In mid-October, a church member who works for Riteway Transportation Group, informed us that a couple of the company’s diesel coach buses were for sale. We made a call to Riteway and initially determined that none of those buses fit our needs. A couple days after that call, Riteway sent us an e-mail detailing the buses available for sale, yet including a bus that had not been previously discussed. This bus seemed to be exactly what we needed – and the opportunity came to us. We did not go seeking for it!
The Lord began to impress strongly on Pastor’s heart that He was going to use this bus provision not just as a way to meet our ministry needs, but as a token for how He will work in our ministry in the days ahead.
A few days later, John Hohl and Pastor Shoultz went to Riteway to test drive the bus and ask more questions about its condition and maintenance history. Both men were very impressed and sensed that the Lord was leading us to this very bus. Amazingly the bus company offered to sell it for its trade-in value, which was $30-40,000 below retail!
Pastor Van Gelderen presented pictures of the Riteway bus to our church on Wednesday evening, October 26th, and asked us to pray about this bus. No offering or plan for how to purchase the bus was suggested, just prayer.
The following day, Pastor traveled to Peru for a missions trip. While there, the Lord dealt deeply in his heart about trusting Him for miracles, and that the bus was to be a lesson of faith for us to see greater impossibilities overcome in the future—especially in the harvest field of our community and around the world.
Through prayer, God began to give assurance to Pastor and other church leadership that He was going to give us this bus and that we needed to trust Him. In early November, we indicated to Riteway that we intended to buy the bus and inquired about the purchase deadline. They gave us a deadline of Monday, December 19th.
Without any special offering being announced, money began to be given for the bus purchase. Going into the Thanksgiving holiday, approximately $15,000 was in the new bus account; but we needed $85,000!
December presents a number of unique ministry opportunities for the college students, and our coach bus over the past few years has greatly helped with efficient transportation to those events. The Monday before Thanksgiving break, the student body initiated a prayer meeting about the bus and came to a firm convincement that the Lord was going to give it to us, perhaps even in time for the December outreaches. The prayer meeting also began a revival in many hearts, as students were broken about their own unbelief and sin in their lives.
At the Thanksgiving praise service we took up an offering for new decals for the bus and $1,000 was given. We didn’t even have a guarantee of the bus—other than believing God!
On November 29th and 30th, the BCM Chorale performed Christmas concerts at the Governor’s mansion in Madison. The coach bus was crucial for this event. Throughout Tuesday, November 29th, much prayer was made that we could somehow buy the bus that day, yet the Lord in His wisdom did not open the door. The Chorale traveled to Madison in church vans.
Over the next two weeks, the Lord encouraged our faith with key gifts given toward the bus, many from surprising sources. The deadline came on December 19th, and we only had $30,000 on hand for the bus.
However, throughout December, the Lord began to deal deeply with Pastor and the church leadership about what the bus trial of faith truly represented. In prayer meetings, God’s presence was manifest, and He dealt with us about His desire for us to trust Him in a much greater and more definite way for victory in the harvest field of our community.
With only $30,000 in hand on the day of the December 19th deadline, we sent this email to Riteway:
Our church has been on quite the faith journey (faith and prayer) regarding the purchase of bus 1051. It's a little hard to explain through an email, but we firmly believe we've received the answer to our prayer in heaven, but have not yet fully received the answer on earth… What is the status on the bus today? We remember that you'd said today is the day you are trading it in.
Riteway responded that they had not yet completed the trade-in paperwork and that the bus was still available. We were encouraged, but still faced the need of raising $50,000 more. No more communication happened with Riteway that week, and our discussion with the company got eclipsed by the Christmas holiday. Perhaps we had lost our opportunity to purchase the bus?
On Christmas Sunday someone gave $10,000 for the bus (a remarkable gift of faith to be received a full week after we had missed our purchase deadline).
The Tuesday after Christmas we asked Riteway for a status update on the bus. They replied later that day:
The bus transfer to [the dealership] MCI is slated to physically take place on 01/03/2017 since this is our first day back to work after New Years. The longest I could stretch the window to purchase would be Thursday at noon.
Wednesday, December 28th Pastor announced in church about the Thursday deadline. We all remained hopeful, looking to the Lord to provide. No further funds came in on Thursday, and we all believed that we had lost our chance to buy the bus from Riteway. Despite the seeming impossibility, we still trusted the Lord to provide the bus for us.
On Friday afternoon, someone stopped by the church office and gave us a $40,000 gift for the purchase of the bus! We immediately contacted Riteway to see if the bus was still available for purchase, we were not able to confirm anything with them because of the New Year’s holiday.
Early on Tuesday morning, January 3rd, John Hohl and Pastor Shoultz drove up to Riteway with the check in hand to see if the bus could still be purchased. Riteway was open to the sale, and later that morning the transaction was made!
Psalm 78:7, “That [the generations to come] might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:”