The smile on Demarcus’ face made all the work of the Bike and Bible Ministry of First Baptist Church Norman, Oklahoma, worthwhile.
Throughout the U.S., churches and organizations are becoming more involved in bicycle ministry, enabling those in the homeless community — like Demarcus (name changed) — and those who do not own a car an opportunity to be employed. Bicycles are a viable transportation option in many cases for those who have limited ways to get to a job, attend school and/or have access to needed resources.
“We started the Bikes and Bible Ministry in 2005,” said Angela Atkins, minister of community ministries at FBC Norman. “There was a need to help those experiencing homelessness, and others in the community who lacked reliable transportation. Without a car, they could not go to work or school or seek medical services.
“Since 2005, we’ve given out about 2,400 bikes.”
A bike can change a life
Something as simple as a bicycle and a message of hope that Jesus loves people can impact them in positive ways.
Many families in the United States own two or more cars, and while a bicycle may not be as convenient as a car, for those who lack transportation it offers an alternative to walking — or not going anywhere.
As bicycles require frequent maintenance, some churches are putting homeless people to work repairing them. A salary helps them find housing and meaning for their lives.
Funds for parts and repairs often come from community donations as well as the congregation. All bicycles are donated, and often local police and firefighters participate.
FBC Norman said the ministry of Bicycles and Bibles has become a way they can serve others while serving God.
How does providing bicycles to the homeless show your church is serving God and people?
We show our love of God when we love others, and one way FBC Norman loves others is through this ministry. By providing inexpensive transportation, individuals (and not all are homeless) are able to travel to work, classes, the grocery store and do what they need to do to provide for themselves and their family.
How does FBC Norman encourage people to become involved in Bikes and Bibles?
Our repair team connects with new people they meet at church, and sometimes newly retired people are looking to serve. They are able to work together and strengthen friendships. We also encourage participation through bike donations, as well as financial donations to offset the costs of bike locks, Bibles and repair parts.
How are you encouraging people to donate used bicycles?
We receive bicycles from the Norman Police Department as well as the University of Oklahoma facilities department once or twice a year. We also receive bicycles from church members and the community as they see our monthly updates or hear otherwise about the program.
What are some challenges you’ve faced? How did you meet them?
We often hear back that a bike has been stolen, sometimes soon after the person received it. We don’t often know the whole story on that, since we also know that a bike can be sold to a pawn shop. Our first attempt to help with this issue was providing bike locks. That has reduced theft quite a bit.
We have also started letting people know if they file a police report and bring a copy to us, we will add them back to the list (before a three-year rotation requirement).
How do you screen people who sign up or request a bike?
As we schedule appointments we ask that recipients live in Cleveland County, do not have a working vehicle and have not received a bicycle from us within the past three years. We keep a database of recipients.
How does offering a Bible make a difference?
It helps them know we care about their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. We offer several different versions and sizes, some with just the New Testament, others the full Bible in large print.
We recently added copies of the Celebrate Recovery study Bible and have seen the most amazing responses. Those working to overcome addictions are blown away, first of all by the bike, which helps them get to meetings and appointments, and they love this meaningful additional help on their journey.