All aboard! This story is about trains.
Well, one train. And one Rancho Cordova minister. And how sometimes it is the little things that count.
David McFarland is the pastor over at New Life Center on Zinfandel Drive. He has been the pastor there since 1988 – 29 years.
Roll past New Life Center and you cannot help but notice the colorful mural painted on the front of the church depicting happy children waving from a train. If you are part of the preschool there you might get a ride on a train that looks a lot like it once a week, built by the loving hands of Pastor McFarland himself.
But how did it come to be?
It goes back to 2008 during the financial meltdown that came to be known as the Great Recession. During that time many parents could no longer afford to send their kids of the New Life Center Preschool and the stack of bills got higher as the enrollment rolls got shorter. It looked like the school would have to close.
But Pastor McFarland adheres to the notion that God helps those who help themselves. He conjured up the idea that building a little train for kids might just draw enough attention to the preschool that it could be saved.
He has always been mechanically inclined. And it really did not seem so hard to start with a riding lawnmower and transform it into a train. And as he worried and prayed about the future of his preschool, his little train started to take shape.
There’s an engine. There’s a blue car, a yellow car, a red car, and a caboose of sorts. And today, if you are at a community event with children in Rancho Cordova, Pastor McFarland is probably at the controls, while giggling kids of all ages take a little train ride.
At Kids Day, the train runs non-stop down to the Live Steamers Railroad, which by the way, Pastor McFarland also supports. At the Fourth of July, you will see the train in the parade, and in the park, waving flags. At the Christmas Tree Lighting, decked out in lights, the little train chugs happily away, a cargo of Rancho Cordovans in tow.
What happened to the preschool? Well, the train, or the good Lord, did the trick and today it continues, along with weekly rides for the kids.
To tell the truth, Pastor McFarland said, the preschool was saved mainly because another church preschool closed and the students remaining there transferred over to New Life.
“In closing their preschool, ours was able to survive,” he told us. “They gave us 17 of their students and that was enough to start the healing process and get our preschool on solid financial ground. We will always be grateful for that act of kindness. That is the kind of people we have in Rancho Cordova.”
Around town, the New Life Center train has become a part of the community fabric and just another great reason to live here.
Would it not be a better world if everyone facing a challenge could answer this way – finding joy in adversity? Indeed, it is a Golden Ticket to happiness if we ever saw one.
To the Rev. David McFarland, many thanks for this wonderful lesson that there is more than one way to get yourself back on track – including building, and sharing, a wonderful little train.
Well done, indeed. We Could Not Have Done it Without You.