Stunned does not begin to describe my reaction! Let me give you a little history. When I arrived at SFM in 1986, they had a small white bus that seated 14. It had no radio, no AC and no power. It was just a basic mode of transportation for a small group, and it was dying. After some (lots) of complaining, using a contact in the used car business and getting some very generous donations for a few key families, we were able to buy a used Dodge Van to replace the bus. After our own Butch Moran lettered it for us and made it official, we felt like the toast of the town cruising around in our fancy new blue van! This was somewhere in the neighborhood of early 1989. And the van was used. So you understand why I was STUNNED to discover it is still on the road some 25 years later. Several Facebook comments from others indicated they see it occasionally in the area. Ryan Simmons ever claimed to be its neighbor. But I had no idea it still existed.
My second reaction was to feel like I had just rediscovered an old friend- and from the comments it sounded like many of those now 30/40 year old youth felt the same way. I spent the better part of 6 years behind the wheel of that van. I remember trying to clean & deodorize it so that adult classes and senior citizens groups could use it- and I usually drove for them too. It took the youth group on so many adventures, to so many restaurants, movies and concerts. The old beast carried us to serve at the local soup kitchen every week during summers. It helped take groups to Quaker Lake Camp, to Florida (twice) and to Myrtle Beach (at least 4 times) during my years at SFM.It is pictured at left on our infamous 1992 snowy weekend in Myrtle Beach, complete with Butch's original lettering. As mentioned in the comments on Facebook, it often smelled like dirty socks. The back windows barely opened which was often bad for circulation and classic teenage smells, but good for keeping butts from public view. There was nothing fancy about Big Blue. Yet it was, just like the Griswold's truckster, a big part of our story. I remember driving in nearly every Monday night to take kids home after our TNT program. It was part of the community. It was so much more than just a vehicle- it was a tool for ministry!
To be honest, I have no idea how much longer it stayed at SFM after I left in 1994, but long enough that is was re-lettered at some point. The mileage on it must be staggering. The paint has clearly faded. And from what I can tell through the back glass, it appears to be hauling junk now. But trust me when I tell you that old Blue Thunder (as Mike Merc called it on FB) was a key player in a great youth ministry and a wonderful church. So important, in fact, that I am inducting it as the first inanimate object in my Youth Ministry Hall of Fame! At over 25 years old now, I hope she will soon rest in peace. Or be restored as an antique! Now there's an idea...
Because of Jesus,