A Bit of our History:
The mobile retreat style of ministry used by Lightrider was introduced by the Wandering Wheels organization, formerly of Taylor University. The full time staff of Lightrider collectively share 27 years experience with that program. It was during those years that a dream of using a double-decker motor coach as a tool for ministry began.
In 1987 Bob Walker and I joined forces with the Creator of the Universe to make this dream a reality. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Taking this to heart, we assembled a board of directors to hold us accountable and to gain the advice of many. Early on we were led to Proverbs 16:3--"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed", and succeed they have. We have made this commitment and are continuing to follow His lead.
Lightrider's first double decker was a 1974 Neoplan Skyliner--the 1st double decker in America with US components. A friend gave us $37,500 for a down payment and to get the coach to Indiana from California. God directed us to the Christian Service Foundation where we were able to get a 15 year mortgage on this 13 year old vehicle. We paid that mortgage off in 1997.
By August 1988 we had outfitted our Neoplan as a sleeper coach so that we could sleep groups of 30 while we motored down the highway at night. Traveling at night saves on motel bills, allowing us to offer these Adventures in Christian Fellowship at a more affordable price. Traveling at night also saves time, allowing us to enjoy far away places with kids without their having to miss much school.
For the next two years God revealed Himself and His faithfulness as we encountered a myriad of mechanical maladies. We broke down on the George Washington Bridge in New York City on our first overnight retreat; on our second retreat we took 3 days to cross Iowa and were then stranded in the desert of Wyoming; What ever our travail, God was there with just the right person, with just the right equipment, and with just enough money to get back on the road. In fact we recorded 29 miracles during those first years that attest to God's faithfulness and provision, that greatly tested and then strengthened our faith.
That first coach did yeoman duty for 15 years and 850,000 miles, serving over 11,000 people on 361 mobile retreats over 2092 days on the road.
Most of our first 10 years of ministry were managed out of an office on Washington Street in Upland, given to us rent free by old Doc Oliver. We rented garage space for the Lightrider, first in Matthews, then on Main Street in Upland.
In August 1996 Lightrider purchased 2.5 acres of land in the Old Mill Subdivision. By summer 1998 we had moved our offices and the Lightrider into our own new building.
In October of 2002 we took delivery of a brand new Neoplan Skyliner, one that we had ordered and that had been built in the USA. Now close to 13 years old, with over 600,000 miles, our "Miracle Bus" is still serving us well.
We call it a "Miracle Bus" because that's what it took to get it. $18,000 had been invested in Yahoo stock in 1997 by a friend of Lightrider. At the end of 1999, having grown in value to $500,000, that stock was given to us. On the first Tuesday of 2000, 6 days after we received it, and after it had increased in value by $65,000, and despite the fact that we had a full board meeting coming up in just 3 days, we sold it. An hour after that sale, the value of that stock plummeted. So badly did Wall Street suffer that day that its been called Black Tuesday. God multiplied that original investment, protected it, and put it into His service. As we had been gifted this new double decker, we gifted our faithful old steed, then close to 30 years old, to a sister mobile retreat ministry, Eagle Wings.
Lightrider grew beyond just mobile retreat ministry when we built the RedBarn to help out the Print Shop, a small downtown Upland ministry started by an Eastbrook High School student, Joe Lee. Joe had seen kids waiting for the school bus on Washington Street. He wanted to provide a place out of the weather that was safe, warm and friendly where he could share the love of Jesus with his fellow students. He began using the old Freeze Printing building, but soon was out growing it.
Volunteers, Troy and Liz Shockey, were helping Joe at the Print Shop when a horrible rock throwing incident inspired Lightrider to help out by putting up the RedBarn near the site of that incident (which happened to be next to our first building). The Print Shop was moved into this new, larger than the Print Shop building over 10 years ago. Troy and Liz later connected with YFC to help with raising support as Troy became the RedBarn Director. Today, the school bus picks up and drops off here, making our location prime for this after school program.
With over 350 at risk kids signed up at the RedBarn, it seemed like there may well be over a thousand at risk grandparents in our neighborhood. Hence, work on the GrayBarn began and this dimension to Lightrider Ministries got going in the summer of 2006.
Part of the GrayBarn plan, from before the RedBarn's revealing of serious local need for senior ministry, was the idea of finding a motor coach to use with senior adults--a coach without the characteristic physical barrier found on all motor coaches, steps. Low floor, stepless buses are used in cities, but none are available for highway use, and none have the luggage capacity to make them practical for travel.
Our vision for this low-ride, H1213 Bus ("Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. - Hebrews 12:13), sprang from this deficiency in the extant motor coach design.
Since we had the need for a step-less motor coach, we were ideally situated to apply our dozens of years of motor coach operations into designing one. Rather than just build one, we were led to the idea of creating a commercially viable replacement for the 40,000 motor coaches presently in use in the US. Such a coach, designed for the demographics of today, updated to overcome the limitations of the 70 year old design presently in use, might generate revenue to grow and sustain Lightrider's vision--a vision to plant coaches in churches, coaches that could make mobile retreats possible for all age groups in the body of Christ, not just the youthful.
"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. But . . . vision with action can change the world." ...Joel Barker
Habakkuk 2:2-3 tells us, "Write down the revelation (vision) and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."
We have written the H1213 vision down, and though it has lingered for several years, we have used that time to focus, polish and pursue it.
As our aging staff has begun ministering with senior adults in the GrayBarn and preparing to get the LowRider underway, our fervent prayer has been that God would call a young man or woman, married or single, to take over as Lightrider's Director of Youth Ministries. We've been asking for someone that would have the vision and gifts to take over the reigns at Lightrider when the time comes to surrender those reigns.
Executive Director, Co-Founder