Editor's note: The following story is about a unique ministry of a United Methodist congregation in the Atlanta, Georgia area. If you are in need and do not live in the immediate area of McEachern UMC, check your local social service agencies or churches in your area for assistance.
"Instead, we are God's accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives." (Ephesians 2:10, CEB)
"I'm kind of a car guy," says Raymond Bogenschutz, a volunteer with the Car Care Ministry of McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church in Powder Springs, Georgia. "I like old collectible cars and it has been my interest all my life."
The Bible tells us that God has gifted each of us with talents, abilities, aptitudes, passions, and experiences that make us suited to do certain things for God. For some, this makes perfect sense. Others, however, have gifts that don't fit neatly into church life, like a talent for car repairs.
"Some people can sing. Some people can connect to other people. Some people can do IT-type stuff. We all have our talents," Bogenschutz shares echoing Ephesians 2, "and I found a place in the church where my talents could be plied and also be useful."
Using their abilities for car repair has given many an opportunity to get and stay connected to the church and grow in their faith. Photo courtesy McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church.
Volunteers with McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church's Car Care Ministry, led by its founder David McCoy, repair cars for those who cannot afford to fix them otherwise. They never charge for labor, and if the "customer" can't afford the parts, they give those too.
Joe Mikos first came to the Car Care Ministry to get a power steering pump put on his truck.
"A little while later, they start wheeling in four tires. I was like, 'I can't afford tires,' and I was stressing out about that," he recalls. "Don't worry about it," a Car Care Ministry volunteer told him, "Your tires are bald. You need tires." So the ministry gave him four tires.
That encounter ignited a life change for Mikos. The former professional diesel mechanic had survived a second bout with cancer, but full recovery seemed nearly impossible.
"I was languishing in bed. Almost 100% of my time was spent in bed until I came here," he explains.
Mikos started hanging around the shop, handing wrenches to volunteers and offering his experience and expertise. Today, he volunteers with the Car Care Ministry nearly every day as one of the diagnostic experts who has performed "hundreds and hundreds of repairs."
"Psychologically, spiritually, physically, Car Care Ministry has given me the opportunity to get back on my feet," Mikos exudes, "and to give back to people."
Bob Flood, the ministry's Donor Car Coordinator (they also fix up donated cars and give them away to people in need), feels similarly.
"This thing has been a godsend to me," he explains, "because it has given me something to do. If you retire without anything to do, you die. You can't just sit around."
Using your gifts to serve others brings feelings of joy and satisfaction. Photo courtesy McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church.
Flood, a retired electrical engineer who gives about 30 hours a week to the Car Care Ministry, recently went back to school. "I'm in the automotive technology class at the local tech school," where he claims to be the oldest member of the class, including the instructor.
Bogenschutz sees God's hand in bringing him to the Car Care Ministry. "I think God was conditioning me for this for years," he says. Bogenschutz's previous professional experience and love for automobiles helped him develop gifts for cars and people that are very useful in his volunteer work.
"I can see the culmination of all those experiences being put to use in one place for one service," he continues. "All these elements come into play in my service there. And its 100% why I stayed in the church."
Growing by serving
By serving others, the ministry volunteers find a place in the church and to grow in their faith.
McCoy explains, "Jesus told us in Matthew 25, 'I was hungry and you fed me. I was sick; you came to visit. My car was broken down and you fixed it.'" That's not a direct quote, but it makes the point.
The automobiles repaired by these people of faith represent someone's ability to get to work, to care for a parent, or to get their children to the doctor. It is important work, the kind to which Jesus calls us.
When asked about Scripture he associates with the Car Care Ministry, Bogenschutz quotes a verse from that same passage, "When you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me."
"Good people come in all economic levels," Bogenschutz explains. "You learn not to associate their economic status with the quality of the person."
Flood similarly shares, "It has gone a long way to making me more sensitive to people who have real needs."
Finding a place to use your gifts can transform your life. Photo courtesy McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church.
Clearly, those who get free repairs or donated vehicles are not the only ones blessed by the Car Care Ministry.
"This has turned out to be a great job," Flood shares with anyone who asks. "People say, 'Well, you don't get paid.' Yeah, I do. I just don't get paid in money."
"The reward is mine," Bogenschutz acknowledges. "I get to use talents that were given to me by God. It doesn't take a lot of effort to do what I do there because it's a talent and I get the reward. I get the satisfaction of helping somebody."
Mikos, whose physical recovery was aided by the Car Care Ministry, has also experienced another renewal. "My faith waned," he confesses. "I stayed neutral for a while there while I was sick." Then his service through the Car Care Ministry jump-started his faith. "It has reshaped it, rebuilt it, revitalized it," much like the work he and the rest of the volunteers do for motors and brakes.
Finding a place to use our gifts to the glory of God, not only serves others, but it transforms us as well. No matter your gifts, use them "in Christ Jesus to do good things."
This feature was originally published June 15, 2017. Learn more about the McEachern United Methodist Car Care Ministry by visiting their webpage.
*Joe Iovino is a writer for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications.