‘ They blessed us today’: Church distributes bicycles and Bibles
NORMAN – The first bicycle was too short.
The seat on the second bicycle wasn’t high enough.
The third bicycle that Armani Morgan tried out was just right.
Like Goldilocks, Morgan found that the third time was the charm as he selected a free bicycle during the August Bikes and Bibles giveaway at First Baptist Church of Norman, 211 W Comanche.
Angela Atkins, the church’s minister of community ministries, said First Baptist-Norman began the Bikes and Bible ministry in 2005 as a way to assist people experiencing homelessness and others in the community without reliable transportation to get to work, school and other places. The ministry has given out about 1,000 bicycles since its inception.
Atkins said people are eligible for assistance from the ministry if they live in Cleveland County and don’t have a
Typically, individuals in need of a bicycle place their name on a waiting list and Atkins or longtime volunteer Cheryl Love will contact them when a bicycle is available for them.
Getting to choose their two-wheel transportation is often an unexpected treat for the bicycle seekers.
At the recent giveaway, Morgan said he needed a bicycle to get to and from work in Norman because he didn’t have a car.
He said his uncle told him about the bicycle ministry and he was glad he signed up for bike. Morgan grinned as he tried out the bicycle he ultimately chose. After receiving a free bicycle lock from Atkins, he rode off, following his uncle who had shown up riding his own bicycle.
Atkins watched as the two men turned the corner.
She said prior to the pandemic, the ministry held bicycle giveaways in the church and there wasn’t a large space for individuals to try out the bicycles.
To continue giving out the bicycles, the outreach was moved outdoors. Atkins said this move has had advantages.
“You can see more of the joy of them riding off on their bike,” she said. “That’s been an unexpected bonus of the change in how we were doing this.”
Atkins said most of the bicycles distributed through the ministry are donated from community organizations like the Norman Police Department and the University of Oklahoma’s Facilities Management division. She said a group of church volunteers meet twice a week to refurbish donated bicycles in the church’s “bike shop.”
The church regularly distributes fliers at local nonprofits and at other churches to get the word out about the bicycle ministry. Atkins said occasionally, a school counselor will refer a high school student in need of a bicycle for transportation.
Each person who receives a bicycle is offered a Bible, although they don’t have to accept one. Atkins said they are also given a list of the church’s other community ministries as well as other community resources that might be helpful to them.
‘I’m all smiles’
Like Morgan, two women expressed gratitude for their new bicycles provided at the August giveaway.
Lonna Leonard and Tasha Meltzer said they lived at local mental and sober living facility and they were excited about the opportunity to get bicycles. The pair said they had been walking to meetings and other places that are helpful to their recovery and the thought of having transportation in the summer heat was glorious.
“It’s amazing. I’m all smiles,” Leonard said.
“They’ve blessed us today and they didn’t just give us a Bible. They didn’t just give us a bike. They gave us hope.”
Meltzer nodded in agreement as she wiped tears from her eyes.
“I’m really stoked because it’s been hot,” she said.
Leonard said she and her friend had been on the Bikes and Bibles’ waiting list for about two months. She said she was just as excited about getting a new Celebrate Recovery Bible from the ministry as she was about getting a new bicycle. The Bible featured elements of Celebrate Recovery, the popular outreach ministry described as a “Christcentered 12-Step Program.”
Referring to the bicycle outreach, Leonard said: “They didn’t give up on us.”
‘A really nice connection’
The ministry’s connection to individuals the in recovery community is nothing new.
Atkins said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry provided bicycles to Special Cleveland County District Judge Michael Tupper, who presides over that county’s adult treatment court, also known as drug court.
Tupper said he connected with the Bikes and Bibles ministry several years ago to obtain bicycles for some of the court participants.
The judge said the court could not accept Bibles because it could not incorporate faith elements — but the free bicycles were accepted.
“A common obstacle that our participants have is lack of transportation,” he said.
Tupper said they called it a bike share program in treatment court and had good results with it.
“Once word got out that they (bicycles) were available and there were no strings attached, it helped us get through some of the transportation issues we were having with our participants,” he said.
“It was really a nice connection we made in the community. The point is to help people overcome some of their transportation issues and it’s good exercise, too.”
To learn more
For more information about the Bikes and Bibles Ministry at First Baptist Church of Norman, to make a donation or get on the waiting list for a bicycle, call (405) 321-1753 or go to https://www.fbcnorman.org/missions/ community-ministry.