GALLUP, N.M. (BP)–When most people think of a bus, they envision kids loading up for a day of school, but Mark Chandler, a principal and a pastor in New Mexico, sees a bus as more than just a transportation vehicle.
In fact, Chandler’s church — First Indian Baptist in Gallup, N.M., — has never used the bus parked in its lot to transport people. Rather, its main purpose is to be more of an extra room that can be driven into communities, providing a place from which to minister.
The bus, once used to haul people after rafting, has seen its seats gutted and now includes a tile floor, flat screen TV, puppet stage, wall lighting and a generator.
The idea came to Chandler when he and his wife, Beverly, lived in Alabama. The pastor told the Baptist New Mexican that he has no other explanation for the idea other than inspiration from God.
His dream would not develop into a reality until Dale and Katie Zunedell, family friends in Colorado, donated an older bus, once owned by a rafting company, to the Chandlers.
The Zunedells had been using the bus as a tool shed and had already removed the seats. Whether or not the bus would crank was a concern; it had been sitting in one spot, without being driven, for over a year and half. Dale Zunedell went to the ignition to give it a try and surprised them all when the old bus fired up immediately — something Mark attributes to God as well.
It took the Chandlers about a year to get the bus ready to be used, including help and donations from churches and individuals from eastern states who were interested in seeing the project become a reality. All in all, the remodeling took between $1,500 and $2,000 to complete.
Since the completion of the bus, the Chandlers have used it during several activities and events, such as a women’s conference held on a reservation during the fall.
A one-room building was being used to house the women for the event — leaving the bus as an extra room to keep children.
“The bus was able to be close enough to parents so that they were not worried about their children,” Beverly Chandler said.
Vacation Bible Schools, revivals and mission trips are among the other events that have used the bus.
“My sons have even spent the night on the bus before,” said Mark Chandler as he spoke of mission teams that have used it as shelter while working with the church.
“The first time we used [the bus] with kids, they did not know what to do or how to handle it,” said Beverly.
The side of the vehicle bears the word “immersed” — a name given to it by the Chandlers. The couple spoke of a Bible verse that served as the inspiration for the name and purpose of the bus: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).
“[I]f we are immersed in the Holy Spirit, then it’s naturally going to flow out of us as we use [the bus],” Beverly said.
“One of our future goals is to go out into communities and provide tutoring,” she said, adding that offering practical things such as tutoring also opens a door to witness to the parents of the children with whom they work.
Until the winter weather ends, though, the bus can be found sitting in the parking lot of First Indian Baptist Church, still bearing the painted blue waves from its rafting days that coincide with its name and ready to be driven into communities.
Gracie Ferrell, a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., served as an intern with the Baptist New Mexican newspaper (www.bcnm.com) in January.