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At some churches, JOY buses still drive kids to Sunday school

MESQUITE, TEXAS — A banana-hued bus with brown stripes stutters to a stop at an apartment complex. The singing and laughing drown out the diesel engine as it idles for a moment. “SING! Amen, amen. REJOICE! Amen, amen,” the kids belt out the open windows to their friends on the curb. Half a dozen children bound noisily up the steps, one teenage girl almost tripping over her long, flared jeans as she grabs a powdered doughnut. Surely this JOY bus scene must be a flashback to the 1970s — a distant, albeit happy memory for many. Didn’t this concept go the way of orange shag carpet and pet rocks? Not at the Meadow View church here in Mesquite. And not at congregations in Rockford, Ill., Millington, Tenn., and Temple City, Calif. — to name a few.
For these churches, sending colorful buses into the community to pick up children for Sunday school and worship remains a timeless ministry fueled by dedicated volunteers — some of whom were first introduced to Jesus from a padded, green vinyl seat.
David Brooks was a 20-year-old convert to Christianity at Meadow View when he signed on to work with Bus 3. It was the ideal job for someone without a lot of Bible knowledge, but with a passion to share what he had just received, he said.
“I felt like it was something I could do and make a difference with at that point in my life,” he said. “And now, 26 years later, that’s still the case.”
Reaching out and drawing people in — both as workers and riders — was exactly what minister Jerry Linker had in mind when he and others began the bus ministry at Casa View, Meadow View’s predecessor, in 1975.
What some once regarded as a simple mode of transportation became a vehicle for Bible lessons, songs and multi-generational friendships.
“Almost anywhere you go (here) people are familiar with the JOY buses,” Linker said. “I still meet adults … who recognize me as the ‘bus guy.’”
On Saturdays, Brooks and other bus captains knock doors along their routes, checking to see if regulars will be riding on Sunday morning or Wednesday night and making contacts with prospects. He admits that recruiting is more of a challenge than it was 20 years ago.
At the same time, second-generation riders aren’t uncommon, said Diana Freeman, a school principal and bus volunteer. Freeman is Linker’s daughter, which makes her daughter Abby, 11, a third-generation helper on Bus 5.
“This is our outreach,” Freeman said of her and husband John’s willingness to arrive at church early, stay late and help supervise their “bus kids.”
“We do this for them, but I honestly think we get just as much or more from it,” she said. “It never gets old.”
GOT A STORY to share about JOY bus ministries? E-mail [email protected].
Sept. 1, 2006

Photo Caption:
Gary Allen, a JOY bus volunteer with the Meadow View church in Mesquite, Texas, leads a song on the ride home. Helping him is a bus rider named Lynntrell. (photo by Tamie Ross)

Filed under: People Staff Reports

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