Church’s car ministry helps down and out get up and running

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Frustrated, Brandi Huckaby simply didn’t know what to do. Her car needed a $150 power-steering pump, but the single mother of three was barely able to put food on the table. With transportation gone, her life had ground to a halt.

"We’ve been without a car now for about a month and a half now," Huckaby says. "There’s no way I could afford to have the car fixed at all."

As she speaks, the blasts of air hammers sound in the background. She stands in an unusual type of car-repair garage — one where all the services are free.

To help the down and out get up and running, members of McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church in Powder Springs, Ga., repair vehicles of low-income and elderly people in their "car care ministry" one Saturday a month. About a dozen volunteers in this hands-on ministry in suburban Atlanta work on several cars at a time. Local social-service agencies help them find needy people in the three-county area.

United Methodist churches throughout the United States perform mission work through car-repair ministries similar to McEachern Memorial’s garage. Such programs are an effective way to reach low-income, elderly and "unchurched" people. At McEachern Memorial, members also accept donations of vehicles for needy people and have given away more than 50 cars in nearly three years.

While Huckaby is there, mechanics huddle underneath car hoods to battle worn-out belts on radiators and water pumps, a cracked bushing, and an assortment of other vehicular ailments. On another Saturday, when a local newspaper reporter stopped by to write a story about the ministry, 25 men were changing oil and brakes and running diagnostics on eight cars in the 60-by-100-foot barn behind the sanctuary.

Huckaby watches as mechanics wrestle with her car’s new power-steering pump, and she sings their praises.

"They’re definitely a gift from God," she says.

Church member David McCoy, an airline mechanic who started the ministry in 2002, oversees the repair work on Huckaby’s car. The repairs are long overdue. He notes that the belts were "about to come out."

"When you don’t have the money to put the food on the table, your car is way down the list of priorities," McCoy says. "What I hope is that they go away from here and know that we love ’em."

To McCoy and the other mechanics, outreach means reaching under the hood — and to Erica Stanisclaus, that is a godsend. Like Huckaby, Stanisclaus nearly fainted when she saw the repair bill for a brake job.

"I went to Meineke and they told me to fix my brakes was over 500 bucks," she says. "And as a single parent, I cannot afford that at all. What they are doing is God-blessed."

After a mechanic at McEachern installs brakes on her car, Stanisclaus hugs him and begins to cry.

"You have a blessed day," she says.

"Glad to help," the mechanic replies.

Other churches or individuals interested in the car-care outreach can contact McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church at (770) 943-3508.

*Smith is a freelance writer living in Dallas.

News media contact: Fran Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or[email protected].

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