On Toys And Tools

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I love motorcycles. I always have. When I was fourteen I bought a motor-bike with my lawn mowing money, much to mother's dismay. In high school I graduated to a small Harley Davidson and then moved on to a very quick English-made Triumph motorcycle. I covered the country on my motorcycles. I loved the wind in my face, the throaty rumble of the engine, the feeling of freedom. When in my late twenties I responded to a call of God to go into urban ministry, my love for motorcycles went with me. I was delighted to discover that inner-city kids liked motorcycles, too. Though I kept it rather quiet (the image of motorcycle gangs would not help my fund raising efforts), I started a little "bike club" in the projects using a few mini-bikes I was able to get donated. It was an instant success! Here was a tool that immediately bridged the gaps between race, age and class. Seeing the public relations potential in helping urban youth, Honda donated dozens of mini-bikes and in no time we had mini-bike clubs all over the inner-city. We recruited Christian bikers and organized all manner of rallies, races and trail riding trips. We developed safety and maintenance programs and even created our own mini-bike drivers license. It was great fun and proved to be a marvelous means to develop trusting relationships with some very untrusting young men.

You can teach a lot with motorcycles, I learned. Like the importance of preventive maintenance. And basic mechanical skills. And the discipline of riding in tight formation when everyone would rather rip and run. "Bike talk" can convey some pretty good object lessons, too. "Keep your spiritual tank full or you'll run out of gas in the middle of the run." I found great joy in combining an activity I loved with a mission I believed in.

A real estate developer friend of mine has discovered a similar convergence of interest and mission. Tom loves golf. He knows all the world-class courses and has played most of them. He knows the "greats" of the sport, many of them personally. When the opportunity recently presented itself to acquire the home course of golf legend Bobby Jones, it was a dream too good to be true. The only problem was that the historic club was smack in the middle of one of Atlanta's highest crime neighborhoods. Even worse, it was located across the street from a densely populated 650 unit public housing project called "Little Nam" because of all the violence.

Tom also has a heart for the city. He has a concern for the poor and has supported many efforts to alleviate suffering and oppression. Could a deteriorated golf course become the catalyst to transform a blighted urban neighborhood? It was a radical thought. But Tom is no stranger to risk. He purchased the golf course, restored it to world-class condition and went after Fortune 500 CEO's as charter members. With money from corporate members (as well as his own) he bought up surrounding vacant land, tore down dilapidated housing and together with community residents orchestrated a plan to rebuild the neighborhood. Using his deal-making expertise, he structured a public/private partnership with the housing authority to level "Little Nam" and create in its place a new mixed-income community. 500 new homes and apartments - half public, half private - are now being built among the trees and lakes of a new 175 acre public community golf course (adjacent to the historic Bobby Jones course). A youth golf and tennis academy will offer urban kids an entre into these once segregated sports and provide college scholarships for all those who complete the program.

Love and mission - they're a winning combination! Avocation-energy teamed up with the spiritual dynamism of a redemptive cause can create whole new realities. Together they become twin engines that can propel a vision on a history-altering course. The life released in their union is qualitatively distinct from that of other forms of service. Church committees or weekend mission projects, important though they be, can produce neither the sustained energy nor depth of satisfaction that this marriage yields.

How ingenious of God - choosing the very things His children enjoy to be tools and toys for the building of His Kingdom!

Bob Lupton

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