Forming a Crested Butte connection to Zambia through bikes

Teaching life skills to orphans

By Mark Reaman

ell, that didn’t take long. The goal of the Oh Be Joyful Church Bike Drive that started last month was to obtain 75 old or unwanted bikes from the Gunnison Valley that they could ship off to Africa. That number was reached quickly, and the church is taking in bonus bikes until July 7. The bikes will be shipped to Zambia where they will be used to help train some orphans with skills in bicycle maintenance and repair, and possible life skills that lead to long-term career opportunities. 

The idea started with Oh Be Joyful pastor Scott Winn who was approached by a friend who works for Every Orphan’s Hope, a Texas-based ministry. He suggested the congregation participate in a bike drive for their orphanages in Zambia. 

“The idea was pretty simple: partner with the community and local organizations to collect old or unwanted bikes,” said OBJ worship and arts pastor Tyler Hansen. “The bikes will be used for training orphans in bike maintenance skills. So really, this isn’t just about getting some stuff to give to others, this is about helping those in need develop life skills that will serve them well into their future, which was really appealing to us.”

The idea is not only a perfect fit for Crested Butte given its reputation as a bike mecca, but also for OBJ. “It just aligned really nicely with some ideas that had been swirling around in the back of our heads for the past couple years on making something similar to this happen. Bikes are baked pretty heavily into our DNA here at the church,” explained Hansen. “A majority of the staff are passionate mountain bikers and we have a long history of supporting the mountain bike association as well as volunteering to help out with the Adaptive Sports Center’s Bridges of the Butte fundraiser. We also have a weekly group ride open to everyone. So, when something that involves bikes comes along, it’s pretty easy to get us engaged!”

The church has already received well over 75 bikes. Once the drive is completed on Sunday, they will be packed in shipping containers and sent to Africa. 

“The response has been amazing. We started with some bikes that the Crested Butte marshals gave us from abandoned bikes they’ve collected over the past year,” explained Hansen. “That was exactly the jumping off point we needed. We’ve had members of our church as well as lots of community members swing by to drop off their bikes, most of which are perfect candidates for the drive. We’ve gotten a few that are too far gone to send off to Africa in good conscience, so we’ll be taking those to the landfill once the drive is complete. But for the most part, we couldn’t be happier with how the church body and community have shown up to support such a cool effort. There has been a lot of generosity.

“We’re definitely not collecting the latest and greatest. By design, these bikes need some work,” Hansen continued. “Pretty much all of them have flat tires and some are missing seats. That’s just fine. However, we’re trying to make sure the bikes we’re collecting have the potential to be fully repaired and back to working condition without too much effort. We don’t want to be sending bikes that are hopeless cases halfway across the world, that seems like a bad use of resources. So generally speaking, I’d say we’re looking for gently used and unwanted bikes that would be good candidates for basic repair work to return them to full functionality. Doesn’t matter if they’re townies, mountain bikes, road bikes, for adults or for kids…we take them all!”

One of the requests OBJ received from Every Orphan’s Hope is that all the bikes have their pedals removed and zip tied to the frame. They also asked that the handlebars are turned sideways to help fit as many as possible into the shipping container. “With the number of bikes we’ve received, that’s become quite a big task,” noted Hansen. “If any community members feel like they’d like to donate some of their time to help make that happen, we’d be incredibly grateful.”While OBJ has links to overseas charitable organizations, this opportunity in Africa came about through Winn’s personal relationship from Texas. “The main connection was through a personal friend of Scott’s, “said Hansen. “There is no direct correlation between our congregation and these orphanages in Zambia. We do support an orphanage in Peru as well as a school for marginalized stateless refugees from Burma and China in Thailand. But in this case, the connection was just a neat little God moment that linked us with this really cool opportunity in Africa.”

If you want to help with the drive, contact OBJ by going to the website: ohbejoyfulchurch.org/bikes. The church will also be holding a service on the Crested Butte Alpenglow Field on Sunday, July 7 at 9:30 a.m.  if you would like to connect in person.

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