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Cross country trek for kids and God

Paul Shol, a math teacher at Fargo North High School for the past seven years, stands off of exit 217 on Interstate 94 Saturday where he had a flat tire on his cross-country trip from Oregon to Maine. The trip will raise funds for an afterschool program and purchase inspirational books for Bible camps and people he meets along the way. Tom LaVenture / The Sun

A teacher and ultra-endurance athlete says he is in the midst of a spiritual journey as he rides a bike across the country to support a Fargo youth program and build his personal ministry.

Paul Shol, a math teacher at Fargo North High School for the past seven years, made his way through Jamestown to Valley City on Saturday. He started the trip July 5 in Oregon and will continue through the Midwest into Ontario, Canada, before reaching New York and going to Bar Harbor, Maine, by mid September.

"This is the right time to do something like this," said Shol, who will turn 30 on Aug. 20. "It is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing right now with no wife or kids and just before starting a new job in Fergus Falls (Minn.)."

Shol said he will start teaching in his hometown, Fergus Falls, sometime later this year.

Funds from the trip will benefit Legacy Children's Foundation, a nonprofit that assists teens with tutoring, leadership skills and personal development. Shol presented the bike ride idea with a goal to raise $20,000 to Mary Jean Dehne, executive director of Legacy Children's Fund.

"That was 10 months ago, and Paul has now raised over $40,000," she said. "He is pretty amazing."

Shol said he enjoys tutoring and listening to children and called the foundation a culture of support and encouragement.

"I think what they are doing is making a difference every day for the kids in the Fargo-Moorhead area," Shol said.

Corporate sponsors helped meet the fundraising goals early, and Shol said that freed him to focus on his personal ministry.

"A few weeks after deciding to ride for Legacy (Children's Foundation), I also kind of felt like I was having a tug on my heart from God to ride for him and make my ride purposeful for him in some way," Shol said.

Host families help out as Shol speaks at Bible camps and churches on his route about author Sarah Young's devotional book, "Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence." He raised $11,000 to order and send Young's book to individuals he meets along the way at gas stations, rest stops and campgrounds.

"My main goal on this trip, for myself, is just to relax and be in God's presence," Shol said. "I just have to trust him daily that everything is going to work out alright and it is a good opportunity for me to grow in my faith, and what I want for myself the most is to be out here with God nearby."

Shol started the ride in Florence, Ore., and rode through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area into Washington. He also rode on the Going-To-The-Sun Road through Glacier National Park in Montana.

"There is something about being on a bike that makes the scenery just pop out at you more," Shol said.

A comical incident came early in the trip while camping in a city park in Moses Lake, Ore. Automatic sprinklers soaked Shol and his gear at 4 a.m.

"I was ticked, and then after a few minutes of getting all my stuff out to the parking lot I just started laughing," he said. "I wound up riding 140 miles that day and arrived at my friend's house 20 hours later at midnight."

Shol's worst problem has been with slow leaks in his bike tires that he said are caused by wire from vehicle tires that break apart on the roads.

As an ultra-endurance marathon runner of 30-, 50- and 100-mile races, Shol said he has the aerobic ability for the bike trip, but biking uses different muscles and that has also been a challenge.

"Bike muscles are just not the same as running muscles, and I am trying to get them trained as I go."

Donations for Shol's ministry to help pay for books can be made to First Lutheran Church, 619 Broadway N, Fargo, ND 58102. To support Legacy Children's Foundation, visit www.legacychildrensfoundation.com.

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