A 15 Seat Answer to Prayers

Around Christmas 2018, MVO Executive Director Stan Lollar drove past the Charis House and thought, “We’ve got to find a new van. I’m going to have to find a way to add that to the 2019 budget.” The passenger van they had been using for the past 3 years was unreliable and could breakdown at any moment. The van was in used condition when it came to Ministry Village, and was now 16 years old with more than 208,000 miles. But the van didn’t need to be fancy to accomplish its purpose, just dependable – and increasingly, it wasn’t.

Ladies in the Charis House are not permitted to have a car, but their needs for transportation are many. Doctor appointments, legal appointments, work requirements, volunteer assignments – there is always somewhere someone from the house needs to be. The stories of the Charis House van had become legendary around Ministry Village.

One day, the ladies were riding in the van, headed to volunteer at the Ministry Village Bargain Center. Suddenly, water started dripping from the van roof onto one of the lady’s heads. Another lady grabbed a paper towel to try to plug the leak. When she did, the van headliner practically exploded like a water balloon, soaking both women. They arrived at the Bargain Center for work with soaking heads and wet clothes. Thanks to another leak above the driver’s seat, every House Manager knew to prepare for wet feet when it was her turn to drive the van during a rainstorm.

On one occasion, the ladies were headed to attend a play. When it was time to leave the Charis House, the van wouldn’t start. By the time the ladies got the van jumpstarted, it was too late to make it to the play, so they missed out on an enjoyable evening. Another time, the ladies were attending a funeral in Crestview, boarded the van to drive home, and…nothing. The van wouldn’t start. Praise God for jumper cables, which they kept with them and learned how to use well. In addition to the engine problems, the van’s A/C was unreliable, and riding around in the Florida heat and humidity with 15 women made for many hot and uncomfortable trips.

The van had been patched up and coaxed into surviving for many miles, but Stan knew its days were numbered. Shortly after driving past the Charis House that day in December, he noticed a passenger van for sale along the road. He pulled over, looked through the windows, took down the information, and continued on his way. The next day, one of the MVO Board Members called Stan. “Stan, I saw a passenger van for sale in a parking lot on 9 Mile Road,” he said. Later, another Board Member called with the same report. They had both spotted the same van as Stan. Maybe this was God at work? They went together for a test drive. The van had many more miles than Stan was hoping to find, and the inside wasn’t in great shape. The asking price was $16,000. They decided to keep it in mind, but to step-up their search for options.

A few days later, Stan received a phone call from a donor. Someone was willing to donate $16,000 toward the purchase of the Charis House van. Stan knew there was some other funding in place earmarked for the Charis House. With those numbers in mind, he found a few options for sale in town and approached Pastor Traylor. Pastor agreed that it was time to make the purchase, but suggested that Stan give Clint Holmes a call first. “Clint is a member of Olive and owns a used car lot on 9 Mile Road (at Chemstrand). Do you know him?” Pastor asked. Stan didn’t know Clint, but agreed to call.

Stan and Clint had a brief conversation where Stan outlined what he was hoping to find (low miles, newer model, and in excellent condition). Clint called back 30 minutes later. “I found something I think you’d like. I can sell it to you for $21,000.” This price was $4,000 less than any comparable van Stan had found in the Pensacola area. Could it really be that easy? But over the years, especially at Ministry Village, Stan has learned that when God is involved, it really can be. On January 2, Stan picked up a 2017 Ford transit van from Clint Holmes Automotive — a fresh transportation start for the Charis House ladies who are working on making a fresh start in their own lives.

Two women from Olive had been praying for more than 2 years specifically for a new van for the Charis House. The donations, funding and people involved all came together at the exact right time to solve an increasingly urgent need so seamlessly. It was as if Someone had orchestrated everything perfectly. The ladies now have safe and reliable transportation that allows everyone to travel together. And once again, God’s hand has provided – a lesson that is certainly not lost on the ladies of the Charis House or Ministry Village.

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