, for Jesus. Yet he had the most incredibly gorgeous girlfriend. And I thought, 'You must be joking, mate.'
"But I realised, "They've got something I haven't got … I need to give this a try.'"
Within a few months, Alan acknowledged God and his own need to follow Jesus.
As a new believer, Alan built lasting relationships, which included a young teacher trainee named Sue who became his wife. Over the years, Alan's father longed to have the experience which he saw in his son. Toward the end of his life, he too was able to enjoy peace and fulfilment when he accepted Jesus as his personal Saviour.
Another youthful relationship was to lead Alan and Sue halfway around the world 40 years later. It began when Olive Palin, a friend of David Le-Seeleur who was often in his home, joined in the youth meetings. Olive and the Hodgkinsons continued their friendship throughout the years and when they moved on to other areas.
But Olive, an enthusiastic lady now in her 90s, moved on in other ways too. In 2006, she decided to sponsor a girl in Vietnam through Siloam Christian Ministries. This one step opened up a relationship with Thao Tho, her sponsored girl, and also her entire family.
"Tho is a wonderful girl," says Olive.
"I'm so thrilled that her parents look upon me as their second mother."
Influenced by Olive's decision, Alan and Sue also started to sponsor a Vietnamese girl, Nhan. Last year in March, they travelled from their home in Corwen, Wales, to Vietnam and were able to spend quality time with Tho and Nhan and their families. Their trip proved life changing in many ways as they recall the Vietnamese people with whom they bonded.
They cite Nhan's parents as typical of hardworking but poverty stricken people, determined to do the best for their children.
"Nhan's father mends fishing nets and her mother has to ride a bike all over Danang to deliver the nets. Yet their earnings are so meagre that keeping children in school presents a daunting hardship."
The Hodgkinsons' commitment to help these children and their families continues – even when it comes to 1,000 miles of cycling.
Seriously scenic cycling
"Actually, I was just up for a challenge," admits Alan when talking about his sponsored bike ride. "After all, I'm 67 now, so I want to do it while I can."
Then Sue, who considers it "a bit mad", suggested, "Why don't you use your cycling to raise money for Siloam's child sponsorship in Vietnam?"
On the 1st of September, Alan faced up to the challenge of cycling 1,000 miles, which he describes as 'the scenic route' from Lands End to John-O-Groats. Scheduled to finish on the 21st of September, he will have only one day of rest, averaging 50 miles of cycling a day. His objective is to raise £1,000 for Siloam Christian Ministries' child sponsorship in Vietnam.
This is a strikingly different approach from the raucous motorbike racing of his youth. Instead, Alan chooses to be inside church as he and Sue are active members of Ruthin Christian Fellowship, affiliated to the Baptist Union of Wales, where he serves as an Elder/Trustee. Now, Alan and Sue's heart for the suffering of Vietnamese children and their families leads them to try disrupting oppressive economic constraints. It's a serious challenge – with a positive objective in view.