For one Barbour County resident, helping others with his "bike" ministry brings him joy, and through his diligence he is reaching out to children here at home and missionaries overseas.
Don Rhodes of Junior spends his summer evenings and weekends tearing apart rubber and metal, chains and wires, brakes and wheels. From this heap emerges a source of transportation that may brighten a young child's heart or help missionaries spread the word of Jesus Christ.
Rhodes is a member of the Bowden Family Worship Center near Elkins and it was in that church that a calling came from God for Rhodes to start a bike ministry.
BIKE?INSPECTION — Don Rhodes, from the Bowden Family Worship Center, inspects a bicycle that will be sent overseas to missionaries who will use the bikes to spread God's gospel.
"Last year I saw a video about a missionary who has visited our church. She helps people in Romania, and I saw children in that country being so happy that they had bikes. I thought maybe I could help someone here with a bike which I could rebuild," Rhodes said. "I told my pastor, Lynn Ryder, that God put it on my heart to start this ministry, but I didn't know what to do with it. Pastor told to me to collect as many bikes as I could and he would see what he could do to get them distributed."
Ryder spoke with a member of his congregation, Kim Everson, who heads the church's Operation Christmas Child ministry. Everson, through her contacts with Franklin Graham's worldwide Samaritan's Purse organization, was able to find a use for the bicycles.
"The people at Samaritan's Purse told me they take bicycles and ship them overseas with medical supplies," Everson said. "The bikes are then distributed to missionaries all over the world that use them to ride to villages and spread the gospel of the Lord. If it weren't for the bikes, some of these missionaries may not be able to travel those distances to reach the people," Everson said.
Rhodes told the congregation at his church last August that he was starting this ministry and the project took off. Bicycles of all sizes started showing up at the church - some new and some not so new. If any of the bikes needed repairs, Rhodes would change the tires, replace brakes, cables and seats. He also received bikes that were not repairable, but he put those to good use. He took off all the parts that were salvageable and used them to repair other bikes. Nothing went to waste.
"The bikes for Samaritan's Purse need to be bigger for the missionaries, such as 24-inch, 26-inch, 27- and 28-inch bikes. But I received some smaller bikes and I didn't know what to do with them," Rhodes said. "So some of them we just gave away to kids who needed them around here."
Last summer he assisted with a Bike Rodeo at Elkins High School, which was coordinated through an Eagle Scout project. "This boy was holding the rodeo for kids and I said I had these bikes. I took 27 to the rodeo in case there was a kid who wanted to participate but didn't have a bike to use. Some of the kids didn't have a bike and when they were done with the rodeo I told them, 'Just keep it. It's yours.'" That day he was able to give away nine bikes to children.
Rhodes told the Eagle Scout to keep the rest of the small bicycles and give them away to children who may need a bike for Christmas.
Rhodes said he started this ministry with just one bicycle. He began spreading the word that he was collecting the bikes to help others.
"I started going to yard sales to collect them and I got on WDNE radio station's Trading Post and got the word out. I still call the station and say, "Hey, it's me again - the bike man."
Rhodes said he became discouraged a few weeks ago when collections of bikes began to dwindle.
"I got on the radio and told them, 'I guess I've got all the bikes from around here. I'm not getting any more calls,' and right away the phone started ringing. People had more bikes for me."
When he started the ministry in August 2009, he was able to have 56 bikes ready to go to Samaritan's Purse in Boone, North Carolina, by mid-November.
"I had 35 used bikes and 21 new ones ready for delivery," Rhodes said. "That all happened in two-and-one-half months. This year I started in May and so far I have 89 bikes ready to go."
Other members of BFWC stepped up to help deliver the bicycles to North Carolina last year.
Jamie Everson, Kim's husband, took the 56 bikes to Boone, and this year fellow church member Craig Arbogast plans to use a box trailer to deliver the bikes.
The ministry is a family affair. Rhodes' wife, Faye, and daughter, Jessica, help with getting the bicycles ready.
"They'll help me with pumping up the tires and other jobs, and my wife calls herself the 'bike secretary.' People will call my house to tell me they've got bikes for me and she takes the message."
Rhodes has also received bikes at his place of work - Glotfelty Tire Center on the Beverly Five-lane near Elkins. "I've had people bring bikes to me there at work. I take what I can get and in fact I have more bikes at home to fix," he said.
Rhodes' church reimburses him for parts he has to purchase and BFWC has started a bike fund. Rhodes said he appreciates any donations.
"Each tire costs about $15 and that adds up. I appreciate any donation I can get and maybe I can get other sponsors to help out with tires and parts."
Rhodes said he wants to reach out to local civic organizations, which help needy families for Christmas to see if any of the smaller bikes can be given away to children.
"I want to talk to the civic groups that do stuff for kids. They may know of a child who wants a bike for Christmas. I'll have about 10 small bikes that will be ready soon," he said.
Rhodes may be reached at his home at 304-823-1420.
"I love working on the bikes and knowing I'm helping someone with spreading God's word or helping a small child in our area," Rhodes said. "It's nice to help someone else. I never dreamed it would go this far. If God wants me to keep this ministry going I'll do it. I just love doing this."