Friday, February 21, 2003

Faith based

Jesus drives a dirt bike


What this town needs is more biker gangs for our troubled youth.

No kidding.

I'm not talking about the kind of bikers who wear leather underpants, bite the tops off beer bottles and think Jack Daniels was one of America's Founding Fathers.

I'm talking about the kind who ride dirt bikes with Jesus. The kind who ride with CityCure.

"At 14, Roger was a gang member,'' says a CityCure testimonial. "Roger was addicted to drugs, had dropped out of school, was involved in gangs and nowhere near God. At one point, he nearly lost his life when a gang member put a gun in Roger's mouth. Over the next two and a half years, CityCure staff and volunteers helped Roger get his G.E.D., beat his drug addiction, leave the gang scene behind and receive Christ. Roger now has an awesome future ahead, a new life and a new hope.''

Saved by a dirt bike.

The right trail

For 20 years, CityCure has used dirt bikes to reach out to kids. Last year, 137 children participated, and 80 percent showed "significant behavior improvement,'' said CityCure Director Roger Howell.

The kids join up to ride dirt bikes, and CityCure shows them the right trail in life. They learn about ethics, morals, what it's like to have someone who really cares about them. They pray.

CityCure, which has merged with the City Gospel Mission, reaches about 5,000 people a year in programs that help the homeless, drug addicts, troubled children, single moms, the poor - all the people who are on the bottom step of Cincinnati's economic escalator.

"Our issue is not feeding or clothing people in our city. It's caring enough to break their cycle,'' says Howell. And as much as good-hearted Cincinnati wants to help, very few realize what it takes to really change lives. It's not one or two visits, or even one or two months. It takes years.

"Unchurched, hurting people need to have a relationship with caring Christian adults over a long haul to show them there's hope,'' Howell said.

God vs. Honda

CityCure is all about God. And for that, they pay a price.

Last September, Honda decided it would no longer supply dirt bikes to any programs that "promote religious beliefs or activities.''

CityCure refused to remove faith from its dirt-bike ministry. So Honda removed their dirt bikes.

The decision by Honda shows how religious groups can face pressure to sell out their beliefs. It also raises questions about government aid to faith-based charities, proposed by President Bush.

For Howell, "It all comes down to who draws the line'' separating government-approved faith from too much faith. And the line can move, depending on who's in the White House.

If the money comes with rules that put yellow tape around faith like a crime scene, CityCure won't take it.

Thanks to local churches and individuals, they're about halfway to raising the $30,000 to save their dirt-bike disciples. To contribute, call 513-621-2873.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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