Daniel Bates III — or simply “Pastor Dan” — is a man of faith, so he trusts that the Lord will provide and believes that good things will happen. But he has car insurance, too.
And that’s going to come in handy for the 48-year-old Lebanon resident, who oversees the congregations in Lebanon and Sweet Home for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Earlier this month, Bates was transporting 10 children from the Lebanon area to Central Valley Christian School in Tangent when his van was hit head-on by a Corvallis woman’s pickup.
Bates and the children weren’t injured, just shaken up and scared, but the other driver suffered serious injuries in the May 13 wreck.
His 15-seater passenger van also was totaled, Bates said.
For more than three years, Bates has operated a carpool for the Christian school with his private van, which he bought specifically for that purpose. Every weekday, he volunteers to drive Lebanon-area children to the Tangent facility.
Bates stressed that he didn’t have to buy the van because of his job — the four Seventh-day Adventist Church locations in the mid-Willamette Valley operate the school. Bates’ wife Anita Bates works there as a teacher and three of his children attend, as well.
He said he spent thousands of dollars out of his own pocket because he and his wife support the school and its mission, and think it’s making the area a better place.
“We really believe in what the school provides. Anything we can do to make it easier for parents to send their kids here, we’re willing to do what we can,” Bates said.
Central Valley Christian School’s advantages, Bates said, are small class sizes, a family-friendly setting and a safe environment. Teachers hold worship with their students every morning, and Bates said that teachers are able to provide better support for students during the pandemic, which has stressed families economically and emotionally.
The school, which has about 50 students in grades K-8, has seen a bump in enrollment as it was able to open up earlier than many other public schools during the pandemic. “A lot of parents really needed to have in-person instruction,” Bates said.
The idea for the carpool began when a single mother from Lebanon was taking college classes in Eugene, and her morning commute meant she couldn’t bring her child to Tangent, anymore.
“I talked to my wife about (the carpool) and said, ‘Why don’t we give it a try,’” Bates said. “When I first started it, I had no idea what I was doing.”
Every weekday, he drives around the Lebanon area, picking up children and driving to Tangent, then driving back in the afternoon. Parents now contribute for gas money, but Bates said he pays for all maintenance and insurance.
Bates is originally from California. He was leading a church in Minnesota when the opportunity came to move to Oregon in 2014. He jumped at the chance, in part because he had endured 65 straight days of temperatures below zero during a particularly brutal winter. “Right then, the idea of leaving Minnesota seemed appealing,” he said.
Leading two congregations can be challenging, however.
Bates leads Lebanon services the first and the third Saturdays of the month, and leads the Sweet Home services the second and fourth Saturdays. Guest speakers visit to fill out the worship schedule.
“It’s good, but it’s difficult. I never have enough time,” Bates said.
He added that he loves Lebanon and Sweet Home. “This is the best area where we’ve ever lived. The people are great. The small town feel. The location. You cannot beat the location,” Bates said.
He said that it was great to be close to the ocean, the mountains and metropolitan areas, but still enjoy the feel of country living. “For me, it’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
For the time being, Bates has been transporting a few students in his family’s minivan and other parents are stepping up to help with carpool duties.
He’s hoping he can get enough money from insurance to cover the loan he took to buy his 2014 Mercedes van. Bates would love to have a new van for next school year.
“I have spent time looking for another one, but it’s hard,” Bates said. He needs a vehicle that doesn’t require a commercial driver’s license, and he’d prefer a diesel rig for the gas mileage.
“I know God has provided in the past, and I’m just trusting he’ll provide in the future,” Bates said. “What that means, at this point, I have no idea.”
Kyle Odegard can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter via @KyleOdegard.