GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Fuel Ministries

Tuesday Toolbox: Fuel Ministries

Tuesday, July 17, 2018 | 3:15 PM
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 | 3:15 PM

Last week was Fuel Ministry’s annual motorcycle summer camp, while this current week is the ATV camp. The camp is religious one, with chapel service and bible study, but also includes 8 – 9 hours of riding over the week, along with plenty of other traditional summer camp activities. The riding instructors over the camp’s history have included noteworthy GNCC pro riders, such as Ryan Sipes, Jordan Ashburn, Walker Fowler and Mike Witkowski. You may have also seen the Fuel Ministry rig or it’s leader, Mark Nichols, at some of the GNCC rounds this season… especially if you’re into pit bike racing! Since I was one of the instructors this year, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to Mark about his personal history and the history of the camp.

Read below and see what Fuel Ministries annual motorcycle camp is all about!
Read below and see what Fuel Ministries annual motorcycle camp is all about! Stacy Mundy

GNCC Racing: I ended up here almost by accident. I knew very little about the camp before I came, and the only reason I’m here is because you happened to run into me at an IXCR and asked if I would be interested in helping. Do you ever have trouble finding volunteers in general?

Fuel Ministries: It’s a small miracle every year that we can get 40 people to give up a week’s vacation to stand out in the sun like this all week.

Would you say that’s one of the more challenging parts of putting on the camp every year?

Like I said, it’s the miracle every year. But having boots on the ground really matters. You go to Loretta’s and see ministries that have spent like a hundred thousand dollars to have their rigs there but are paying somebody like $10 an hour to run it for them. The people they hire seem to lack passion for what they are doing there and aren’t being paid enough to generate any. All that money was spent, and you see almost nobody walking through their areas at all. But when then you do a camp like this, made up almost entirely of unpaid volunteers who are passionate about what they’re doing – that’s powerful.

What gave you the idea of putting on a summer camp as your ministry’s primary means of outreach?

Youth. I wanted to work with children and this is the only time you can really get them anymore. We love being able to provide quality on-the-bike instruction here at camp. But that’s not really the part we’re passionate about. We’re passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus with those who come to our camp, and maybe improving their lives for the better because of it. So, there is a strong faith element, but if we advertise it as a church camp, a lot of kids would never come. And we can’t invest in kid’s lives if they can’t come.

Not only do you get to ride and learn from some top GNCC Pro riders, but you get to do fun summer camp activities as well.
Not only do you get to ride and learn from some top GNCC Pro riders, but you get to do fun summer camp activities as well. Stacy Mundy

So, to some extent, it’s about the advertising or the spin.

I don’t think the way we present it is deceptive at all. The kids are on their bikes being taught by some of the most talented riders in the world. We have a great swimming hole here, and they really are getting what we advertise – a full summer camp experience. But we also do chapel every day and two bible study every day. Like I said before, if that was the big selling point we talked about, a lot of kids would never come.

But they’re still getting that religious instruction.

Yes, and while that is our passion, we are committed to providing the best on the bike instruction we can as well. To illustrate what we’ve been talking about: Last year there was this one parent that I talked to over and over, like please come, you’ve got to come, trying to convince him to send his son to camp. And he never came. But then last year, two weeks after camp, I run into him at an IXCR, and he says, “hey Mark, we’re coming to camp next year”. I had begged him all year long to come, so I had to ask why he finally decided to come. He says “the three boys who went to camp are all beating my son now, and before they went to camp, my son was beating them. So, we’ve got to come to your camp.”

Pro riders help teach at the motorcycle and ATV summer camp. 
Pro riders help teach at the motorcycle and ATV summer camp.  Stacy Mundy

Changing tracks, a little bit, can you tell me a little about yourself, and how you came to be here?

So, one of my favorite things about my childhood was racing, spending time with my dad and my family at the track. We raced almost every weekend, but one of the challenges was racing was only on weekends, and usually the only time we could go to church was on Sunday. So I never got an opportunity to go to church while I was racing. When I was seventeen, I decided I would start going to church Wednesday nights on my own, because it provided me with an opportunity to do both. And as my faith grew, it totally changed my life. It made my life fuller and made me happier. It felt like I had a purpose to my life. Now, many, many years later, we’re trying to do the same thing for others. When I grew up, I became an ordained minister, and have been one for 35 years. I have worked with the church overseas in Ireland for many years. I moved back to the States, landing in Louisville, Kentucky in 2006. After moving back to Louisville, I worked at a couple of local churches as a pastor, but I would volunteer for the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) motocross camps.

And that’s how you got started working within the motorcycle community. How long afterwards did you start Fuel Ministries?

I had a great three years with FCA. We mainly ran motocross camps around the country, though we did have one off road camp. Then I founded Fuel Ministries three years ago, to specialize more in off-road camps and well as do a little more trackside ministry than the FCA gets involved with. We frequently do free dinners, Saturday night chapel services, giveaways, pit bike racing – anything that connects people and creates more community at the track. During race season and at the track we sometimes get so caught up in the racing itself, we forget to make friends, help other people – you know, form a community. A lot of times there are people who come to the races and don’t know anybody. And it’s not nearly as fun to race without that. I think the more connections you make between people, the more the riding community as a whole flourishes.

Plenty of activities and riding take place during the week.
Plenty of activities and riding take place during the week. Stacy Mundy

Tell me a little bit about this beautiful piece of property you have here for the camp, and how you managed to work things out so nicely with the landowner.

We’re very blessed. This property is a Christian youth camp, and the property owner has done some racing. In the past, he even held a couple of races here himself. So, there are a lot of trails here already and I think we have 500 acres to work with. The great thing about this particular situation is that while a lot of times you can find a great youth camp, we would have to bus the kids up to thirty minutes away to the track or piece of land where we could actually ride. But here the kids ride their bikes or quads right up to the bunkhouse, and then can head right back out after lunch. The whole process is much more seamless here, which of course gives us more time during the day for riding and the other camp activities. It’s awesome that we can do that.

What are some of the things you’d like to see Fuel Ministries doing in the future.

We’d like to add a third camp. We’re not sure exactly where it would be yet, but right now we’re considering places in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those are the leading three candidates. Hopefully sometime in the next two years we will have a camp in one of those places.

Fuel Ministry campers having fun in the sun!
Fuel Ministry campers having fun in the sun! Stacy Mundy

Is there anything you would like to say that I haven’t covered yet?

I think the thing I would tell parents is that racing is something that draws the family together and shouldn’t pull it apart. This is a camp that not only helps kids ride safer and faster and allows them to make friends but can actually change their lives. I’ve gotten so many letters from parents telling me that they brought home a different kid. I’ve had them say things like “he actually cleans his room now – he never used to do that” or “they show me respect now that I never experienced before with them as a parent”. While it seems like a normal summer camp and an exceptional riding camp, it truly is a week that could change their lives and help keep them on trajectory to grow into the young man or young woman you want them to be.

Is there anyone you would like to thank?

The biggest thing for us is thanking the instructors and volunteers who set aside a week of their time to come and help us. They give up their time and a week’s vacation to help these kids have the best week of their lives, and we cannot thank them enough for that. We could not do it without them or the good lord.