“Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'”
If you know my husband, Marty, at all, I’m sure you’ve heard his stories of the joy bus. On a Saturday morning in 1971 a small group of teenagers from the Bear Valley Church of Christ walked up and down Wolff street in a south west neighborhood of Denver. Their purpose: to hand out invitations and talk to parents about their children riding the bus to Bible class and worship. Being a five year old boy at the time, Marty was pretty upset when his mom signed him up because Sunday mornings were for playing football in the yard and watching pro wrestling on TV. It wasn’t long though, until riding the joy bus was one of his favorite things. He fondly remembers the stories about Jesus, the Bible classes, the sermons, the songs, the ice cream, the dum-dum candy, and the very nice old people.
I can’t begin to imagine the team work involved in the bus ministries of those days. From my end, I remember my dad getting up every Sunday morning and leaving early for his route. My mom was left to get her own 4 children ready and drive separately. She also had a Bible class to prepare for many children of members, and the bus kids. I remember the row of children that sat between my mother and father during worship each week, with 2 or 3 usually on my mother’s lap. I can even remember the face of a little girl with black hair named Elizabeth, sleeping on my mother’s lap each week. Then we headed back home to wait for my dad to return for a late lunch. I wonder how many more faithful servants were involved each week in the managing of so many children. Marty remembers being picked up by Mr. Gibbs, and Mr. Woolley, among others.
While living in Utah as a teenager I had my own “bus ministry” picking up several neighborhood children to take to Bible class and worship in our huge, silver station wagon. My father said yes when one of his original bus kids grew up and asked his permission to marry me. And Marty and I were able to work a bus ministry in Lindsay, OK in 1989. When Marty was still attending the Denver schools, he often met friends that also were picked up by the Bear Valley joy bus, and at OC we had many friends that, like Marty’s family, were converted through bus ministries all over the country.
Our family owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to those hard-working bus ministers of the past. The number of souls that came to know the Lord from that work will never be known until eternity. However, I am thankful to know a small portion of some of the fruit produced by a simple invitation to a 5 year old boy while playing in his yard in a neighborhood in Denver in 1971.
I understand, sadly, that for numerous reasons in our day and time the model of the bus ministry isn’t something that can always work anymore. We should continue to revive the spirit of the joy bus in our work with children and families in our churches and communities. Marty and I try to to respect the legacy of the bus ministry as we go about our work from day to day, trying to help strengthen families and love children. I’m sure you have done the same. There must be countless more stories of the joy bus ministry and its influence on eternity. I would love to hear yours.
By Alethea Trujillo
Alethea Trujillo is a faithful follower, retired homeschool teacher of three, soon to be first time grandmother, and wife of Marty – the preaching minister at Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Bellvue, CO.