Bus ministry wheels roll forward, in spite of high gas prices

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- Record high gas prices didn’t slam the breaks on one East Tennessee church’s weekly bus ministry. Temple Baptist Church in Powell buses about 500 school aged kids to worship every Sunday, and nothing changed over the weekend.

On Sunday, Taylor Schultz made his weekly pilgrimage, by bus, to Temple Baptist.

“It's probably the best day of the week," said Schultz, an eight grader in the Knox County School District. “Let's say I'm feeling bad. I can come to church and when I leave, I'm feeling as good as I possibly could, probably even better."

Each member of the bus ministry attends for a variety of reasons. Schultz’s grandmother is sick, and can’t afford to drive him to the church because of high gas prices. It takes more than a dozen buses and passenger vans to get every willing student to church on Sunday. Each bus drives about 50 miles round trip, costing the church nearly $1,000 a week in fuel bills.

“It is costly," said Dave Rosser of Temple Baptist Church, “but the investment in the lives of these young people, you can't put a monetary value on that, so that's why we're willing to do that."

According to AAA, Knoxville gas prices hit a new record high Sunday, and some stations were charging $5.09 a gallon. The owners of the stations blame Tropical Storm Gustav for closing Gulf Coast refineries and shutting down production. Most of the church's bus fleet runs on diesel, but a gallon of the fuel still cost more than $4.00 a gallon on Sunday.

"We don't like to pay that much for gas, but it will never stop us,” said Pastor Clarence Sexton of Temple Baptist. “We believe the Lord's people here will respond to that."

The church also said that the high gas prices didn't keep congregation members out of the pews on Sunday morning, and Schultz said he wouldn’t dream of skipping service.

"I just always look forward to learning about God," he said.

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