Church Surprises Students With Bicycles for Christmas
Wed, 18 Dec 2013 - 4:16 PM CST
|Reed Elementary School first-grade student Lexus
Guia reacts to the announcement that Faith Assembly Church will give away
a bicycle to every student at Reed. Photos courtesy Reed Elementary.
It's on nearly every child's Christmas wish list — a new bike for Christmas! But for a vast majority of the 955 kids of Reed Elementary, where 80 percent of the families are economically disadvantaged, a gift like a bicycle was beyond reach..., but not beyond God.
What began as a "what if" in a staff meeting at Faith Assembly Church (Houston, Texas) years ago, became reality on Sunday, December 15, when the church partnered with Academy Sports and Outdoors to present all the children attending Reed Elementary with a brand new bicycle for Christmas.
Leah Carreon, communications director at Faith Assembly, says that in 2010 the church adopted Reed through the Partners in Education Adopt-a-School program. Members volunteer in the Feed the Children and Cy-Hope Backpack Buddy programs (food sent home with kids so that they can have evening and weekend meals) as well as mentoring and other educational support efforts.
Yet, even though the church has been very involved with school, when church leaders first told the school about their plans to give a bicycle to each student, the message was met with more than a few raised eyebrows.
|Leah Carreon explains to students how they can get their new bicycles.|
But it wasn't long before disbelief turned into blessing. Last week, during students' lunchtimes in the school cafeteria, Faith Assembly leaders conducted a mini-program, which included riding bicycles about the cafeteria. But the fun turned into stunned, and then all out pandemonium as children jumped and screamed in delight by the news that each of them would be receiving a brand new bicycle for Christmas!
"The kids went nuts when we told them they were getting bikes," Carreon says. "A flyer was placed in each of the kids' backpacks, with an invitation to Sunday's services with a voucher for a bike attached. All parents had to do was sign the voucher and come pick up the bike."
"Honestly, I was speechless," said Reed principal Kandy Bond in a release. "I've never experienced anything like this. This donation will directly affect every child in this building. The staff feels the impact of it too, and we're overwhelmed."
However, the Christmas bicycles weren't just a matter of a few donations followed by unloading the bicycles. Carreon says that in addition to the congregation members giving sacrificially, businesses got involved to help purchase the bicycles. Community members would later join with church members to form an assembly line at the church, to assemble, inspect, test and tag each bicycle. Wagons and tricycles were also purchased and provided for children with special needs.
|Faith Assembly staff members with some of the new bicycles given away to students at Reed Elementary. Pictured, from left, are Roger Nelmes, Cypress campus pastor; Jason Taylor, lead pastor; Trey Wilborn, children’s pastor; Raymond Rice, pastor of assimilation; Nolan McLaughlin, student pastor; and Leah Carreon, communications director.|
"There are no words to describe this," says Faith Assembly lead pastor Jason Taylor. "When it comes to doing missional community work, it's usually just a small pocket of people who get to experience it. But when your hands are building it, and when you're sowing your time and your energy and your heart, it means more. Our family is a part of every one of these bikes."
The bicycle giveaway on Sunday coincided with the church's children's Christmas program. So, as car after car came into the church parking lot with kids ready to explode with excitement, God had something even better in store for many of the families.
"We don't fully know the impact of the bicycle giveaway," Carreon says, "but through the children's Christmas production, 80 people signed cards stating that they had made a decision to accept Christ as their Savior. God was touching hearts and changing lives!"
During the church service, Principal Bond spoke briefly, expressing her thankfulness. "It reminds me that there is a purpose and a plan for all of us and that people come into our lives for a reason.... Faith Assembly has shown our teachers, staff and Reed family that there is still kindness and generosity in this world. We truly, truly appreciate it."
Recognizing that some of the school's families might not be able to make it on Sunday for the giveaway, students were given through today, Wednesday, to come by the church and pick their Christmas bicycles up.
|The smiles say it all! The Ortiz family, featuring three current and two future Reed students, celebrate the bike giveaway.|
"Although we had many volunteers interacting with the families who came on Sunday, we've found this additional time has given us the opportunity for more one-on-one conversations with families," Carreon says. "So many parents have expressed their appreciation for the bikes, but have also expressed a lot of interest in the programs the church offers for their children."
But even though the hundreds of bicycles now have new homes, this isn't the last time the church expects to see the children or the bicycles. The church has already announced a follow-up event.
According to Taylor, Reed students have been invited back on January 26th for a "30-day tune-up" on the bikes during a Faith Assembly block party. The church is also tentatively planning a "Parade of Bikes" during a Fourth of July celebration at the church.
Carreon succinctly sums up the event. "It's evident that God orchestrated the whole thing," she says. "It just was a really, really good day."
For more information about Faith Assembly Church, see its website.