Anybody who has worked at companies big and small has run across one or more of those strange creatures.   They are most often of the youthful sort, just embarking on their chosen journey through life.  They are hungry, though not in the stomach-growling sense. (Although many interns are perfectly capable of cleaning out a tray of donuts or hoovering every known Cheez-it within five square miles.)  No, I mean “hungry” in the sense of ready to take some of that precious knowledge the grey-beards at school have pounded into their heads and actually use it for something.  It’s one thing to write a 20-page paper (with footnotes) on the theoretical application of a torque-wrench.  It’s an entirely different learning experience to bust yourself in the nose with one.  A really good intern can’t wait to get up to his or her boney elbows and beyond in whatever mess needs “un-mess-i-fying.”

Unfortunately, because of their relative youth, interns can sometimes get picked on a little bit.  You know the names:  Minions, Oompa-Loompas, Thing One and Thing Two, Flying Monkeys…depending on your generational frame of reference.   But we’re not here to engage in juvenile name-calling (well, maybe just a little…).  We’re here to celebrate those hard-working young souls who are willing to throw themselves into the daily battle, for little more than some college credit and a chance to maybe hoover some Cheez-it.

Yes, Righteous Rides actually has a couple of “Van-terns.”   We’d like you to meet them.


Matthias is the “dark one.”  No, he’s not some sort of Goth guy, wearing too much eyeliner and making questionable life choices.  He’s just sometimes called that because he has dark hair, as opposed to his lighter-haired compatriot.  (The regulars around Righteous Rides actually know the van-terns names, but there may be a few volunteer sorts lurking about who occasionally resort to just pointing or grunting “have you seen whatsisname lately?”  “Which whatsisname?”  “I dunno, the dark one.”)   Suggestions that we tattoo their names on their foreheads was met with only mild approval, and even less enthusiasm by said van-terns.

Matthias comes to us from Normal, Illinois…via northeastern Texas.  Now, anyone who has endured…errr, experienced one of Mark and Brett’s presentations on the founding of Righteous Rides knows the important role that Letourneau University in Longview, Texas played. (If you haven’t heard, we’ll not inflict that story upon you at this moment…)   Matthias was studying (yes, they study there) at Letourneau, and heard from his girlfriend (yes, they have girls there) about a couple of “old” gearhead alums who had started something interesting.  As a student in the Automotive Engineering Technology field (a fancy way of saying “gearhead”), Matthias saw an opportunity to turn wrenches for a good cause.  (As a gearhead with a girlfriend, he also recognized an opportunity to keep said girlfriend by listening to what she had to say.)   He has since switched over to Indiana State, which is a bit closer to Normal (the geographic location…we are NOT casting aspersions upon Letourneau or any of its august alumni…) and hopes to finish his program in a few years.

Matthias says he really likes “aftermarket” products, and wouldn’t mind running his own speed shop someday.  (Fred just needs to double check occasionally to make sure a super-charger or nitrous kit doesn’t somehow mysteriously find its way into a van that just needed new spark plugs.)

So Matthias is spending his summer commuting a few days a week between HQ in Warrenton and the splendiferous metropolis of Hawk Point, where he catches up on sleep and finds new ways to burn Ramen noodles.


The “other one” is Daniel.  He’s more of a local boy, coming from the thriving village of Eolia, Missouri.  (“Eolia”, as far as we can tell, is an old Native American term that means “someplace north of Troy, but we forget actually where…”)   Daniel originally heard about Righteous Rides from his youth group, and one of the intrepid Righteous Rides office staffers who also attends his home church.  Like his fellow van-tern, Daniel is studying Automotive Technology, at this point through the auspices of the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg.  The other Warrensburg claim to fame is, of course, Whiteman Air Force Base, where they keep a whole bunch of stealth bombers parked.  (At least we think so…they are very stealthy, after all.)  We are fairly certain Daniel just wants to turn wrenches, and has no more than a layman’s interest in stealth technology.  But, then again, how would we know?  Hmmm…

Daniel says he most enjoys, like any true gearhead, tearing into the giblets of an internal combustion engine. There’s nothing quite like reducing an engine down to its various and sundry parts, then putting it all back together again…provided you don’t have various and sundry parts left over.   But Daniel readily accepts that much of the day-to-day work that takes place in the shop is necessarily a bit more “pedestrian.” (Pun intended…but we certainly don’t want our client missionaries to have to walk far.  Hoofing it is hard on the insteps, and a lot of brainpower was expended in coming up with Righteous RIDES.  It’s nicely alliterative and nobody’s in favor of designing a new logo.  I think the Darwinists out there have already laid claim to a fish with feet…)

But back to Daniel.  As I said, he doesn’t mind the mundane oil changes or swapping out of shock absorbers, but is always up for something he hasn’t tried before.  He’s here to learn, after all, and some of our client missionaries do find strange new ways of keeping Fred and his crew busy.   Daniel admits to not being overly fond of the tire machine, though.  That’s understandable.  Much of the upper echelon of the Righteous Rides organization has had experience putting rubber on rims…and everybody says a little prayer before stepping on the foot pedal.  At last check, everybody was still capable, though, of giving a “thumbs up,” and you can’t blame a van-tern for wanting to avoid a lifelong nickname of “stumpy.”

A Great Experience

However, make no mistake.  Our van-terns are a capable lot.  If you watch them for any length of time, (a relative term…sit around the shop just “watching” for too long and Fred is likely to hand you a wrench…) you’ll see that they know their way around a set of tools, aren’t afraid to get dirty, and have hardly ever set anything on fire that wasn’t meant to be.  Both of them admit that, while their intended focus was always the proper turning of wrenches, it has been a bit of an eye-opener to meet and sometimes join in prayer with the variety of missionaries from all over the world who come through HQ, picking up or dropping off vans.  Education comes in many forms.

We will be sorry to lose them once summer is over and they head back into the land of books, and lectures by people not named “Fred.”  We certainly hope that circumstance may bring them back to Righteous Rides in the future.

This is where we’d like to throw out a pitch for future “van-terns.”  Righteous Rides depends heavily on the time commitment of its volunteers, who receive little compensation beyond knowing that they are doing the Lord’s work.  But as fine fellows like Matthias and Daniel demonstrate, there may be a path for some folks who are slogging their way through higher education to perhaps get a bit of college credit while helping out.  As a wise man once said, “There’s no harm in asking.”

The one thing to remember about most internships is that they have to be related in some way to your chosen field of study.  If you’re a gearhead (excuse me, Automotive Engineering Technology major) then, oh boy, does Fred have things for you to do.  Studying service initiatives or missions at seminary?  We have initiatives and missionaries out the wahzoo.  Working on a business degree and have a weird fondness for spreadsheets?  The office crew is always looking for help, and we can probably come up with something that doesn’t involve going anywhere near the tire machine.   Majoring in English Lit?  Sorry, probably not.  We’re not entirely sure you wouldn’t get a lug nut or two tossed at your head if you broke into a soliloquy from “Hamlet” in the shop.  Do that in the office, and they’ll probably hide the Cheez-its.