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Delivering helping hands

KENNETH -- More than eight months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, those who have visited the region know how badly people need help rebuilding their homes and communities.

Yet unlike those who have sent money or goods to help the residents of the coastal region rebuild, a rural Kenneth man has taken a different approach. He's delivering helping hands where they are needed most.

Bill Spieker founded Reviver Bus Co. a year ago in hopes of providing transportation for church groups and organizations wanting to do mission building. At the time, he looked at it as an opportunity to take people to areas like Juarez, Mexico -- the site of his first mission experience in November 2003.

But then came the hurricane season and the destruction of towns all along the southern United States.

Mission work doesn't just take place across America's borders, he quickly realized, but in every place where people are in need.

A former school bus driver for Hoffenkamp Bus Inc. of Adrian, Spieker's business venture wouldn't have been possible without the support of Reading Bus Lines, for which he spent 10 months driving bus. The Reading company sold one of its used buses to help Spieker achieve his dream.

For two years before the bus became available, Spieker said his men's Bible study group prayed for a bus to do mission work.

"They were probably tired of praying for me to get that bus," he said with a smile.

The name for Spieker's bus company, Reviver, came to him while reading the passage from a book, "Have you spent more time seeking the revival than seeking the reviver?"

Earlier this year, Spieker drove his first group of missionaries -- 19 in all -- to Slidell, La., to clean out two churches damaged by Katrina.

He led a group of 31 individuals, ranging from age 5 to 63, to the Gulf Coast region again in March. For this trip, missionaries spent a week helping nearly a dozen families in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

Spieker said the trips have allowed participants to make lasting friendships -- not only with each other on the bus ride down south and back, but also with the people they helped while doing their mission work.

"People who go on a mission trip think they are going to bless, or help, other people," he said. "They come back as the one who has been blessed."

At the same time, Spieker said those they help are realizing that blessings come in all forms.

"The people we worked with said Katrina blessed them -- the Lord's building faith in them," he said.

During his trips to the Gulf Coast, Spieker said everyone comes back with different stories about the people they met and the impact their mission work had. Tasks included everything from installing dry wall to painting to moving sand.

"It's so immense down there," he said. "We did a little bit, but so much more needs to be done."

Spieker will take another group of missionaries to the Gulf Coast in June, spending June 17-24 in Mobile, Ala. The trip is being organized by a church group from Parker, S.D., but because they only have 12 to 15 people taking part, Spieker said there's room for another 18 to 20 people on the bus.

In seeking people to take part, Spieker will speak 1 p.m. Sunday at the Methodist Church in Adrian and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Countryside Inn in Adrian.

Other trips coming up this summer include a mission trip to Biloxi, Miss., in mid-July, and a trip to Juarez in early August.

Aside from using the bus for mission work, Spieker has transported the University of Sioux Falls football team to its away games and taken a group of men to a Promise Keeper's convention.

"The sole purpose of a mission trip is to draw people to Christ," Spieker said. "You can do that by hauling people to a football game or conference, but even more by taking people on a mission."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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