Imagine mounting a horse in the dark in the wee hours of the morning in order to ride hundreds of miles through the country to meet with a tiny congregation waiting for you to arrive, to bring them a message of hope and truth. Then imagine after ministering to the group, getting back on that same horse and pushing on to the next town where yet another group is waiting for you.
Wikipedia describes circuit rider preachers this way:
“They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what could fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, they preached every day at any place available (peoples’ cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later even basements and street corners).
“Many circuits were so large that it would take 5 to 6 weeks to cover them. The ministerial activity of the circuit riders boosted Methodism into the largest Protestant denomination at the time. In 1784, there were 14,986 members and 83 traveling preachers. By 1839, the denomination had grown to 749,216 members served by 3,557 traveling preachers and 5,856 local preachers.”
My great-grandfather, O.L. Galloway (short for Obe Lee) was a circuit rider preacher for some time in the state of Oklahoma where I grew up. My great-great-grandfather, Walter Klopfenstein, was also a circuit riding preacher in Oklahoma. Both of them traveled to minister to rural families who were very poor. The tiny congregations would donate clothing in the “missionary barrel” to help clothe and support these country preachers.
Little did these men know the heritage that they would pass down to their families. Their grandson and my father, Richard Galloway founded The Relief Bus 21 years ago. This missionary organization, where I serve as Executive Director, is a modern-day version of the circuit rider that brings hope and help to wherever it’s needed.
Each week The Relief Bus travels into the poorest neighborhoods in New York City and New Jersey. (10 outreach locations a week!) The buses bring not only food, clothing and resources to the urban wilderness, but spiritual care as well.
We know that people in dire straits don’t just need a handout, they need a friend as well. As homeless people struggle to get back on their feet, they need someone to give them encouragement and inspiration.
The Relief Bus doesn’t have a big cross painted on it, and there is no billboard telling people to turn to Jesus, but make no mistake, it is a spiritual sanctuary. In the month of July, 2010 the staff of The Relief Bus recorded 47 decisions for Christ. The average church in America records three conversions a year.
These buses distributed 189 Bibles and prayed for 903 people that same month. How many churches are able to make that kind of impact in just one month? The truth is, The Relief Bus is just a big metal horse for people to ride into the city and bring a message of hope. It’s a way for church folks to get outside of the four walls and accomplish their mission.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is a still a need for modern-day circuit riders, mobile outreaches that will travel to those who are in desperate need of life and freedom.
So what are you waiting for? Jump on this horse and hold on tight because it’s a wild ride. Volunteer on The Relief Bus as an individual or come with a group. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeeha!
Posted under Articles