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Saturday, December 13, 2014

UBFM Video

Check out this video by our friend, UBFM volunteer, and favorite news reporter Lauren Ready.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A God Story

David, a loyal UBFM member, shared this. This took place on the downtown route, Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

Last night the downtown group had 2 new riders, Dana and Monica. We were on the Mall downtown, regular stuff, they jumped right in, nothing spectacular. At one stop, I was tending to someone and just happened to turn and see an amazing show of humanity. A guy I'd never seen before, in a wheelchair, apparently a quadriplegic, was behind me and there stood Dana feeding (actually holding the burrito to his mouth so he could eat) this total stranger, someone she knew nothing about, on her very first UBFM ride! It blew me away! I looked at Lyle, he had taken a pic or 2. Hopefully he'll send me the pic and I will share. We (me anyway) all just stood there in amazement as she finished up. And we shoved off to share more hope 'n happy. I don't know if anyone else there saw it the way I did, but wow! As I shared this with another UBFMer when we were done, I was almost brought to tears. I have a challenge; find someone soon that you can share a random act of humanity with!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Passing the Torch

Greetings and salutations, my friends!

I would like to share an update with you. I typically submit my updates on a different blog but I feel like this one deserves a UBFM blog post. As most of you know, there have been some changes to UBFM. I have moved (relocated), stepped back from the full-time leadership role, and allowed some other members to pilot the ship. I have done this because ministry has called me to another place.

Toward the end of last year I was offered a job at a small, beautiful, rural church near Columbia TN. The location is twenty minutes from my parent’s house and 30 minutes from my sister and her family. It would have been an ideal place for me but I did not take it because I did not feel like I should leave UBFM behind. After I declined the position I put it behind me and moved on.

Time passed, I became restless, and my mind started churning. In the early part of this year I was nearly a year out of seminary with a Master’s degree, working part-time retail, part-time UBFM, traveling to churches every Sunday morning to preach, and making about 800.00 a month. I had to borrow from my parents to make ends meet. Something had to change.

I started thinking about the church offer a lot more. Then, they contacted me. They wanted to talk again. God might work in mysterious ways but God also works in obvious ways. They wanted to make an offer that would allow me to be in Memphis when I needed to be. I asked them if I could be in Memphis every other week for three days. They had a meeting and confirmed. They offered me a salary and a house to live in across the street from the church. I took it.

As I discerned this call to ministry I thought a lot about UBFM. It has out grown my skill level. There are things about it that I cannot nurture. When it comes to administrative work, finances, and paperwork I only squeeze by. However, there are people who are involved with the organization that are experts in those areas and they want to help. I love being a leader and facilitating groups but there are people who volunteer every Wednesday night and Saturday morning who are much better at it than I am. There are members that meet every Tuesday night to make burritos and have a discussion. I didn’t start that; a brilliant group of leaders did. Two years ago I had a vision; it is now tangible. The dream I had came true and it is all of the people involved, God’s people, who made it happen. If you have invested in UBFM in any way, may it be physically, funding, or simply prayed for us, you have built a ministry that started with nothing more than a vision. I believe God orchestrated and facilitated it; you all built it.

I tell everyone that this ministry is ecumenical and it is for everybody across every spiritual and religious board. It is most certainly that but it is built on a Christian foundation. It is truly inspired by the works of Christ on earth over 2,000 years ago. I created it as if it were a church. To many members, it is church; it is a church without walls. The Christian church is considered the body of Christ. It is Christ working in the world today. His hands, ears, voice, emotions, and so on. It does not take a Christian to know that the things Jesus did were radical. He upset the authorities by giving hope to the people nobody loved. He loved criminals, people with diseases, homeless people, and he told them they would inherit the kingdom of God. He encouraged them and gave them hope. He did what no one else would do. He did what people were afraid of doing. To me, that is awesome.

When I see the unique value that each UBFM member places in this ministry I think of the body of Christ. A person may not be able to ride a bike around and deliver food but they might be brilliant when it comes to administrative work. A person may not be able to meet every Wednesday night but they are meticulous at managing supplies. A person may not be available for the rides but they are a genius when it comes to coordinating fundraisers. I have learned that this ministry takes a lot of people to operate. It takes a lot of unique individuals to make it what it is.

Looking ahead, I know UBFM will continue to grow and serve people in the Memphis community. I feel like the future for this organization will go above and beyond what any of us expect it to. It has already done that for me. The building next door to the First United Methodist Church will soon become our home as well as home for Room in the Inn. The building will require a lot of work but I am confident it will happen. I hope we are able to coordinate some more fundraisers in the near future in order to make this happen.

I will still be available. I am not that far away. I will be in Memphis every other week, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Mondays and Tuesdays you will find me working at Bike the Planet in Bartlett. Wednesdays I will be open to meet with anyone. If there are any questions in regard to the organization you can still contact me or direct your questions to Frank Fournier, Frank Rouse, Ellen Hudson, Jill Steele, Amy Hutcheson, Taylor Merritt (Saturday morning rides), Lyle Udell or Christian Lemon for Tuesday night meeting,

I pray for you all everyday and I am confident that this organization will grow and thrive. And, I am confident that it will continue to teach us and help us grow in spirit. I hope to see you soon. God bless you all.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Beer, Bible Study, and Discussion

For nearly a month a group of UBFM have been coming together to make burritos, have fellowship, unwind and discuss random topics. The topics are usually bible related in some way or another but not limited to. We try to stay as open minded and ecumenical as possible with this discussion so it is a place for any and everybody.

UBFM members, Lyle Udell and Christian Lemon have hosted the meetings at their homes but we are open to anyone who is interested in hosting.

Here is a post from Lyle in regard to last night's meeting:

Great Burrito Making & Bible Study Event last night! Thanks to fellow burrito makers Sheri Ring, Christian Lemon, Shannon Lemon, and Jill Steele who cranked out 78 burritos to add to those we distribute tonight!
This morning I found an interesting commentary (see below) on a portion of one of the verses we shared last night (2 Corinthians 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession...) :
"The Greek, is rather, as in Col 2:15, "triumphs over us": "leadeth us in triumph." Paul regarded himself as a signal trophy of God's victorious power in Christ. His Almighty Conqueror was leading him about, through all the cities of the Greek and Roman world, as an illustrious example of His power at once to subdue and to save. The foe of Christ was now the servant of Christ. As to be led in triumph by man is the most miserable, so to be led in triumph by God is the most glorious, lot that can befall any [Trench]. Our only true triumphs are God's triumphs over us. His defeats of us are our only true victories [Alford]. The image is taken from the triumphal procession of a victorious general. The additional idea is perhaps included, which distinguishes God's triumph from that of a human general, that the captive is brought into willing obedience (2Co 10:5) to Christ, and so joins in the triumph: God "leads him in triumph" as one not merely triumphed over, but also as one triumphing over God's foes with God." (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Ministry Challenge

Over the past year and a half, since I started Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, I have wondered about its future. I have had good feelings about it all along but I have been blind in regard to its forthcoming. Since I started I have been thinking and praying about things, trying to discern something bigger than simply passing out food and supplies to people on the streets once a week. Naturally, I have some huge ideas. It seems that everybody does. The ideas are, more or less, fun thoughts than anything else. A year ago I had an idea to start shopping around for a bigger location, something that would allow us to reach more people and potentially provide more services. I let that idea slip out of my hands. I have to admit, I was a bit scared. There was a fear of getting away from its original location, my home. At that time I knew the work we were doing was good and I was content with leaving it at that. However, as we ease into this year, I am finding out that was not God’s plan. It may have been my plan: staying comfortable, meeting my friends once a week, and going for a bike ride. But that was not the big picture. God had something else in mind.

I preach a lot about the challenges of being a Christian. There is a challenge always waiting for the Christ follower. Whether we choose to accept the challenge or not, we are loved unconditionally. If we don’t accept, one of two things will happen. One: another challenge will appear. Two: we will become restless. We won’t be able to sleep, nothing will feel right, and it will seem like something is always missing. Have you ever experienced cabin fever? I’m not talking about the 2002 film by Eli Roth. I’m referring to the feeling when you want to get out of the house and do something so bad but you feel trapped? It will feel a lot like that. Not really, but almost. Now, if we do accept the challenge one of two totally different things will happen. One: you will feel a sort of spiritual director, especially when you start to lose confidence. Two: you will face weaknesses. A challenge is an obstacle. Any athlete will tell you that once you overcome an obstacle you become stronger. Accepting these challenges and overcoming these obstacles allows the Christian to become stronger in spirit and ultimately closer to God. 

So, I became restless. I lost sleep. I became irritable, yes I became irritable and yes God made me that way. But we all know that if you irritate someone long enough they will move. I had no choice; I had to move. I started to get so many donations I couldn’t walk around my house. I cut a maze through the boxes of non-perishable food, cases of water, boxes of clothes, and bicycles just so I could walk out the door. Something had to happen and I was ready for it. After much prayer and meditation I received an answer. An email came to me from a large church downtown. They were familiar with UBFM and they offered for us to use the church kitchen and a supply room. We would be able to meet there every Wednesday night. I couldn’t believe it. What was the catch, I wondered. This was way too uncomplicated. As we found out later on the first night of the meeting, there was a catch: don’t harm the poinsettias in the main lobby. That’s it. Just because I like to rise above expectations, I sometimes sit and talk to those plants when the church is empty.

The church is huge. Growing up in a rural small town church, it is bigger than anything I have worshiped in. It even has an elevator we can load up to move donations to our supply room. The kitchen is full of stainless steel equipment. When I went to look at the place, I was in awe. The pastor and associate showed me around the area we would be working in. I couldn’t believe it. Next to the church was an old vacant, two-story building. I mentioned it them while they were showing my girlfriend Ellen, and I around the church. They immediately asked if we wanted to see it. It turns out the church owns the building. It is a little run-down bit it has a lot of potential. I think we were all thinking the same thing. Could this be a potential place for ministry? Could UBFM use this building for something? A community center? Hospitality hub? A shelter? It is big enough for all of the above. At that moment I was already feeling a little overwhelmed. I told them I wanted to think and pray about this. But for the time being, we would love to use the church.

So there you have it. Finally, I move UBFM out of my house and I can walk around my dinning room without tripping. But the restlessness continued. I couldn’t stop thinking about that building and its potential. It’s located on our Wednesday delivery route. I have stopped many times to visit people curled up next to the building. There’s something about this. I started to feel like it is all falling into place. From UBFM, its publicity, and growth to the church and building. There is something at work here. I know this building will require money to renovate; it will most certainly be a costly undertaking but that is not my challenge. As a matter of fact, I feel certain that God will provide. My element of burden in regard to this project is commitment. I have a fear of failure that is clouding my commitment to this project. I prayed. In my prayers I asked for some time to contemplate this whole idea. I also asked for encouragement. So, I think and wait. I try to be open to every possible idea that comes to me. One thing I do have is the most supportive team of people in the world helping me out. Aside from my family, I receive more encouragement and support from my UBFM group than I do anywhere else. It is just a big melting pot of people that have huge hearts and giving spirits. Any time they have a suggestion about something, we try it. This is just as much theirs as it is mine.

One of my loyal members suggested that we should coordinate a silent auction as a fundraiser. I thought this a magnificent proposal. I started to round up all of my resources for the event. At the same time, I continued to think about the building. If this fundraiser is successful, perhaps it will jumpstart not only a building budget, but my confidence as well. As I began organizing this fundraiser, I realized it would cost a bit. I would have to reserve a place, have it catered, and somehow accumulate some items to auction. There was a moment I started to back out of it. The same fear of commitment started to come over me. I prayed. Actually, it was one of those informal prayers while I was driving down a busy street in Memphis, that went like this, “Okay, God, I’m just gonna go for it. I’m going to step out on a limb of faith. You with me? Amen” I guess it was more likely of an affirmation than it was a prayer. Anyway, it was a conversation with the Creator. I continued on with my errand running for the day. Within the hour of that prayer, I got it. I was in line at the super market and decided to check my email, and there it was: PayPal notifying me I just received a $500 donation from a random person. I had to bite my tongue. Tears welled up in my eyes. It might have been from biting my tongue but they were tears of joy, nonetheless. Not only did this jumpstart our funding for the fundraiser, but it furthered my confidence. It was what I needed to make the event happen. But it was also what I needed to shove past the fear of moving forward with the project. It was an answer from God, immediately. This project fell into my lap for a reason, the same reason UBFM happened. It is a call to ministry. It is God’s work in the world.

The following week I received two more PayPal donations affirming this event will happen. It will take place Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the Overton Park Golf Clubhouse. I am still coordinating and accumulating items to be auctioned. The money raised during this event will be focused on this building, God willing. In the meantime, I am doing some research on codes, grants, materials, and estimates. I strongly believe that if God wants something to happen, it will happen. From getting to know the people who are part of this organization, I am certain that anything can be done. I see so much love and compassion in this group of people I can’t help but to be confident. Thank you all for giving me this. I am in my first year as an ordained minister. I had no idea it would be so full of awe. I have been blessed to see God work meticulously. But, I do not necessarily see it through me, the minister. I see it through you, God’s people.


Thursday, January 2, 2014


During the most recent couple of months we've had a two visitors to help out with procedures and follow us around with cameras. Paparazzi, you ask? No, they are actually a couple of brilliant high school students from Germantown High School. They organize a local, student-operated, community television station. Though they are students, they work like professionals. UBFM has been blessed with the opportunity to get to know Zac andy Mclean. It's obvious they both have a bright future in television production. I can't wait to see what they do beyond graduation.

They created a piece on UBFM in this You Tube segment. Be sure to watch it all! They are now continuing their work on our organization with hopes to produce a documentary.

GHS-TV, Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, You Tube Video

Volunteer Odyssey

Volunteer Odyssey is a local non-profit, founded by UBFM member, Sarah Petschonek. This group helps people find volunteer opportunities in Memphis to further build their resume' and assist the person in finding adequate jobs.

Volunteer Odyssey has provided many volunteers to UBFM and allowed to establish relationships with people as well as other organizations in Memphis. We are very happy this organization is part of UBFM and we look forward to collaborating with them in 2014!

Photo by Steve Roberts

Sarah Petschonek: Spinning a New Type of Volunteerism

Story by Leah Fitzpatrick

For Sarah Petschonek, the president and CEO of Volunteer Odyssey, taking a normal approach to volunteering holds no appeal. Take, for instance, the fact that Petschonek did 30 consecutive days of volunteering in November 2012 for an effort called Mission Memphis, and then followed that experience the next month with a cross-country volunteer trip she organized and blogged about. She took her deep passion for philanthropy a step further last February when she ushered in Volunteer Odyssey, an organization that provides customized volunteer experiences to Memphians, namely to job seekers.
Commenting on how she came up with the name, she says, “Since I think about volunteering as a lifelong journey and something that’s supposed to challenge you, I kept coming back to the word odyssey.” Petschonek adds that the compass incorporated in the organization’s logo, which can be viewed on, symbolizes that people should stand out from the pack or make a statement wherever they go. In this case, volunteerism is the implied avenue for making a statement.
Volunteer Odyssey upholds the notion that good deeds shouldn’t be relegated to a single location, which is why Petschonek opted to only have a meeting space (located inside the Start Co. office in Playhouse on the Square) for the organization, and not a stand-alone building. Coffee shops are also a regular spot for meetings, but the bulk of the action occurs in the community, specifically at the 27 nonprofits that Volunteer Odyssey pairs participants with for a weeklong volunteering/ blogging tour of the local nonprofit scene. Volunteer Odyssey especially likes to showcase the “little guy,” including the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry (in the background of the photo at right), which enlists volunteers to deliver food and basic necessities on bikes to the homeless. Petschonek mentions that Urban Bike is a group that she personally enjoys donating her time to, and clarifies that each organization she sends a volunteer to is one that she has prescreened and volunteered for herself.
“We look for places that have quality volunteer experiences,” she emphasizes, “but we’re not a static list of volunteer experiences. Sometimes if we have a blogger with a specific interest, I’ll reach out to a group, but people reach out to us, too.”
More importantly, Volunteer Odyssey wants its participants to be engaged in experiences they enjoy, aiming to make the clearest path possible for them to do so. For instance, one man with a Ph.D. in medieval studies in England wanted to do something related to that area, so Petschonek contacted the National Ornamental Metal Museum so he could do some blacksmithing. Examples of other volunteer experiences have included helping out with the dessert hour on Sunday evenings at the Dorothy Day House, handing out tickets and taking donations at the Indie Memphis Film Festival and assisting in the greenhouse at the Memphis Botanic Garden. These examples are just a glimpse, however, into the varied activities that participants can do throughout the course of their Odyssey Week, which entails volunteering at a nonprofit for five hours a day, followed by roughly three hours of social media/blogging—part of the storytelling piece that Petschonek feels is a vital and compelling component.
“The stories and specifics are how people connect—we want volunteers to become a catalyst for more people to volunteer,” she says.
For those who don’t have a week to give, Volunteer Odyssey rolled out programs for corporate teams and congregations, as well as VolunCheers, a monthly happy hour where people can enjoy an adult beverage while doing a simple volunteer task. Just RSVP on the Volunteer Odyssey Facebook page for any posted VolunCheers events, and remember that there’s no wrong way to give back. As Petschonek says, “Find something you like, and you’ll keep doing it.”