By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
Alan Coleman wants to help you help yourself.
That’s why he, and the folks at Gates Community Church in Athens, started The Chariot bus service last year.
The ministry’s motivation is simple: there is a need in the community and Gates Community can do something about it.
“I’ve been pastoring here for 13 years,” Coleman said. “As time went on the need to help people get to work just kept coming up, and as Christians we are called to minister to the whole man, not just the spirit.”
Coleman explained it another way. He believes in a “church without walls.”
“We don’t just give a man a fish,” he explained. “We help him get the fish himself.”
The fish, or course, is the symbol of provision. And Coleman says nothing can replace the dignity a man feels when he provides for his own family. It’s that dignity that he assists Athens residents achieve everyday.
Gates Community Church recently expanded its bus ministry from trips to Tyler to additional trips to workplaces in Athens. It was the expansion of the ministry that caught The New’s attention and prompted the interview.
Coleman says the biggest challenge the ministry faces is a financial one.
To cut costs and make sure Chariot wasn’t spending too much money, adjustments had to be made to the routes shortly after the ministry was launched.
“We found out real quick that saving 3-4 miles a day means something,” Coleman said. Over the course of a year, reducing driving by a block can save thousands of dollars.”
There may be some financial help to the ministry on the horizon.
TxDOT told Alan that there will be public funding for them in the future, but Chariot has some time to wait–it wont come until 2014.
Alan’s faith sustains him.
“I really believe that we are being tested by God,” he said. “We just need to hold on, be faithful and good stewards of what we have right now, and we will be rewarded in the future.”
Currently all of the certified CDL (Commercial Drivers Licence) drivers they have work on a volunteer basis. Alan would love for the ministry to grow to a place where the drivers would be paid for their service. In the meantime, Alan allows the drivers to take the small busses to their work places ease the burden.
Gates Community Church is actively seeking donations to support the Chariot bus ministry.
Ticket costs are $5 each way to Tyler and $2 each way to work in Athens.
To donate, or for more details on tickets visit their website at http://www.thechariotbuslines.com or call 877-776-4335.