Remember the first time you learned to ride a bike without training wheels? You were balanced precariously on two wheels. Your mom, dad or big brother steadied you as he/she ran alongside shouting encouragement. Then suddenly you were pedaling on your own! For many this is a cherished childhood memory. However, in today’s tough economy, there are many children without bicycles of their own who can’t experience the joy of riding. That’s where “Bikes for Kids,” a ministry of the Rock Church comes in.
Sarah Vanorum’s husband has been deployed for the past five months. She and her three children ages 13, 12, and 10 live on a very tight budget. “I had been looking for bicycles for my older kids, so they could run errands and ride their bikes to school to cut down on gasoline needed for the car,” says Sarah. “My youngest son had never learned to ride a bike as we didn’t have one on which to team him I went to garage sales and yard sales but couldn’t find bicycles that were the right size or at a price that would fit within my budget. I prayed for the Lord to help me in my search.”
Sarah volunteers at the Rock Church as a stage manager for the Production Team and is also a member of the choir. “One day after church,” recalls Sarah, “the kids and I were dropping off items to donate at the Launch Pad, and I noticed a man in the parking lot working on bicycles. I walked over to see if the bikes were for sale. I had my volunteer nametag on, and he asked me what I did at the church and why I needed the bikes. After I told him my story, I was shocked when he told me to go ahead and choose one bike for each of my kids...for free! I thought he was kidding. Then he told me that he oversees the Rock Church Bikes for Kids’ ministry that provides bicycles for families in need. I was overwhelmed with gratitude as the Lord answered my prayer in a way I never imagined! The next time my husband contacted me, I told him what happened and he was so happy that God was answering prayers and looking out for his family while he was gone.”
How “Bikes for Kids” Ministry Works
Gary Roberts, the leader of the ministry, and his core group of 4-6 volunteers set up each Sunday in the Launch Pad parking lot. “People come by and donate bikes of every size, from toddlers to adult size bikes for teens. The bikes are in varying conditions…from brand new to used,” explains Gary. “Our vision is to give each bicycle a complete overhaul and to do top quality work on each bike.” They may replace items including tires and tubes, chains, sprockets and brake cables. If needed, rust is removed, and the bike is repainted to restore it to top condition. The ministry is currently restoring between 10-20 bicycles per month.
[Photo by Gary Roberts]
The newly reconditioned bikes have largely been given away to families identified through other ministries of the Rock Church. “Ministry leaders e-mail me to see if we have a bike that will meet a need they have identified,” says Gary. “We have provided bikes for the Single Parent Family ministry, the Military ministry, the Homeless ministry, the Block Party ministry and Never Knew a Father’s Love ministry.”
“It was then that the ministry took on a new dimension for me.”
Gary has also developed a relationship with the Toussaint Academy for homeless teens in Downtown San Diego run by Father Joe Carroll. Bikes for Kids has been able to provide eight reconditioned bikes so far, and Gary sometimes works at the facility tuning up other residents’ bikes. “One Sunday afternoon,” recalls Gary, “a teenager came into the garage and asked if her bike would be ready soon…it turned out she needed the bike for transportation to her job. It was then that the ministry took on a new dimension for me. I realized that Bikes for Kids was providing more than bikes for recreation…in some cases, they were vital to helping people stay employed.” Future plans include a workshop at the Toussaint Academy to teach the teens how to maintain their own bikes and fix them when they break.
Blessings Given and Received
The Bikes for Kids Ministry is based on the Bible verse found in Acts 20:35, “…it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
“I have certainly found that to be true,” says Gary. “During the week, my job in pool maintenance is very solitary, and I work alone…it’s not a great venue for making friends.
I have been so blessed serving in the Bikes for Kids ministry. It has provided opportunities to meet and connect with so many people. Also, serving at the Rock Church has made a huge difference in my relationship with God. I feel it is highly important to do what God calls us to do… I know from personal experience and the experience of others that life is a disaster when you don’t listen to God’s call.”
“God has shown me that no matter how small a contribution you may feel you are making, it is still very important to Him. At first, my service seemed like an insignificant thing…reconditioning a bicycle and giving it away. As time went on, I realized the Bikes for Kids ministry involves more than just giving someone a bike. We are playing an important role in representing the positive impact and giving nature of the church, and we are glorifying Jesus. I always like to give out tracts and Bible information with each bike to help point people to Jesus.”
Needs of the Ministry
At present, the ministry is funded in a variety of ways. “People will sometimes come by the Launch Pad and write a check for a donation that allows us to buy needed parts and tools,” says Gary. “I am always on the lookout for scrap metal that I can recycle for cash. At other times, we have been given permission to sell one or two bikes on-line to raise funds needed for reconditioning the bikes.” And, of course, they need donated bikes!
In addition, more volunteers are always needed. “People with mechanical aptitude and a few hours a week to work on the bikes is all that is needed,” says Gary. “It would be great if they had a set of tools, but if not, they can come and work at the Launch Pad on Sundays and use my tools. I can teach anyone the skills that are needed…no problem!”
For more information about the Bikes for Kids Ministry, click here »