“Hello? What’s going on in there?”
The gruff voice came with a wrap on Big Blue’s back door. JJ saw red and blue lights flashing in the night.
He went to the door: “Good Evening, Officer? Is there a problem? This is my vehicle.” It was nearing midnight on a Saturday, and he must’ve thought JJ was a vandal. “I renovated this truck to show movies on the street at outdoor events, and I was fixing some things for our church event here tomorrow morning. They are allowing me to park it here overnight.”
“May I step inside to see?” the officer asked JJ.
Several Months Earlier…
Big Blue returned to Pewaukee from National Spring and Alignment, Inc., and we started with redoing the interior. Because we had to drill through Blue’s roof to hoist it up during the chassis transfer, John installed a skylight in the remaining hole, as well as new flooring from all the welding damage. He also completed its exterior plexiglass and frame. All the screens were securely reinstalled and weather-proofed, with the addition of the overhanging awnings. John reassembled the mobile restroom behind the driver’s seat, and Big Blue was back in working order. After so many edifying and unique opportunities, we got to work compiling the vital information of technical needs and specifications for each event. This list covers the electronic and technical boundaries – and a movie archive from the past seven years – of the Media Van for all future partners to read and understand the scope of possibilities.
The possibilities that we didn’t even know God had in store for 2020.
A Unique Feature
Before anyone knew it, everyone was forced inside due to the coronavirus. Churches met over video chats and live streams; however, Big Blue invited a unique opportunity for larger churches to use their facilities still. 2020’s first event came on Mother’s Day as Elmbrook Church hosted a particular parking lot event; a Mom’s Appreciation Drive-Thru with prizes for every mom. There was a trivia game, and JJ went by each car to hear everyone’s answers through a wireless microphone. Every mother won by default, of course. They loved seeing themselves on the big screen.
Father’s Day rolled around with bright, warm weather, and by then, we had practiced for the new technology and assets we could bring to a pandemic world. We joined forces with Elmbrook again for a tailgate party and family event. We played an old recording of the Brewers versus Kansas City Royals in the division championship game of 1983. Fathers and their families watched and ate and played to their hearts’ content. It finally felt like a regular summer event like the countless ones of years past. Outdoors, everyone could roam around and hang out without fear and anxiety of social distancing and mask-wearing after being locked up for months.
The Lake Country campus outdoor worship services this summer helped us immensely too. The turnout was always impressive; hundreds of people and whole families came together to fellowship and worship. Afterward, we learned that even Governor Walker attended one night, and what a night for everything to work together flawlessly.
We touched base with our old friends at Brooklife Church this summer, too, for another family movie night event: the feature, Dreamwork’s “Turbo,” and a whole lot of space for chairs and local food trucks.
One interesting and lasting impression that stood out this year was putting some clinical psychologists on the screens who spoke on the mental damage from self-isolation that Covid-19 inflicted on many people. The body of Christ should fellowship through all means of communication, whether through electronics or over the phone, to keep iron sharpening iron. We could tell this especially resonated with the younger generation. Many tuned their radios to 90.1 FM and listened and watched from the comfortable safety of their cars.
Encouraging the Next Generation
It started at the ECCEC graduation event. The teachers at the Elmbrook Church Child Enrichment center set up a drive-thru course for the families to navigate while stopping to do some fun activities to celebrate the young kids’ graduation. Big Blue sat at the end with a slideshow of all the past year of the kids’ education and pastimes, shouting, “See you next year!” Many families made homemade signs to show off to the teachers and volunteers as they waved “goodbye.”
Not long after that, the Children’s Youth Theater Milwaukee chapter coordinator asked if the Van was available for a graduation event for their students. Because of the coronavirus, the students of the homeschool theater group couldn’t perform their spring showcase. We hosted a movie night/graduation ceremony for them at Brookfield Lutheran Church. We got to witness a fantastic video variety show recorded and edited together by the CYT students over lockdown. It was awe-inspiring the talent and pure passion of all the kids put into that presentation and an honor to help bring closure to all their hard work.
Earlier in the spring, Immanuel Lutheran School asked if JJ was available to help with their graduation ceremony and record the proceedings. Later in the summer, the principal reached out to ask about a Sunday worship service featuring the Media Van to kick off the new school year. Though it didn’t end up working out, it was a blessing to partner with the church and school combo this year. We look forward to more opportunities to minister with them in the coming year. And finally, it was such an excellent opportunity to worship and fellowship with the Elm, the high school ministry at Elmbrook. The band was set up in front of the Van, and we plugged them into our power generator. Every night ran flawlessly, through worshipping out of the parked cars, through the messages, and the students themselves sharing their heart for the Lord.
Considering the new racial and political tensions erupting in America, it was a blessing to share inspiring fellowship with many young people of all colors and backgrounds. It wasn’t the only event with the Elm; our local youth engages in continued fellowship and outreaches in the love of the Lord.
A special race reconciliation panel of black pastors spoke as well at Elmbrook this summer. Big Blue was an essential part of making the parking lot conference a success. Because of the unrest that began in Minneapolis, the church’s common thread seemed to be based on the push for reconciliation amongst the body.
In Milwaukee, the Democratic National Convention was underway. We had the pleasure to join forces with Epikos Church in the inner city for an evangelistic marathon. Local pastors lead groups into city parks to host prayer, intercessions, and worship over every block nearby for the entirety of the convention. Big Blue followed along with groups to stream live sermons from those same pastors to reach the DNC attendees while praying for our nation and spreading Christ’s message of peace. The mini-sermons acted like advertisements for the nearby churches. Overall, it was an impactful and unique event that stands out from the rest.
We got a call in July from Pastor Raymond Monk of Ephesians Missionary Baptist Church for a movie night outreach in early August. The movie choice was “School of Rock” starring Jack Black. Once JJ arrived at the small lot and connected with Pastor Ray, JJ realized the outreach’s real intention: to distract protestors and discouraged riots with public entertainment at the local church. After asking for permission, JJ took ten minutes to share the Media Van’s story before the movie. Afterward, he encouraged the people watching to talk to the pastor, emphasizing the heart that the church has for the neighborhood and the care they take to reach them for love and peace.
“May I step inside to see?” the officer asked JJ. Of course, JJ let him in with a smile and wave inside.
JJ started sharing his testimony and background with Big Blue, and the officer politely listened and looked around.
“So, what were you fixing up?” the cop asked JJ, his gun remained holstered.
“I was just weather-proofing a little more around these windows since our big chassis transfer last year.”
“Well, this is pretty incredible what you’re doing here. I’m glad to see people and groups like you around the area. You’re doing some critical work here.”
JJ kindly answered back: “Well, so are you, officer. It’s difficult out there these days for cops, and to your credit, you are extremely civil with me, a lone black man in a strange truck at night.”
After a calm discussion about the current racial unrest (as normal as over a cup of coffee), the officer bid JJ good luck and a good night, while JJ thanked him for his service and for remaining professional in his duty.
Dear Roadies, during this strange and tumultuous year, your support and love have helped us move forward despite circumstances. 2020 has been a fruitful year for good works and witnessing the Lord working in new ways. Covid-19 hasn’t stopped us.
Despite the unrest and sickness in our nation, our schedule continues to fill up. We anticipate reigniting the worship and passion of the churches and partners we’ve kept over the years while helping keep the spread of Covid-19 to a minimum by utilizing our one-of-a-kind technology. God has blessed us with and made us ready for such an occasion. Our goal remains the same: to magnify the Lord, encourage and speak truth into the hearts of people, and advocate peace and grace. Thank you, all Roadies, for supporting us through thick and thin, and we hope that this update finds you safe and healthy.