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Motorcyclists rally to benefit ministry for Wichita homeless

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 30, 2012, at 12:12 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, July 30, 2012, at 6:32 a.m.

They’re two grinning toddlers who skip, chasing bubbles and a hot pink balloon.

An elderly veteran who carries a cherished Purple Heart in his pocket.

A woman toting a handbag stuffed with newspaper clippings from the past two decades.

They’re Wichita’s homeless, a “tougher than hell” crowd, said Mosaic Church pastor Mike Furches, who said they need the services his ministry provides to help them survive.

On Sunday, members of Mosaic got financial help from another “tough” crowd when more than 75 motorcycle enthusiasts gathered at the church’s downtown location, 216 S. Market, for the first Bikers for the Homeless “Tougher than Hell” rally, a benefit for the church.

Furches, an avid motorcyclist, said the fundraiser is a good fit for the two groups.

“A lot of the homeless folks like motorcycles,” he said, adding: “Motorcyclists are caring, giving people. They are really misunderstood. It doesn’t surprise me” that they would contribute to the church’s mission.

Andover couple Nancy and Robert Coupland, who attended Sunday’s rally with the Christian Motorcyclists Association, said it’s “desperately important” to serve local homeless.

“There are so may homeless people in Wichita,” said Nancy Coupland, 65. “And I’m just lucky that it’s not me. It can happen to anybody.”

“That’s what Jesus told us to do, basically,” her husband, Robert Coupland, also 65, added.

Furches agrees.

In his thick southern drawl, 53-year-old Furches explained his special connection to the people Mosaic serves: He, too, was homeless for five years. He left an abusive home at age 15 and “couch hopped,” he said, until he married his wife, Mary Jane Furches, at 20.

For the past three decades, he’s worked with mentally ill people; as a counselor; as a Christian-rock musician; and as a minister to gang members, prostitutes and the homeless.

Mosaic church, a small Wichita nonprofit, was founded about seven years ago in Delano. It’s mission today is to serve Wichita by offering ministry, food and shelter to area homeless. Furches has been its pastor for four years.

“The Bible speaks over 2,000 times about the need to serve the poor, the needy, the orphan and the widow,” he said.

“It’s a part of our calling, a part of our vision to serve.”

Going beyond breaking even

Furches hopes the rally raised at least $1,000 – enough to cover the cost of the event.

But the need stretches beyond breaking even, he said.

All three of the air conditioners cooling the 7,000-square-foot church broke down in the heat. Workers fixed one for $500. The others still need repaired.

The church needs another $1,500 to fix its back door, which was damaged during two attempted break-ins in April and early June.

Furches said he also needs money for building upkeep and to buy food to stock the refrigerator and pantries. The church offers a drop-in program and meals from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and on some weekends to area homeless people.

Sometimes people donate fried chicken and macaroni salad. Other days, the Furcheses make hotdogs or bean soup and cornbread. The church doesn’t qualify for assistance from the Kansas Food Bank, he said, because there’s no commercial kitchen on the property to prepare meals.

“We get by from month to month. I don’t know how we do it, but we always take care of our financial needs,” Furches said. “… Sometimes we only have $20 in the account at the end of the month.”

On Sunday, some of the bikers brought bags of groceries – enough to feed at least 150 people, Furches estimates. Monetary contributions came from T-shirt and raffle ticket sales. Some motorcyclists, like the Couplands, donated prizes back to the church.

“They need it worse than I do. I have food to eat every day and a place to sleep every night,” Nancy Coupland said. “They don’t.”

Furches said he hopes to make the fundraiser an annual event. Plans for next year’s rally start next week, he said Sunday afternoon.

And it’s all with the intention to see the church and the homeless thrive.

“I just want to see the church survive, and see people eat and get a nice cold bottle of water,” he said. “And if someone sees a bug, I want to be able to call in the Terminex man and have the money to do it.”

The congregation meets weekly on Sunday starting at 8 a.m. for breakfast. Discussion and services follow. For more, including details on donating to the church, visit www.mosaicwichita.com or call 316-807-8034. Contributions may also be mailed to: P.O. Box 47261, Wichita, KS 67201. Information about the church’s ministry is also on Facebook.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com.

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