I am not going to lie I had to re write this quite a few times. The pain, joy, and beauty of this story I am about to tell gave my team and I goosebumps. The best kind of goosebumps that light up your heart, but also sink your soul in the right places. The team and I had just woken up for Day 9 of the journey. We stayed at Twin Ranch in the cutest little wagons with bunks. It was honestly like re-living out The Oregon Trail game I played on the computer all the time growing up in elementary school.
After waking up from my slumber of beauty rest in the wagon, I headed out to the SAG to grab some water. As I was making my way half asleep, frizzy hair everywhere, and last nights drool stain on my shirt I saw a tall, yet large man right in front of our SAG. I didn’t bring my glasses on the trip but I kept squinting to see if someone was sitting in the drivers seat. As I got closer, I soon noticed this man was talking to my teammate Sarah Evans. She’s a sociable girl just like myself so I no longer had any worry. I finally reached the SAG and hopped in the passenger seat to drink my water.
“I just got clean, and I was in prison for a while,” said the man. I was suddenly engaged. Ears leaning in as I kept guzzling my water. I looked back at him and smiled. I introduced myself, “Hi my name is Kalindi.” He softly grinned back and stated his name was Ray. Ray kept talking to Sarah and I as he asked about our mission. When we told him that we were biking down the coast to raise awareness about ending human sex trafficking he started to tear up.
I could hear his throat grumble, tongue touching the roof of his mouth as he was reaching to his vocal cords to get out the words. “my daughter committed suicide. She was introduced to trafficking and shortly after it all she killed herself.” Sarah looked at me and I back at her. Our eyes simultaneously swelled shut. The tears launched like a rocket about to blast off. Because in that moment, we knew that trafficking was real. That pain and hurt exist. That people’s lives are effected by this horrible thing that is trafficking. Lives lost. Trust broken. Hearts shattered. Gut wrenching pain that stabs at your stomach. It shakes you. Shapes you. Breaks all of you, but you grow and learn the stories. The stories like Rays that make us each stronger.
He proceeded to tell us that his son was also in prison. That he found Jesus after accidentally going to a support group for parents who have lost children. He attended a grief group where he could sit with people who understood loss. What losing a child felt like. A place where his emotions didn’t feel invalid or crazy. When he said that, I sobbed more and more. “Ray I lost both my parents. My dad in August and my mom in April. I get it. My grief group helped me in ways unimaginable and showed me Jesus in ways I never understood.” It was right then and there that I knew Ray comprehended loss and pain just like me. It was then that I knew God sent us our angel Ray. Specifically because it was Father’s Day.
For me, it was the first Father’s Day without my dad. A hard day. I was reminded that instead of being in pain and feeling broken that Ray was a father who lost his daughter. I was a daughter who lost her father. We both had Jesus, but Jesus gave me Ray when I needed him. The greatest part of it all was that my fathers middle name was Ray. He was honestly this little missing piece I needed on this trip. A little bright beam of light that filled the shattered cracks of my heart while I’ve been on this biking journey.
After talking more, Ray asked us to pray for his job interview on Monday at 9:30 a.m. Sarah and I both got his number and then gathered the girls around for our morning prayer. He told his story to the girls again, everyone almost broke down sobbing. We held each other tightly clinging to one another. Bowing our heads in silence. Hearing the choked up cries. The nose sniffles. We prayed for him. He prayed for us. We looked up and knew that Ray was our magical person. He handed us $100 and gave us hugs. “Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re making a difference in the world ladies.” We all waved goodbye still crying.
As he walked to his car a part of myself didn’t want him to leave. Ray brought comfort to my soul. I haven’t felt comfort these last few months, but I finally felt it again after I met him. He stuck his hand out the window and waved goodbye, as he drove off I saw his license plate. The first 3 numbers were 421. I looked up at my teammate Haley and she had a huge smile on her face. You see Haley lost her dad a few years ago and her Dad’s favorite number in the entire world was 421. We both hugged each other and knew that this wasn’t just a coincidence. On our Day 9 we got our little angel Ray. Who gave Haley, my teammates, and I a little glimmer of hope. A bright beam of warmth. Most importantly, Ray was a face of resilience that chose to find joy amidst his pain, loss, and ache.
I was reminded that trafficking impacts all of us somehow someway. That stories bring us together. People hurt. We all love. However, we all continue to find strength amidst the brokenness in this world. Ray will forever be in our hearts. He was as we biked to breakfast and then had a 15 mile day ahead of us. We couldn’t stop talking about him. We never will. The brightest people, always leave the greatest impact.
On Father’s Day we rode for my dad, Haley’s dad, for Ray, the girls at the Refuge, and for all the victims of sex-trafficking.
P.S. This isn’t the end of seeing Ray yet!! Two days later we received a phone call from him saying that he’s a race car driver!!! That he has a race Saturday and that he wants to promote our cause for The Refuge on his race-car. People will purchase raffle tickets and all the proceeds will go toward the cause, our mission, Pedal the Pacific. Ray was so touched by us that he wants to tell the whole world (or arena) about us. My team of 10 hilariously un-athletic girls biking the coast, with ZERO cycling experience, and huge hearts for the best cause in the whole wide world. For the girls at the Refuge Ranch. The greatest gift and treasure of all. We can’t wait to watch Ray race his car as we celebrate him through loud cheers and smiles from the stands.