By Carl Stagner
No commuter looks forward to dodging potholes on the way to work in the morning. As the snow and ice melts across much of the country, streets and highways—thought to be paved—become rough, rutted, and downright bumpy. Along life’s journey, potholes of another kind challenge even the hardiest adventurer. The challenges are especially difficult for those who don’t have adequate transportation. In many locations, hard-working individuals may be unable to reach the factory or office without a properly functioning vehicle. But in Benton Harbor-St. Joseph region of Michigan, the road ahead lay smoother than ever since First Church of God launched its Cars Ministry.
Here’s how the ministry works: Vehicles are donated, volunteer mechanics tune them up to good working order, and needy individuals or families are given a reliable vehicle that they can afford. The plan may seem relatively simple, but it required one person to take the first step and follow God’s leading. Like many ministry projects, this one capitalized on one church members’ already-existing talent. Five years ago, Roger, a certified mechanic and member of First Church of God, heeded the call of God to make a difference in the lives of others.
“His initial vision was to simply help some single moms with oil changes and routine maintenance,” Jenny Fry, of missional outreach, explains. “That vision quickly expanded to include more extensive repairs,” she recalls. The ministry further expanded to reach a much broader segment of the community, including residents who were trying to juggle career, education, and routine visits to the doctor. After much planning and refining, the church began to ask for vehicle donations. Needy individuals within the community would then be given the opportunity to purchase a reliable car on a payment plan appropriate for their budget. Additionally, the Cars Ministry at First Church offers needy individuals repair and maintenance services at little or no cost.
Approximately 15 percent of households in the church’s county have no car.Within the church’s immediate surroundings, that figure jumps to between 60 and 80 percent. To make matters more complex, public transportation is very limited. “There is a great deal of relief when we are able to repair a car for someone who doesn’t know how they are going to be able to keep their job without a means of transportation,” Jenny explains. “You can sense the burden that has been lifted from their life. We pray over their life and the blessing we want that car to be for them. It’s a great opportunity to be a testimony of God’s love and provision and generosity—not only to the recipients of the cars, but to the people who work at the dealership. We hear life-change stories of parents who are able to visit their children out-of-town, individuals who can move out of unsafe living situations because they no longer have to walk to work, and single moms who no longer have to drag their four kids on the Dial-a-Ride bus to get to the grocery or laundromat.”
Through the work of the Cars Ministry of First Church of God, lives are being touched by volunteers driven to serve Christ and community. Recipients of automobile services are not the only blessed parties, however. Jesus is the subject for each volunteer, and the blessing they experience is huge. “At First Church we believe that Jesus calls us to be his hands and feet, bringing his love into our neighborhoods and community,” Jenny concludes. “We actively seek to serve our community and not just attract the community to come to our church. Church is who we are, not a Saturday evening or Sunday event. As the local church, we are partnering with social action and allowing the presence of God to work through us to transform our neighborhoods and community.”