The Bicycle Gang

January 4, 2023


Every Tuesday afternoon at 1700, chapel staff open the doors of the MacDill AFB Chapel Annex just in time to hear Retreat played, followed by the national anthem. At this ceremonial marking of the end of the day, everything on base stops as people pause to salute. When the song is over, I stand looking out into the distance toward base housing and wait to see them.

Bicycles start to appear, reminiscent of an 80’s movie about a gang of kids going on grand adventures. First one, then three, then seven, pedaled by middle school students coming to Campus Life Military. Parents begin dropping off other students, but it’s the sight of the bikes that gets me excited every week.

The first bike that appears is usually ridden by a 7th-grade girl named “Aubrey.” This is mostly due to her riding an electric bike, but it also speaks to the role she takes on amongst the middle school students. She has been a leader from the start.

Coming off COVID shutdowns, most of my students had either moved away or graduated, so we were starting from scratch. I met Aubrey shortly after things began to re-open and told her about our youth program. The 6th grade daughter of a chaplain, her family had recently relocated here from the UK. Aubrey was eager to connect as soon as we were allowed to start meeting again.

Because most of my typical outlets for reaching students were unavailable, I depended heavily on students reaching out to their friends, neighbors, and classmates. Aubrey did not disappoint. Many students who attend now are a result of Aubrey’s willingness to invite others.

Aubrey is also a leader in other ways. She comes from a firm Christian foundation and has biblical knowledge. She is a big help in discussions and helps explain concepts I may have trouble getting across to other middle school students. She also knows the value of bringing others closer to Christ.

I am not sure the “Bicycle Gang” would exist without Aubrey. God put her here for a purpose. And it’s such a fulfillment of His promises to see this ministry grow…one bicycle at a time.


Article by Kristi Harrison-Coffey

MacDill AFB Campus Life Military Site Director, Kristi Harrison-Coffey is no stranger to the military. As a 10-year veteran in military-connected youth ministry, she is passionate about supporting these special young people. Kristi’s ministry builds off of her own experiences. A military BRAT herself, she supported her AF husband through retirement and walked her own children through the twists and turns of military life.