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Driving out of poverty


WORLD Radio - Driving out of poverty

Providing reliable vehicles is the easy part, but helping people is more complex

OnRamp’s 100th client reacts as she receives her car. Photo by OnRamp

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Wednesday, November 1st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

This week on Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast, Kelsey Reed and Jonathan Boes welcome the editor of God’s Big WORLD, Amy Auten. This week: help for parents and educators navigating stories of Christian deconstruction. Here’s a short preview.

REED: What is a healthy doubt process? And what is that which might lead to harm? And so I'm going to pose those categories to you, Amy.

AUTEN: The term deconstruction, the first thing I think of as somebody with a sledgehammer just demolishing a building, right? And so that image is scary for us. However, as we've been sitting here, one of the first things I thought of was that passage where Jesus says, When the rains came, and the storm came, a person can either find they're standing on the rock, or everything's washed away. It's going to reinforce your faith after you've gone through the rubble and said, This is what I was standing on all along, or he's going to give you something to stand on, right? I think deconstruction doesn't have to be a demolishing so much as an uncovering, a revealing. And Jesus says that we're all going to stumble on him the rock, even someone like John the Baptist, when the crisis hits, he's in jail, his death is imminent, sends a messenger to Jesus: "Are you the one who wants to come or should we look for somebody else?" That's a crisis. And Jesus is so gracious in his reply, the lame walk, you know, the blind see, blessed as a man who doesn't stumble and the word stumble in the Greek has a root of scandal in it. You're gonna have to wrestle with that scandal. It should not surprise us if things get smashed when the storms hit.

You can hear the entire episode of Concurrently today wherever you get your podcasts. And find out more at concurrentlypodcast.com.

BROWN: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The road out of poverty.

If you’ve been shopping for a used car lately, you’ve probably shuddered once or twice at the prices. When the pandemic disrupted supply chains, the cost of a used car jumped 40 percent. Prices have fallen a little, but they’re still challenging for people buying a car on a budget. That’s especially true for families who are doing their best to escape poverty.

EICHER: WORLD’s Addie Offereins found an organization in central Texas that provides wheels and community to families in need of both. You can read her story in the newest issue of WORLD Magazine, and features reporter Grace Snell brings it to us now.

AUDIO: [OnRamp staff and client talking in the parking lot]

GRACE SNELL, REPORTER: It’s mid-September but Brazos County, Texas, is still baking in over-90-degree heat. The sun beats down on a small group gathered around a silver sedan in the parking lot of the county’s tax office.

ON RAMP STAFF MEMBER: And we just have an extra gift bag that we put together. It's insulated. Car cleaning, water bottle, the Bible in there. Just to help bless your unique journey. And we're just so excited for you.

Susana Ortiz is here to pick up a new car—at least, it’s new to her. It’s a 2009 Toyota Camry. A local family donated the car to OnRamp, a ministry that gives reliable, used cars to families spread throughout the seven counties of the Brazos Valley.

JENNINGS: Our team will call you to check in on you. If there's ever prayer requests, please send them our way.

On Ramp’s president Blake Jennings gathers the group in a circle and asks someone to pray over Susana.

JENNINGS: Lord, please keep Susana safe and its vehicle and have it run for a long time.

Local nonprofits and churches nominate candidates for OnRamp’s program. They’re people who are doing their best to escape poverty, but are hindered by a lack of transportation. Not having a vehicle limits their job opportunities. They rely on other people to pick up their children from school if it’s too far to walk.

But OnRamp doesn’t just hand out free cars.

MASON: We ask them in the application, like what are your top two goals?

Stephanie Mason is OnRamp’s director of operations.

MASON: We'll set them up with a budget counselor in town, and get them to just work on budgeting and saving. Some other things that we connect them to before giving a vehicle might be mental health counseling or community.

They emphasize that the vehicle is a tool, not the end goal. Reliable wheels can’t solve a client’s deeper need for strong relationships  and accountability.

MASON: Sometimes we go through the application and interview and we realize they have no family in town. And they also don't have a support system. And so we might encourage them to go to a few places in town to just seek out community.

Like a local church, or a grief share group if a client needs to process a loss.

Clients watch a video series that includes a gospel presentation.

OnRamp also walks the clients through car maintenance, finances, and auto insurance. For Jamie Jeffers, that was huge.

JEFFERS: I had no clue. When do I do the oil change? I know how to put gas in it. You know, that's really the extent of my skills. That was huge to understand when I need to do things and how I need to do them. There's something about, it's a different sort of pride of ownership.

The director of Celebrate Recovery at Jamie’s church nominated her for OnRamp in 2021. The ink had barely dried on her divorce papers when her car’s transmission gave out.

JEFFERS: And so there wasn't money, you know, there was just barely enough always every time I turned around.

Six months later, OnRamp staff told her they had a car available. They covered repairs and maintenance for 12 months. That time frame allows them to keep building relationships with clients.

JEFFERS: Every now and then I still get a phone call from someone on the OnRamp team. Jamie, how are you? Can we pray for you? And yes, please pray for me.

Owning her own vehicle enabled Jeffers to get a better job.

JEFFERS: I was no longer depending on people to drive me to and from work, I was able to get a job and it was a 40% pay increase. And then that 40% was the difference between that check to check hand to mouth and being able to save a little money, have a 401K, start this little side business.

The ministry buys about three-fourths of their vehicles, and families from local churches donate the rest. Their goal is to provide a vehicle that lasts at least five years.

The number of clients the ministry serves has spiked in the past few years and so have used car prices. Here’s OnRamp’s President, Blake Jennings.

JENNINGS: We tell people, our costs have gone up, our costs have roughly doubled in the last five years. And most of that increase was with the pandemic and after that.

But Jennings says the bigger challenge is watching their clients walk through difficult circumstances.

JENNINGS: I tell people, vehicles, you just throw money at them, and you can fix them. They're easy. People are complex. And so I think the hardest thing is when we have clients that we're really trying to help, and they face things that are just incredibly hard. You find that typically, if they're coming to us for help on a vehicle, likely going to be that there's lots of areas in their life where they're in need.

He’s noticed things successful clients have in common—a strong community and clear goals.

JENNINGS: We tend to see a lot of success, because a car in a sense is a tool. They wanted to reach some goals. They were missing that tool that they needed to get there. And what we're doing is providing this tool and they get there.

AUDIO: [OnRamp staff and client laugh and talk in parking lot]

Back in the blazing-hot parking lot, the gathered group asks Susana about the plans she’s made now that she has a car.

JAMAL: What is the first long trip you want to take in the car when the kids get a long weekend?

ORTIZ: Go see my sister at the Gulf Coast, just two hours away and Matagorda Bay. I haven't seen her and she doesn't come this way. And I told her the first chance we'll be there.

Susana laughs and points to a spot where the car’s silver paint has faded in the shape of a heart.

SUSANA: Oh yeah! the heart! It’s the love, the family of love right here.

For WORLD, I’m Grace Snell.

BROWN: Addie Offereins wrote this story for the November 4th issue of World Magazine, and we’ve included a link in today’s show notes.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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