There are two brightly painted buses parked outside Central Church of the Nazarene in Lenexa, Kansas. These two buses are part of the church’s Heaventrain KC ministry — one of which is a chapel-on-wheels, and the other is a professional mobile kitchen.
Every Saturday from May to November, the buses visit various communities by partnering with local churches to serve and build relationships with the community members throughout the Kansas City area.
“As the buses approach a site, a train whistle sounds,” said Julie Stevens, Central Church pastor of children and families. “Kids literally come running! We build relationships through activities like face painting, parachute play, and football, and then children and families are invited on the chapel bus for a high energy worship service. After learning Bible stories, ministry and message come together when a hot healthy meal is served from the food bus.”
Each site is strategically selected to connect with families from many different financial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and the buses visit the same communities every week. Some of the partner churches and volunteers focus on sites where they are present each week, while others serve at all the sites for either one day or once a month during the season.
“We strive for a consistent presence,” Stevens said. “We’re passionate about teaching the transformative Word of God and building and inspiring leaders within the community.”
Heaventrain KC started nearly two years ago when the church staff felt a call to extend their reach outside of the church.
“We sensed a holy urgency to get outside the church and invest in the community,” Stevens said. “God rallied His people to pray — funds were raised to purchase and renovate two buses. After several months of preparation, God’s vision became a reality. In October 2017, we hit the streets!”
Though Heaventrain is a relatively new ministry to the Kansas City area, the original idea is deeply connected to Stevens’ call to ministry.
“My friend and mentor, Pastor Phil Batten, began Heaventrain in Cleveland, Ohio, about 37 years ago,” Stevens said. “As a teenager, my call started on his bus. Though Heaventrain KC is a separate ministry, both of the Heaventrain KC buses have been dedicated in loving memory of Pastor Phil.”
The ministry has expanded its reach over the last two years, breaking down cultural boundaries and connecting with spiritually and physically hungry families along the way. Stevens and the rest of the Heaventrain KC team are really excited about what’s in store in the ministry’s future.
“We live in a world that is desperate for hope, peace, and grace,” Stevens said. “God’s calling us to go the extra mile to spread the Gospel.”