For seven days, up to 12 hours a day, several Baptist Collegiate Ministries students took the rough places and made them new, fashioning what began as junk into something special.
Working under the watchful eye of John Albrycht, the group restored a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle, winning Best in Class at the Classics in the Country Car Show in Watkinsville, Ga., on April 23. The like-new VW will be sold to raise money for SendMeNow missions for BCM students at Georgia College in Milledgeville to share the Gospel in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Two of Albrycht’s daughters served through SendMeNow, so the program is close to his heart. Though this is the first time the hobbyist has guided the restoration of a car to directly benefit missions, he’s been using an auto shop environment to build up young men for years, going back to his youth minister days at Plentitude Baptist Church in Jones County, Ga.
“We had quite a few junior and senior guys involved in the program,” Albrycht recalled. “A volunteer, Jeff Weeks, suggested we find a way to develop relationships with them outside of the church before they headed off to college.”
They determined the shop was the best place, where spiritual applications come easier than you’d think. In the end, it’s just guys talking while they work. Their first project was a ’71 Volkswagen Super Beetle that had been shut up in a student’s barn.
It’s been 10 years since Albrycht and others began restoring cars for high school students, migrating toward college students, as a mentoring ministry. As word got out, more men wanted to be involved; today more than a dozen men from 30-60 years old and stretching across denominations serve as mentors. Although projects often take place in a group setting, growth occurs in the one-on-one conversations sure to follow.
“I like to apply Scripture [while we work] and ask guys how they’re going to use truths in the Bible in everyday life,” Albrycht said. “Before establishing the ministry, he had noticed how his students were having trouble applying the scriptural truths taught at church to their lives. “Follow-up was missing,” he realized.
“One Friday around midnight a guy showed up at my house and said, ‘Mr. John, I need to go work on the car.’ At church, we’d been talking about sex and marriage. After 20 minutes he admitted to me he’d had sex with his girlfriend that night. Now, he wanted to know what he should do.
“I’d been involved in youth ministry for 20 years at that point and I’d never had a question with that much honesty. It’s not a question you get at church. Working on the car had created an environment where he felt safe to ask. It really opened my eyes that we’re not doing cross-generational ministry like we should.”
That openness isn’t confined to the younger crowd either. “Older guys, especially those saved later in life, are honest about their scars,” said Albrycht, now a member of Northside Baptist Church in Milledgeville who works as a real estate appraiser, negotiator and project manager.
A father of five, Albrycht speaks in churches on the importance of men being the spiritual leader in the family. At last count he’s been part of restoring/rebuilding 26 cars and giving them to young men and women in need. He sees a direct spiritual association with the process.
“Restoring cars is like restoring lives through Christ,” Albrycht said. “I’ll use the repair manual of the car to show how when we live apart from the Bible we mess things up. To rebuild and repair the car, we need to be familiar with the manual. We have to be ready and understand it, the same way we study and apply Scripture.”
Though Albrycht is partial to Volkswagen Beetles, as shown by his Bugs 4 Christ nonprofit ministry, various models have been rebuilt over the years. Currently he’s overseeing a restoration for Jay’s Hope, a Macon-based organization devoted to fighting childhood cancer. Funding for each project is largely attained through donations of materials, time, even food brought to workers. For the Georgia College BCM rebuild, meals were provided by Haddock, Gray and Northridge Baptist churches, among others.
Though the mentoring is geared toward the young, older generations get just as much out of it, Albrycht noted.
“The enthusiasm and zest for life from these young guys is passed along to the others. The guys from Georgia College were such strong Christians they helped us live at a ‘younger level’ that week.”
And that generational highway goes both ways.
“If the goal is for kids to not just be hearers of the Word, but do what it says, then we have to provide relational support,” Albrycht said. “Older men have to pass on a positive spiritual heritage.”
— Scott Barkley is web content developer for The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.