By Linda Sladkey
CHICAGO, IL (October 6, 2015) — As a biblical and theological studies major at North Park University, Daniel Lemke was well aware of God’s desire to set slaves free, but he had no idea how that passion would become his own.
It is a passion that has set him on a 12,000-mile cycling journey to “Bike Through Traffic.” Cycling around the perimeter of the United States, Lemke hopes to call attention to the tragic reality of human trafficking.
It was only two years ago that Lemke, 22, learned how prevalent it is. He was putting himself through school by working as a personal trainer at a local gym when one of his clients, a police officer, told him that the nail salon down the block had been a place where children were sold for sex. It took two and a half years to convict the woman running the operation, but she ended up spending just four months in jail.
“My protective spirit lit up like a forest fire,” says Lemke who grew up attending Covenant Heights Bible Camp and eventually worked there as a counselor. “From then on I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting the innocent, standing up for the children whose lives are taken and grotesquely perverted.”
He started asking his coworkers, friends, and teachers whether they knew anything about the nationwide travesty. Most did not, so he committed himself to raise awareness about domestic sex trafficking.
Lemke began a nonprofit organization called Break The Cycle to exhort men to take a stand and come alongside the women who are already fighting this modern-day slavery. They also work with pimps and johns “to show them, in a loving way, the harm their actions cause.”
Lemke also is using “Bike Through Traffic” to raise funds to help victims of trafficking. He says 92 percent of the money that he raises on the trip will help fund a long-term recovery safe home for trafficked boys in the United States called Restore One, located in Greenville, North Carolina. The other eight percent goes to help keep the bike ride going.
“The bike ride is really just a super cost efficient and attention-grabbing tool to speak about the real problem of sex trafficking,” Lemke says.
Lemke started his trip in Loveland, Colorado, last April. He hopes to average 50 miles per day, which ends up being anywhere from three to eight hours in the saddle. Ultimately, he expects the trip to take 15 months.
He was five months into his travels when he happened to be in Savannah, Georgia, at the same time eight of the eleven Covenant conference superintendents and President Gary Walter were meeting. They wound up meeting him, and then invited him to dinner and put him up in a nearby hotel for the night.
Garth McGrath wrote afterwards, “He’s only 22 years old, but his sense of God’s call on his life is clear and compelling.”
Lemke has budgeted $10-$15 per day for food and sleeps in a tent at night. He often meets people who will offer him a meal or a place to sleep.
He spends a lot of time engaging in tough conversations with the people he encounters. They are conversations about loss and pain and hope.
Instead of rushing to complete the miles of his bike trek, Lemke takes time to talk to people along the way. People like Eileen selling goat cheese at a farmers market in Connecticut. Her father left a few years ago. She “wants to receive love” because she grew up not knowing what love looks like. He also met Terry, a prostitute in Manhattan with the name of her pimp tattooed on her arm, who dreams of one day being a mother, homemaker and interior designer
For more information or to donate go to www.BikeThroughTraffic.com or mail the home office at 1119 North Grant Avenue, Loveland, Colorado 80537.