Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goshen News Article

July 16, 2010

Chicago gets Goshen 'encounter'


A semibed and two haulers loaded with bicycles drew a lot of attention as they wended their way through Chicago, en route to Humboldt Park Wednesday.

John Shirk, who runs the Urban Encounter ministry there, said, "It was a spectacle!" When the entourage made it’s way to the warehouse where Urban Encounter would be refurbishing the bikes, people swarmed, wanting to get one for themselves.

The more than 300 bicycles were from Grace Community Church in Goshen. Last Sunday, Grace’s lead pastor Jim Brown challenged congregants to bring their old bicycles in on Monday and Tuesday to donate them to Urban Encounter. Volunteers were coming from Florida to spend the week reworking the bikes and giving the kids’ bikes new, snazzy paint jobs.

"It’s neat how people always rise up and exceed your expectations," said Mitch Moser, one of Grace’s pastors.

More than 300 bicycles were donated. Someone bought two new kids bikes and donated them. Another person brought in a new adult bike, he said. And another person donated $60 cash for helmets.

"People always amaze me how they step up to the plate," Moser said.

After unloading the bicycles Wednesday, Shirk said, "A week ago we had about 30 bikes collected. We weren’t sure if we had enough to keep the group coming from Florida busy, so I was arranging additional projects for them to do if we ran out."

Shirk, who also works with Community Grace Brethren in Warsaw, said he thought another 50 to 75 bikes would be enough to keep the group busy in the 80,000-square-foot warehouse the ministry was using in partnership with another church.

"Then God got busy and we found out why he arranged for us to be in an 80,000-square-foot building," Shirk wrote in an e-mail to Grace. "… There aren’t many places in the city where we could store 300 bikes let alone have room to work. But God knew that’s what we would need, so he worked it out even before we needed it."

But as the trucks pulled in and people flocked to the bicycles, a bunch of gang members didn’t want to hear that the bikes were for God’s purpose — not theirs.

"We were nervous when the gangs showed up trying to take bikes off the truck," Shirk said. "We weren’t worried about the bikes. We were worried about the people unloading them."

But Shirk was certain God would take care of the situation with the gangs. "He is bigger than any gang," he said.

The bikes are being readied for distribution. But with so many more than expected, Shirk kept wondering what he was going to do with them all.

"God knows what he’s doing and he’s so much bigger than us," Shirk said.

After World Relief has its pick of bicycles to distribute to immigrants and the poor, whatever’s left is certain to be taken care of. A Chicago alderman got wind of the bikes and would like to see them distributed to low-income Chicago school kids. Another possibility is bicycles going to homeless lady veterans. Plus, what’s not distributed locally can be shipped in a container to Haiti, where bicycles are like gold, Shirk said.

Already, bicycles have been distributed along with the message of Jesus to a Buddhist woman, a Burmese family and a couple of Iraqi men.

And whatever’s extra, Shirk said, "We have to ask, who else would Jesus want to bless with a bike

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