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Maury United Ministries

2014 Hope Award South Region Winner


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Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth

"Executive director Randy Nichols, a now-retired mechanical designer, has run MUMs for 17 years: part time for seven, full time for the last 10. He now coordinates 5,000 trips per year, connecting 25 volunteers with car-less neighbors who need rides to work, job training, a doctor’s office, GED classes, or day care. The goal, Nichols says, is to “show the love of Christ while providing for transportation needs—and we cannot help but share the gospel message with our passengers as the need arises.”

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Nichols showed me around Maury County, three-fifths urban and two-fifths rural, with a population of 80,000 humans, along with 23 cattle for every 100 acres of farmland. The county leads Tennessee in beef production and has had its share of racial animosity: In 1946 Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first black Supreme Court justice, defended an African-American naval veteran involved in a fight that led to a Maury County race riot.

The MUMs idea grew out of Nichols’ Bible-reading and self-appraisal: “I really believe where it says God gives to be apostles and prophets, and equips others for words of service. …I’m not a great speaker and I’m not charismatic, so I looked for something I could do.” He recalls, “I started praying and the Lord showed me if you want to just exist as a poor person (in Maury County), you can get housing through government assistance, food stamps – so you can exist. But if you want to do better, if you start looking for work, you’ll run into a transportation issue.

Nichols then tackled the problem of recruiting volunteer drivers: “I asked for a day a month, a half day, and I would coordinate and fill in. …At first we just gave six or seven rides a week. Next thing you know people start hearing about it.” The ministry grew: “We let the churches know, the social service organization know. Didn’t put up a big old billboard because people would think we’re a taxi service. We recruited drivers from all denominations and different churches.”

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Given Maury County’s racial history, it’s not inconsequential that on the afternoon I visited the first pickup by one of Nichols’ most faithful drivers, Marilyn Fullmer, a white retired nurse, was of Tracy, an African-American woman. Eight years ago Fullmer heard Nichols speak about MUMs at her church, Zion Presbyterian, and thought, “That’s something I could probably do.” She’s seen progress in some of the women she’s transported: “I remember taking Tracy job hunting for week after week after week. … Then, instead of taking her job hunting, we’re taking her for a job.”

As she drove her blue Taurus, Fullmer reflected on the riders she has driven: “The most satisfying experience was a young couple that Randy counseled a lot. She was very bright. He was a whiz at the computer. They had some real messes to clean up. They began going to church, became believers, and got married.” Others have not been diligent: “I might knock on a door and not get an answer. If that happens more than a couple of times, Randy will say we just can’t give the ride anymore.”

Fullmer says she has “friends who think I’m crazy for doing this, [but] I haven’t found any real reason to be afraid.” She doesn’t expect quick changes, so she’s seldom disappointed: “I tell myself and my husband tells me often: You can’t do it for them. … You can help. You can provide opportunity—but the Spirit of God has to do the work and they have to listen.” She’s learned a lot over the years: “Sometimes we get attached and decide to help with more than the ride. We have to be careful and go in with eyes open. It’s a fine line: You’re trying to help them because God doesn’t shut the door on us when we come back again.”

Nichols gave me details on demographics and procedures: Most rides are of single mothers or widows. More female than male rides. No opposite-sex driver/rider combos. Then he showed me his binder of monthly newspapers. Here’s one from 2009: “A single mom with three children informed me that her employer is increasing her work hours from 15 per week to 30 per week. The reason: She is a good worker and she shows up on time! She was ecstatic, and sends out a HUGE Thank You to all the MUMs drivers who get her to work.”

I read more: “One of our male passengers does community service work to help pay for his subsidized apartment. As we transport him to work, he has started asking about how to pray and what it means to follow Christ. … He will be asking more questions during future rides with our drivers. please pray for him.” A newsletter from 2010 listed results: “Jamie got to nurse certification training. Kelly got to the Career Center for job training—she and her minus-one-month-old son (she’s due Sept. 21st) thank you. Pat got home from work at LifeCare—she and the patients she cleans for thank you. Katricia got to the hospital for burn treatment therapy (and back home).”

Items from 2011 newsletters: “Marilyn and her Down-Syndrome child are going grocery shopping. Katricia is going to get her new glasses. Howard is going to dialysis. Pam has been unemployed until one month ago. As soon as she got a job, she called MUMs and we have been taking her to work and back five days a week. Soon she will have a down payment for her own car. Last month we gave over 600 rides like these, including rides to pharmacies, doctors, job interviews, college classes, probation, Columbia Pregnancy Center.”

Items from 2012: “Debbie has gone through training and has gotten a job at Kroger’s. She is now riding to work with friends, having outgrown her need for us! We always like to see that. Demeca is driving to work every day, taking her kids to school activities, and grocery-shopping IN HER OWN VAN. local automotive technology school has agreed to do all the repair work for MUMs with no charge for labor. Traci, Colleen, and Lisa have gone back to Project Learn and are all working on their GEDs. Through exposure to our wonderful volunteer drivers, we have seen many of our passengers drawing closer to our Lord Jesus. All our drives have been safe. This makes 156 months in a row. Thank you, Lord.”

Items from 2013: “A word from one of our former passengers, now a registered medical assistant: ‘I used MUMs to get back and forth to Columbia State. I didn’t have the means to pay for transportation and at the time I was pregnant and going through a really rough time. The drivers never judged me and were always willing to be an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, offer advice, and pray with and for me. If it weren’t for MUMs I wouldn’t have been able to further my education. In Christ, Stephanie.”

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