Religion feature: Bug love transitions to mission work

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Jack Quaif of Clovis applies a tire to a 1973 Volkswagen Bus Monday afternoon at his shop. The vehicle, which was donated by his late friend Lonnie Cross, will be restored and donated to a family in need through the Bugs4Christ organization.

Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Jack Quaif’s life would probably be a lot easier if he had thrown in a CD instead of listening to the radio one May afternoon. But the auto shop owner is sure it wouldn’t be as rewarding, either.

“Things happen for a reason,” Quaif said.

Now, the owner of Jack’s Bug Hut is deep in a mission group that combines his love of Volkswagens, his memory of a friend and a generosity he says is desperately needed.

Quaif’s life was altered when he was driving on Main Street to run some errands, and tuned to a Christian radio station.

“I heard them talking about a guy from south Georgia that was going to come out in July,” Quaif said. “They were going to restore a Volkswagen 73 Super Beetle.”

The guy was John Albrycht, a youth minister in Gray, Ga. People he worked with did ministry work in New Mexico, but they could never find a way to reach the teenagers.

That, Albrycht said, was how he founded Bugs4Christ. He’d tinkered around with Volkswagens for more than two decades, and found it to be a vehicle to minister to young men while teaching them how to restore a car — then give the finished vehicle to somebody in need of transportation to either go to work or find work.

“They were very cheap to restore and they were basic mechanical cars,” Albrycht said. “They’re easy to teach kids the basics of mechanics with.”

Without the radio interview, Albrycht and Quaif said, the Bugs4Christ crew would have driven right past Clovis and neither party would be the wiser.

Instead, Quaif left July 11 for the Pintado Pueblo and brought most of his tools for the approximate week of work. Albrycht’s crew came with a Beetle so ravaged by the years it was named “Barnacle Bill.”

The car was disassembled at Tse Yi Gai High School’s shop, and the crews worked 20-hour days until the car was completely restored by the crew and about 125 citizens who volunteered.

“We had a lot of help on the grunt work,” Quaif said.

One of the volunteers, a 34-year-old father of two, was given the vehicle. Quaif said the man was still coming to grasp with the gift, even as he was brought on stage to sign the bill of sale.

Quaif couldn’t help but tell the stories of his trip, and the word got to his friend Lonnie Cross.

Cross was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and died four weeks after his diagnosis.

Before he died, he decided he would part with his 1973 Volkswagen Bus for the charity. “It was his baby,” Quaif said, but it needed a new engine and other work that Cross couldn’t afford.

“Then Cliff Lincoln’s dad had a VW bus,” Quaif said, “with a good engine, but it needed body work.”

The car was donated, as was the engine and the services of a friend who did upholstery work. They’re hoping to get the van, and a Baja Beetle done by Christmas, and they have people in mind already.

And the work won’t end there. Every few days, Quaif runs into somebody with a Bug that doesn’t work, or somebody who knows of some cheap Beetles that still run.

“Jack seems to have some phenomenal connections there, but we’re having a hard time here. It’s not as easy to find vehicles here,” Albrycht said. “With the humidity, they rust out pretty bad.”

Quaif said he’s not working with Bugs4Christ to draw attention to his shop. He has enough restoration work to keep him busy for the next year at his unmarked shop across from the Clovis Aquatic Center.

He keeps a John Deere bag in his shop to remind him of Cross — “It may freak you out,” he said, because the bag contains some of Cross’ ashes. But he never needs a reminder of why he never thinks he’s done enough. He mentions the children of the pueblo sent Albrycht a Christmas list that looked like his grocery list — deodorant, toothpaste, soap.

“And that’s what they want for Christmas,” Quaif said. “There’s not a toy mentioned in the whole thing.”