Broken Bus Delivers Hope 9

Liberty Township Family Gives Back

Broken–it surely describes the bus. Dents and cracks line the outside. Rust forms around nearly every edge. Water damage has left distinct stains and marks. Sometimes the key is turned with closed eyes and prayers. But it always starts–and that’s when the adventure begins.

The Broken Bus Ministry, started by Greg and Michele Bailes, is a vehicle that faith drives. Aided by their two children, some close friends and volunteers from several area churches, schools and service organizations, the Bailes crew sets out from Liberty Township each weekend for a three-hour tour through some of the area’s most impoverished neighborhoods. They go to people in need, and give them clothing and food.

The Broken Bus Ministry also gives hope to broken lives, dreams and circumstances. Those who live on the streets rarely plan for that existence. A lost job, a disabling injury, unpaid medical bills, some bad choices, or a few toxic relationships pave the way for a life of wandering in the shadows.

The people served by The Broken Bus Ministry are diverse. Some are under the age of 18; others are over the age of 80. Some used to live in the suburbs; some have never known anything but the streets. Some will claw their way to a different tomorrow; others cling to what they have today.

The Bailes family stays fixed on their purpose: serving God and giving back to the community. “I had been trying for years to find a way to show my faith by ministering to people,” Michele shares. “We became actively involved in the Vineyard Church and their outreach to people inspired us that through God’s help, we could step out on our own.”  In 2012, after a lot of prayer, the Bailes took a step out in faith.

With a dream and a stack of boxes of pizza in the backseat of their car, they drove through neighborhoods searching for people who were in need. They intentionally drove through the neighborhoods at the same time each weekend, to offer a consistent ray of hope to the people. Many of the people, especially the homeless, began to watch for the Saturday car that brought food, caring conversations and a compassionate touch.

“We had been serving items out of the trunk and backseat of our car, and we realized that we needed something bigger, with more room,” Michele explains. “I kept having these ideas. Perhaps they were a vision from God, but I kept thinking we could serve out of an ice cream truck–you know, like the ones that would drive through neighborhoods?” It was time to grow.

Michele kept her eyes open for an ice cream truck. Eventually, on the way to work, she saw one in a used vehicle lot. She contacted her husband, Greg, to go check it out. When he got to the lot, the ice cream truck was gone, but on the back edge of the property was an old, broken-down bus. The price was affordable, and with the help of donations and hours of volunteer work, the inside of the bus was turned into a mobile supply station. The outside of the bus is left untouched as a reminder of how God provides and how the inside is what is important.

A warm meal or a new pair of pants doesn’t solve every problem, but the donated items delivered by the Broken Bus show that there are still people who care. It sparks a belief that life can get better. It is hard to describe the looks on the face of a teen who is given a new pair of shoes, or the gratefulness of a frail, aged woman who finally has a warm coat. “We have about 25 to 30 regulars that we see every week,” Michele explains. “We might see another 40 just once or twice. The ministry is making a difference.”

Though the Bailes family have become the face of Broken Bus Ministry, the hands and feet of the ministry are varied. Retirees collect and sort the clothes. Grandmothers prepare food and organize the pantry items. Teens from area churches travel along to help and talk to people. Younger children in churches and schools organize clothing and food drives to stock the shelves.

Broken. “It really describes us all, doesn’t it?” Michele asks. “We all have parts of our lives that have broken us–dysfunctional homes, traumatic relationships, financial devastation or severe health problems. The amazing thing is that God can use those circumstances, no matter how broken they seem, to be a blessing to others.”

Asked if there is one lesson from her experience with the bus that she would like to share, Michele beams to tell it. “We hear a lot about defining moments in life. They pop up all the time, but the question is what we choose to do with them. Let God use those moments to take you on an unbelievable journey.”

In their Broken Bus, the Bailes’ journey continues.