Alumni Couple Celebrates 50th Birthday By Cycling Around Uganda, Raising Funds For Orphans

John (’90, ’99) and Stacy (Freeman, ’92) DeVries met and married while students at Trinity Western University. Together, they’ve gone on many missions trips around the world, but this summer they face their biggest adventure yet. Starting in June 2019, they celebrate Stacy’s 50th birthday by biking approximately 2,300 KM around Uganda in 50 days to raise money that will help 50 orphans get off the street and into school.

 

The First meeting

John Devries (’90, ’99) met Stacy (Freeman, ‘92) while she was on a dorm date with another dorm. He and his friend Peter Reek (’89) happened to be at the same restaurant, and they enjoyed poking fun at the awkwardness of the freshmen students. But weeks later, after a few more chance encounters, John decided to ask Stacy out.

It was a bit of a social experiment he and Peter concocted. They wanted to see what would happen if they asked out a Trinity Western girl they didn’t really know. It turned out to be a very successful experiment, as both John and Peter ended up marrying the girls they asked out.

“We got married while we were still students,” says Stacy. “Even though it was difficult, we laid the foundation of a solid partnership with just enough sweet and salty to get us to 30 years of marriage so far.”

Today, John and Stacy are proud parents of Hannah and Dylan DeVries, both students at Trinity Western University.

TOGETHER ON MISSION

One of the big things that drew John and Stacy to each other was their mutual heart for missions. Together, they’ve gone on missions trips to Haiti, Mexico, Poland, Guatemala, El Salvador, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and several First Nations villages in British Columbia.

Stacy has always cared about issues of justice and helped start a charitable organization called Martial Arts for Justice in order to help vulnerable people defend themselves from violence and oppression.

“I trained hard to get my Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do so I would have the credentials to teach self-defence to women and girls,” explains Stacy. “On a trip to Rwanda and Uganda, where we were delivering our trauma counselling program, I met some of the orphans whom we are now supporting through this project.”

TOGETHER IN PLAY

John and Stacy have also been an active couple. But for John, cycling is a big passion. He’s been in various road races, triathlons, and grand fondos throughout his life, and even two coast-to-coast trips across the US. The first one happened the summer before he met Stacy, but the second happened after they were married.

At the time of the second coast-to-coast trip, the couple worked for a therapeutic boarding school in Colorado that focused on helping at-risk teens. Stacy drove the support van with her two kids (a five-year-old and a three-year-old) while John led four recovering drug-addicted youth from Oceanside, California to Savanna, Georgia.

“It was the days before cell phones, and the Internet was new, so it was quite a feat keeping the kids safe and motivated when we didn’t have pre-planned places to sleep,” says Stacy.

For Stacy, cycling has been more of a hobby. But when she realized she could connect her love of camping with John’s love of cycling, the two found an incredible way to spend time together. In the last few years, they’ve gone on many multi-day trips on their mountain bikes to explore new places.

INSPIRED TO DO MORE

A few years ago, while attending the three-night Banff Mountain Film Festival’s World Tour, Stacy found herself inspired by the stories of the athletes.

“I realized that my 50th birthday was looming in the not-so-distant future and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something epic rather than just going on a typical trip or having a simple party,” says Stacy.

“Because I am a teacher, education is very important to me,” says Stacy. “Seeing the poverty in Rwanda and Uganda on previous trips, I know that education is one of the keys to empower the children to pursue their dreams and hopefully get one step closer to becoming self-sufficient and responsible contributors to their communities.”

So with this in mind, Stacy came up with a plan. This summer, the couple will celebrate her 50th birthday by riding push bicycles (100% self-contained) approximately 2,300 KM around Uganda in 50 days in order to raise money that will allow 50 orphans to get off the streets and into school.

“Our project is called ‘Get Schooled’ and we are very close to reaching our goal,” says Stacy. At the time of this writing, they’ve raised almost $27,000 dollars.

“We leave on June 2nd from Vancouver and will visit with the Get Schooled recipients for a day before setting off on the adventure of a lifetime,” says Stacy. “We plan to visit friends who work with survivors of child sacrifice and child soldiering and then who knows what else God has planned for us?”

PREPARING FOR THE DAYS AHEAD

Doing something like this is not easy, and has required a great amount of preparation, both in the physical realm and in the spiritual.

“To do something like this together adds tremendous meaning and has helped focus our marriage on a common goal,” says Stacy.

“In anticipation of difficulties while in Uganda, John and I have had to look critically at our own personalities and open ourselves up to feedback and growth (sometimes painful) in preparation of success.  Even after thirty years of marriage, we are learning to address the weak spots in our teamwork.”

Though they are uncertain what exactly awaits them in Uganda, they have decided to trust God with this part of the journey and are excited to see where He will lead them.

“We have been warned about everything from cannibalism to malaria to Cape Buffalo, snakes, and muggings,” shares Stacy. “Obviously, there are many things to be nervous about, but we want to embrace Uganda in all its glory and hardships and move past fear and into a place of appreciation for the many blessings that we experience in Canada.”

“God is a good Father,” affirms Stacy. “He has partnered with us from the beginning, preparing our hearts, minds and bodies, softening people’s hearts towards orphans and prompting them to give generously. He has gently exposed things in us that need to be burned away and gifted us with such profound moments of His presence that I have felt completely overwhelmed by His goodness.

“He has gifted each of us with talents and interests,” adds Stacy, “and when we lay those things down in front of Him and ask, ‘Can you use these for anything meaningful?’ His answer will always be, ‘Just watch Me.’”

 

To learn more about John and Stacy’s trip, or to find out how to donate, please visit: http://www.get-schooled.org/