Fixing cars may not seem like a spiritual activity, but when it helps ensure that single mothers are driving safe cars and are able to hold jobs, the repairs become much more than matters of replacing brake pads and oil filters.
"Cars are a lifeline. If the moms can't get to work, they can't support their families," said Bruce Nimmo, newly appointed ministry director of C.A.R.S. (Christian Auto Repairmen Serving) at CedarCreek Church.
The Perrysburg Township church recently opened a spacious and well-equipped car-repair facility, complete with four hoists and a tire machine, in back of Midwest Church Construction, 634 Eckel Rd. in Perrysburg.
Mr. Nimmo, who also helps with CedarCreek's financial assistance ministry, will be leading teams of volunteer mechanics at the car-care center every Tuesday and Saturday, and is looking to recruit other churches willing and able to use the facility on the off days.
With that goal in mind, CedarCreek mailed 600 letters to local churches inviting them to check out the car-care center during an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. today.
"We've been doing this for eight years and we've been through pretty much every scenario," Mr. Nimmo said. "So why reinvent the wheel? We can give advice to other churches that want to start a car-care ministry."
The demand is so great that the church's car-care clinic is limited to single mothers who regularly attend CedarCreek and have dependent children at home, Mr. Nimmo said.
"Obviously we have to have criteria. We want to eventually expand beyond that, but for now that's why we want to open it up for other churches to use the center."
Most single mothers are just trying to get where they're going and don't have the extra money to fix their cars, said Denise Nimmo, Bruce's wife of 29 years who helps run the center's scheduling and administration. "They think, 'So what if it's making funny noises.'•I've seen cases where the worker takes a wheel off the car and the brake pads just fall right out."
In addition to repairing cars for single mothers, CedarCreek takes vehicles that were donated to the church, fixes them up, and gives them to single moms or low-income families.
Some of the women who come in for car repairs are driving vehicles that are shockingly unsafe, Mr. Nimmo said.
"We run the cars through a safety inspection first, and some of the cars we have no choice but to blacklist," he said. "But the good thing is, when we tell them they can't drive that car out of here, we have another car that they can drive."
Ryan Bradley, an airline pilot, has been volunteering at the center for several years. Last week he installed a new serpentine belt on a Ford pickup truck that the center will use to pick up auto parts and haul things around, like old brake rotors to the recycling center.
Mr. Bradley said it's rewarding to help women in need.
"These single mothers are working, they have no child support, they're just trying to survive on $10 an hour," he said.
Lined up behind the garage and in the repair bays is a hodgepodge of donated vehicles, including a black 1990 Cadillac with 70,000 miles, a 1989 Audi 100 E with sun roof, and a bright green 1991 Honda Civic with 230,000 miles that "still runs like a top," Mr. Nimmo said.
On one side of the garage is a leaning tower of diapers, piled atop three pallets, that were donated to the church and are given away to the single mothers. On the other side of the building is a carpeted, air-conditioned waiting room with a TV and children's play area.
A visible reminder of the impact that the clinic has had on people's lives are the many thank-you cards and letters from the moms and their children, tacked onto a bulletin board on a
The Nimmos said another positive aspect of the clinic is that it provides a way for some people to put their skills to use in a church ministry that otherwise wouldn't be available to them.
"No offense, but some people just aren't made to be ushers or Sunday school teachers," Mrs. Nimmo said. "But the guys that come here, they find something they're good at. They come here and grunt together. It's kind of entertaining."
Midwest Church Construction, which designed CedarCreek's $6 million facility on Lime City Road that opened in 2002, as well as a $5 million expansion in 2005, is providing the garage space to the church for a $1 annual lease.
"We have been partnering with CedarCreek on an ongoing basis and realized the [car] ministry needed a home, and we had the space. So that's what partners do," said Alan Morrison of Midwest Church Construction.
"I hear time after time that for a lot of these people difference between them being able to make ends meet and not meet is their car. I love that. But what I really love is the collaboration of churches working together to help people that Christ loves."
Lee Powell, senior pastor of CedarCreek, said that the car care clinic not only helps those in need, but also displays Christian love and concern for others.
"Aside from meeting a significant need, it communicates love to them and to the community," he said. "As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, 'Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.'•"
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.