Tyler and Ashley Moreland's 2003 Aztek has 250,000 miles on the odometer, a replaced engine, a twice-replaced transmission and barely room for two kids along with all the hockey equipment. Though it probably shouldn't, it gets them where they are going.
It's a good example of so many things in the 28-year-olds' lives which probably shouldn't work but always seem to.
Six years ago, they felt inspired to start a street hockey program based on a Christian ministry. They'd teach fundamentals so everyone could have fun then playing games and also offer a small devotion.
Since then, Lamp Lighters Hockey Ministry has worked with more than 800 kids including Vacation Bible Schools, home school gym classes and clinics at eight or nine locations around the county. Every week they counsel and coach dozens of kids who maybe can't afford to play ice hockey.
Something that probably never should have lasted three weeks has a gameplan for the future. If anything, they are more excited today than when they started with no experience, no equipment, no facility, but plenty of conviction they were doing what God wanted.
"It seems like the hardest times have always made things easier because we have learned to trust on God more and more," Ashley said. "It's just doing what we've been called to do. This is the opportunity that God has afforded us, and we're just going to trust that it's all going to happen. If it doesn't work out the way you think it was going to work out, that doesn't mean it wasn't successful, it just means it worked out the way God wanted it to."
At the beginning, they didn't know enough to realize it probably shouldn't work, but somehow they made it happen. Without their faith, no one would have attempted what they are doing, and many friends who started shaking their heads in doubt are now nodding in awe at the way they work.
Somehow, they never seem to get discouraged, even when the Aztek needs more work. Currently, they are building toward a 10-week session starting Sept. 10
at St. Josepth's United Methodist on Sunday afternoons and First Missionary Church on Wednesday nights that costs $20 and includes a hockey jersey. Before that, they are working on the second annual All Star Challenge, an all-ages fundraising event Aug. 18 and 19 at the Parkview Ice House which includes six skills competitions and a 3-on-3 tournament. Registration is ongoing at lamplightershockey.com.
Oh, and except for a small stipend they use to pay for gas, insurance and diapers, the Morelands are volunteer workers. Tyler is also Habitat for Humanity's director of house works, while Ashley stays home with their son and daughter, organizing Lamp Lighters events during naps and after the kids go to bed. There are plenty of challenges, but it's impossible to argue with their success. There have been at least 100 new kids each summer.
"I think the biggest thing I've learned is sometimes you can make a big impact by taking small steps forward, just by saying there's a need, nobody else is doing it and we're just going to keep going," Tyler said. "It's been humbling. If you just put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving, you're going to see that impact over time, even though it may not be what you envisioned in the very beginning."
Usually, they've gotten guidance and help from board members and former Komets legends like Guy Dupuis, Doug Rigler, Eddie Long, George Drysdale, Kaleigh Schrock, P.C. Drouin, Ron Leef and Nick Boucher who regularly provide encouragement and make fundraising appearances. Now there are more volunteer coaches and hopes of expanding the program to new churches in the city.
But there have been a few times when the Morelands considered giving up the program, particularly after his mother passed away in 2015. Their sites were struggling, attendance was dipping and the fundraising was dropping. Realizing an untested faith sometimes doesn't realize its strength, they took time to re-evaluate.
Then good things kept happening and kept them from walking away. Encouraging words came from throughout the city and in hockey, and then they were asked to speak at Bob Chase's funeral service last November. Speaking last, Ashley blew everyone away with her analogy that for years the Komets broadcaster never got his chance to step up to the NHL, but in his death and faith he was definitely stepping to the highest level.
"That was a huge motivational shot in the arm for us," Tyler said. "We must be doing something right that we had the opportunity to honor that person, or when another Komets legend steps behind us and says they like what we're doing. There was something inside of us that just said keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and God has something for us on the other side. It's still not easy, but it feels better on this side. God continues to keep opening doors for us."
They believe in their purpose with renewed hope and determination. They've seen too many positive taps on the shoulder from God to get keep them on the path, and the kids keep coming to play and listen.
"We're not doing anything groundbreaking here, it's just basic stuff," Tyler said. "It's just giving a kid an opportunity that they otherwise wouldn't have. We're here to play hockey, learn about God and have fun. I think people are realizing that Lamp Lighters is not just a flash in the pan. We're committed to the community and we are not going anywhere. "
At least as long as the Aztek keeps moving forward.
For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.