- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - At closing time last Saturday, on a day the car repair shop isn’t usually open, they were still working on brakes and waiting for parts and sweeping up.

Dick Agee, owner of Agee’s Automotive, stood behind the counter, reading glasses atop his head, explaining to a 17-year-old in pajama pants the work they’d done on her SUV and what still needed attention.

The SUV’s owner, Esmeralda Iraheta, is graduating from high school in May and her baby is due in September and her boyfriend only works part time.

On April 30, she held Agee’s laundry list of repairs in her hand.

“What I still need to do,” she tells the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/24zGXwP ), showing her braces as she talks. “What I need to save for.”

What she needs right now is a car that runs, and now she has one.

That’s why all of these people are here, says Agee, waving a hand at the mechanics and car buffs from Christ Lutheran who have volunteered to help.

Their matching blue T-shirts spell out their mission: Christ in the Community.

It’s the second time the church has taken a Saturday to do what Jesus would do: Serve the poor.

The first was in January.

The second community day was a dreary last Saturday of April, when 268 church members turned out to sort donations for the People’s City Mission, visit nursing homes, fill raised flower beds with soil for a community garden and assist children at the Center for People in Need while they shopped for Mother’s Day.

And fix cars for free at Agee’s Automotive, 13th and M streets.

“There’s a huge need for this in Lincoln,” said Agee. “We’re just trying to fill it the best we can.”

The auto shop owner is a church member who opened this garage in 1982 and has spent his life fixing cars.

He’d like to see the church’s new Car Care Ministry grow.

So would church member Curt Jones.

“It’s a huge issue for people who are trying to pull their way out of poverty,” said Jones, Christ Lutheran’s coordinator of missions and generosity. “Those of us who are middle class take so much for granted.”

He ticks off a list: getting to work, shopping for groceries, carting kids to school.

He’s learned a lot reading up on the correlation between poverty and transportation, Jones said. Like how small someone’s world can become when they don’t have a reliable vehicle.

“It limits housing choices, it limits where to shop for groceries, where to look for jobs. We just don’t even think about it, we just get in our car and go.”

Christ Lutheran wants more people to be able to go.

The church’s goal is to offer the car ministry four times a year. Labor is free. Agee provides parts at cost — paid for through donations.

And Jones is sharing the word with nonprofits which, in turn, find clients who need the help.

Like Maquel Welch, who bought her 1994 Honda Accord in November knowing it needed work, and also knowing she and her husband didn’t have the extra cash.

“What isn’t an emergency goes on the back burner,” she said Monday.

But then something quite wonderful happened, the 28-year-old said.

A counselor put her in touch with Jones, who set her up with an appointment at Agee’s where volunteers replaced her air cleaner element and her air filter, changed her oil and her wiper blades, replaced her rear brake pads and rotors and more. A total of $238 in parts and $140 worth of labor at zero cost to her.

Welch said she’s been through a hard couple of years.

“Just knowing that people care enough to do that, just gives me hope for the world. Honestly, it made me feel like God loves me.”

___

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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