The bright lights of the X-Factor tour may seem a world away from the homeless in Belfast or kids from Ballymena’s most challenging estates.
However, it has emerged that the new double-decker vehicle recently acquired by the Ballee based Gospel Bus Ministry was previously used to transport crew members as they travelled to X-factor shows.
It has now been completely refurbished to include a kitchen, toilet and televisions on the ground floor, while upstairs, there is a large lounge area in addition to 12 beds.
“It truly is a multi-purpose facility to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of our community”, says Ricky Bell, who founded the ministry alongside his wife Joyce back in January 2006.
He continued: “The vision that God put into our hearts was to reach out into the local community and take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people.
“God’s Word talks about love and everything that we have around about us these days - one of the greatest things that I feel that Christians need to do is to show this love to people around them, should it be to the homeless, those struggling with drugs and alcohol or deprivation. We believe that Christ is the answer to these problems.”
Joyce, Ricky and the Gospel Bus team make regular trips to Belfast where their warm, comfortable chariot is a welcome sight for those without a home in our capital city.
Ricky said: “On a typical night, we go out round all the avenues and alleyways. We gather the homeless and bring them up on to the bus. Once they arrive, we provide soup, stew, tea, coffee and brand new clothes.
“We also give them a rescue pack which contains gloves, a hat, scarf, torches and a tin-foil blanket to keep them from getting hypothermia.
“Of course, the great thing about the new bus is that 12 people will now be able to have a roof over their heads for the night which will stop them potentially dying of cold-weather related illnesses in this day and age.”
Closer to home, the Gospel Bus evangelists also operate a thriving regular ministry to children on various housing estates in Ballymena.
Ricky stated: “My wife has a gift for Children’s Ministry. Each Wednesday night in Ballykeel about 20-25 children come on to the bus. They are able to sing choruses and and tell them about Jesus Christ.
“We have been able to do that now since 2006 until this present day, not only Ballykeel, but also Drumtara, Doury Road and other estates where God has just opened the door and we have taken it.”
He added: “My hope for the future is that we can reach as many people in Northern Ireland.
“We plan to take this new bus into a wee town or village every day, just plug in and talk to people about Jesus.
“I believe that Jesus Christ is the greatest need in the province. It doesn’t matter what background you come from or what religion, Jesus Christ is the answer to the problems in Ballymena, Belfast or anywhere else,” said Richard.
If you would like to hear more about the work of the Gospel Bus Ministry, Ricky would be delighted to visit your church and he can be contacted by telephoning 07753 240113.
Alternatively, ‘Gospel Bus Ballymena’ is also on Facebook or you can send a private message to ‘Richard Bell.’