BY JON MARK BEILUE
The details of Dominic Head’s recent life story are uniquely his own, but the big picture need is similar to many who have been recipients of First Baptist Church’s Auto Ministry.
“It’s been a huge enabler in my life in multiple ways,” said Head, 24, of his
23-year-old Chevy Silverado truck.
The woman who lives in North Heights and who often walked four to five miles to her job with Baptist Community Services would echo that. So, too, would the woman in San Jacinto who, when missing the bus, walked to work at the Civic Center and, in September, walked to the Tri-State Fairgrounds for a second job.
Then there is the man who works polishing floors and other maintenance duties at the Salvation Army. Recently released from one of the local prison units, his walk is not far, but he now has transportation to see his daughter in Houston for the first time since before he was incarcerated.
Then there was the family of four whom church member Walter Wolfram encountered. They were homeless. He set them up in a hotel for five days and after that, they were able to live in Faith City Mission’s family unit. The father is a licensed fork-lift operator.
Those with the Auto Ministry soon met him, talked with him, went over the modest requirements needed for a vehicle, and told him of the love of Jesus in the process.
“When we gave him a car, it changed that guy’s life,” said Don Judd. “You begin to take them out of poverty. You never realize how important something like this is until you deal with people like that.
“When you say to them, ‘This is your car, it’s registered to you and no balance is due,’ just seeing the raw emotion on their face is something you cannot believe.”
The Auto Ministry will be two years old in January. In 24 months, it has provided more than 80 vehicles to those in need. That’s more than three a month for what is a hand up in their often dire situations, a springboard
to jump them into a newer and better way of life.
No car can mean no job, difficult access to places like a grocery store or health clinics, and battling the elements to get from point A to point B in the cold months.
Donors Are ‘Real Heroes’
Judd, who spent much of his life in the car business, lived in Amarillo from 1964 until 1990. He moved back to Amarillo from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in 2016. He brought back with him an idea.
A car dealer friend in Garland started an auto ministry at a church there, and the need and success were immediate. What about a similar ministry through First Baptist Church? With the support of church staff, Judd enlisted the help of friends Don Babcock and Gary Gilley.
“And it did not take long at all to get rolling,” Judd said, “which told us how much of a need there was out there.”
There is a need. But what about the supply? Vehicles need to match the recipients. Donors have been plentiful.
“These are the real heroes, the ones who have stepped up and given us cars,” Judd said. “It’s not about us three at all. If not for donors stepping up, where would we be?”
Donations come from varying situations: seniors entering assisted living facilities with now no need of a car; a family instead of a trade-in for a newer vehicle makes a donation; the couple with two cars that believe they can get by with just one. You name it.
“It’s people who are just unselfishly giving,” Judd said. “They are the ones making a difference.”
Most vehicles need repair. They are taken to a nearby auto shop for any needed brake work, tune-up, air/heating work, the basics of a properly running vehicle. Tires are also examined. Some vehicles the ministry receives are sold at auction, and that money goes into a ministry fund.
“We don’t want them to get 30 feet down the highway and have it break down,” Judd said.
A Gift Bigger Than Us
The church office keeps a list of potential recipients. They are often single mothers, older teens aging out of the foster system, homeless veterans.
Judd, Babcock, and Gilley meet almost weekly with candidates, where among other things, they want to make sure the recipients are not going to immediately sell the car. There are three requirements for a vehicle:
A driver’s license, liability insurance (where church member Clark Damon provides an inexpensive policy), and payment for registration and any repairs, which usually are between $500 and $600, though that can be worked out.
“We feel it’s important they have some ‘skin in the game,’” Babcock said.
It differs from buying a car from a dealer. They talk to the recipient about his or her life, hope for the future, and ask about a relationship with Jesus.
“They need to understand that this gift is bigger than any of us,” Judd said, “that we’re just instruments of God’s grace.”
Dominic Head is from Albuquerque, but was arrested passing through Amarillo in December 2017 while transporting illegal drugs. He received probation, but that didn’t end his problems.
Judd said that Head had little home life in New Mexico. He’d never received a birthday card. Never received a Christmas present. Really, he had nowhere to turn.
But he was able to live at Faith City Mission. While there, he would graduate from Hope for Men discipleship program. He also got a job with City Machine and Welding on Soncy Street. He was able to get rides much of the time to get across the city.
Head began to attend a local church. Parents of a friend there knew Judd and of the auto ministry. In March 2019, Head met the committee. He got a driver’s license and insurance. He first got a Toyota, but the rings wore out. He then received the 1996 Silverado with 131,000 miles.
In mid-November, Head was preparing to move into an apartment off Paramount Street.
“Where I’m at now is completely different than where I was before,” said Head, who often eats dinner and then attends Wednesday night prayer meeting at FBC. “I previously would have thought this was impossible.
“I have a lot of financial worry relieved from me. If I hadn’t gotten this vehicle, I don’t know what the final outcome with me and my job would have been. The truck is a piece of the puzzle, a pretty large piece. It’s another step in God’s plan for me. I think I was kind of brought here.”
VEHICLES AND MORE
To continue to meet the transportation needs of our community, this minIstry has expanded to include not only vehicles, but bicycles, as well. If you’d like to donate a used car or bike, please contact the church office for more information.