The apostle Peter advocated “doing good” (e.g., 1 Peter 2:11-12) in one’s community. This community is doing that around its interests and giftedness and needs.
Outside Door 3 at a run-down garage on Cass Street, they wait. Some are old. Some are young. About half of them have bikes with rudimentary locks. Whenever cars pull into the lot, they look at them with suspicion.
They talk amongst themselves, sometimes laughing and sometimes arguing. Then the door swings open and they pile in. Inside, it’s a massive space with a multi-colored square carpet design.
Pastor Michael Brown gathers them into a circle and bows his head for a prayer. He asks that God give him and the others the ability to do the work they set out to do, but he goes further. “If we can’t help, give us the ability to say no and to create healthy boundaries,” he says.
This recent Friday morning is slow for Heart of the City’s Operation Bicycle, a program Brown started that provides free bike repairs to economically struggling and homeless people. It even offers them an opportunity to earn a new bike, after they perform some community service.
Brown has been doing this, in some capacity, since 2004. The agency does repairs every Friday. However, the building he’s working out of now has only been the agency’s home for four years. It was provided by Mission Church, where Brown is a pastor.
The program offers classes, what they call the Apron program. Participants in these classes learn about fixing bikes and progressively earn different tiers of aprons, starting with yellow before moving on to red, green and eventually black. Brown compared it to belts that are given in martial arts. Some of the participants volunteer at the shop. Brown was happy to discover that many people who earned red aprons had stopped volunteering because they found jobs elsewhere.
“I’d like to say that that was part of the master plan,” Brown says. “But it wasn’t. I was very surprised.”
Anthony Crews has been using the service on Friday mornings for about six months.
“What’s important is it not only provides resources for the community,” he says, “but it also provides mentorship and learning a skill.”