By Jim Nieman
Volunteers from CrossCity Christian Church, Fresno, Calif., started repairing bikes as a small part of a big ministry event about 15 years ago, but it wasn’t until three years ago that the church began throwing significant financial resources behind the bike-repair effort and made it a full-fledged ministry.
BikeMasters now repairs bikes at about 10 events a year, focusing its efforts and peddling good feelings mainly in poorer neighborhoods.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” says Jim Corrao, CrossCity’s chief financial officer and missions pastor for the past five years (and, before that, executive pastor for about 15 years).
BikeMasters can repair up to 100 bikes at an event, he says. It works with police agencies, community groups, and even other churches.
“It [the bike-repair ministry] needed to go to the next level to be mobile” . . . to easily transport it from place to place, Corrao says. The monies directed toward the ministry help pay for a bike-repair trailer, plus things like tools, tents, equipment, and storage.
Church volunteers first repaired bikes at a big party at an apartment complex in a poor part of Clovis, Calif. They set up a table at what was the culminating event of an every-Tuesday night Bible study and then a weeklong VBS the church held there.
“We brought a table and some volunteers and we repaired a few bikes [that first year],” Corrao says. The next year, and for years following at that same complex, “more and more men would come and repair bikes, and more and more kids would bring bikes.”
Over time, it was obvious people enjoyed volunteering with the bike-repair ministry, and the public—especially the kids—proved to be big fans.
“This always seemed to be a very effective part of everything we would do,” says Corrao.
And so, about three years ago, CrossCity decided to fully back BikeMasters through its missions budget. Key elements in this decision were the enthusiasm and faithfulness of the many volunteers, Corrao says, and also recognition that the church had the right person to lead the ministry: Al Madril.
“Al is a master at putting things together: programs and people . . . and bikes!” Corrao says. Madril is a passionate, committed leader with whom volunteers enjoy working. “I can’t say enough about him.”
At each event, there are a minimum of 10 bike workers, Corrao says. At a larger event, there may be as many as 20.
“It’s hard to find ministries for people to do together,” Corrao says. “People can do this together. Families can do this together. And when you see the smiles on the kids’ faces, it’s like icing on the cake.”
Workers repair bikes that children and adults bring to them at these events—bikes with flat tires, faulty brakes, missing pedals—and they make the repairs. If it’s time to wrap-up an event but not all of the bikes have been fixed, BikeMasters exchanges claim tickets for the broken bikes, which it hauls away; repairs are made in short order, and then Madril delivers the repaired bikes to their owners at a predetermined place and time.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Corrao says.
But the events aren’t just about bikes.
“We usually try to provide food along with it—hot dogs and hamburgers,” Corrao says. Backpacks have also been distributed. “It’s anything we can do to mingle with people and talk to them about Christ. It’s maybe not as overt as that sounds, but people know we’re a church group.”
The church has teamed up with police agencies for some repair events (most recently with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Activities League; see Fresno Bee story), but partnerships have gone deeper than that.
Police departments and sheriff’s offices have passed along confiscated and unclaimed bikes to BikeMasters for refurbishing and distribution, Corrao says. Some of these bikes need only minor repairs, and some of them are scavenged for parts.
“We fix them up and give them away at these events,” Corrao says.
At police partnership events, BikeMasters workers repair bikes while officers mingle with the kids and the crowd. It helps foster good feelings between police officers and folks in the community. (And it’s no secret, Corrao says, that across the nation, police agencies are eager to improve relationships with their communities.)
“We were at one event when a police officer pointed to a kid and said, ‘See that kid? His bike was stolen in February. Is there any way you could get him a bike?’” Corrao says. “We said, ‘Sure.’ When we got the kid that bike, the child was so happy. And then we looked over at the cops, and they were crying.”
Corrao says CrossCity Christian Church recognizes it has been blessed financially to do such a ministry, and that’s one reason it seeks out people of poorer communities to bless. He says this type of thinking extends also to smaller churches in economically challenged areas.
“For smaller churches, we’ve told them we’ll bring our equipment and people to your church and put on a bike repair event for your community,” Corrao says. “The [smaller] church will advertise the event and we’ll tell them, ‘It’s all about you guys. Don’t even mention our names.’ It has more to do with who can we reach? It’s about providing an opportunity to minister to people.”
Madril, who repairs motorcycles for a living, has also fostered relationships with area bike shops, which have made donations to the ministry.
And, in a strange twist, CrossCity was able to start an unrelated ministry as a direct result of the success and camaraderie that is so much a part of the BikeMasters outreach. Cassao tells the story.
“After volunteering at an event, a man came out with his two teenage boys and said, ‘Man, this was great!’ He asked me what we would do if we had another trailer.
“I said, ‘That’s easy, I would put together a YardMasters Ministry.’
“About three months later, he called me and said, ‘Look out your window.’ I looked out and there was a trailer. He had bought us a trailer!”
The YardMasters ministry is able to provide yard work to those who have a special need, perhaps due to surgery, illness, or age.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.
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