If you were a fly on the wall of the Madwheels workshop, you would be forgiven for thinking it was all about the cars.
Tools and parts are propped against walls, fluoros throw stark light on greasy workbenches and blokes in pairs or trios are bowed over the guts of vehicles that have seen better days.
“People think it’s all about the cars – it’s not. We’re all about people,” one of the Madwheels founders explains.
He doesn’t want to be named, but he does want people to know that Madwheels this month celebrates its 10-year anniversary and its existence brings glory to God. God who cares about people (less so about cars).
Madwheels is a workshop with a twofold purpose: restoring cars to loan or give to people in need; and providing a safe place where young people wanting more than academic learning or are at risk of disengagement can work alongside volunteers and skilled mechanics, receiving restoration of a different kind through support, encouragement, education and positive role models.
Back in your fly suit, buzzing ‘round the heads of those blokes in huddles, you would notice that the conversations quickly turn from carburetors and spark plugs to unraveling the life issues these young people are facing. Fractured family environments, relationship breakdown, challenging circumstances and so on, all within a safe context into wisened ears.
And it all started with a hundred-dollar note.
Ten years ago Door of Hope Christian Church – my home church – gave away 100 hundred-dollar notes. The takers stood in a line at the front of the congregation and held the green notes in their hands. Grinning and clutching the cash, it was their lucky day!
But there was a catch.
Each person who received $100 was encouraged to grow it – not for profit in the worldly sense, but for profit measured in love and life change.
Suddenly the money was heavy in their fist. Suddenly it wasn’t enough. One hundred dollars is rather measly when you have a dream to achieve – which is where the faith component came into its own.
One of the 100 people standing in front of the Door of Hope congregation 10 years ago, $100 in hand, was an unassuming bloke who said putting his name in print here would detract from God’s place in the story.
He went home and Blu-tacked his cash to the mirror in his bathroom, praying that God would show him what to do with it.
Two weeks later his prayers yielded the Madwheels idea (Making a Difference Wheels).
Before you ask, $100-Man is not a mechanic.
“My skills are listening to God and obedience. He uses all my failures and I’m proof of that!” he told me.
Madwheels is now worth more than $1 million, grown beyond the doubts and inadequacies of its founders to receive more than 500 car donations, and counting.
“Madwheels has been blessed with a faithful team of very special, generous volunteers who have contributed in excess of 100,000 hours,” $100-Man said.
“No funding has been provided to pay for the repairs and parts, yet God has seen fit to provide funding over this time so that Madwheels would not be a burden on anyone.
“It was also unknown how many people in our community required help. Madwheels has been able to short-term loan vehicles to needy people and also to gift vehicles to over 70 families so far.”
He calls it a “miracle-based legacy” established in and for Launceston, and I believe him. There is no other explanation. God has provided again and again, filling inexplicably specific needs and thus rewarding the faith of Madwheels’ founders and volunteers. And Madwheels rewards the city by asking nothing in return.
“God is alive. God is well. He does miracles and we’re evidence of that,” $100-Man said.
I asked him what exactly that initial $100 note funded and his response was better than I could have imagined.
“It was never spent,” he grinned, “God took an unspent $100 note and turned it into a million-dollar operation!”
The note is wedged in his Bible, a reminder that God can do great things.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday November 10, 2014.