God Speed Ministry celebrates eight years of changing lives
Nitro Jam Media
Nov 23, 2011
The year was 2004.
Gary and Renee Bingham, longtime supporters of the International Hot Rod Association, were on their way from their home in beautiful Kings Mountain, N.C. to the Alamo City of San Antonio to compete in the season-opening Texas Nationals.
Gary, just eight year removed from his trio of IHRA championships in Top Sportsman, was looking to get his season off to another strong start. Renee, a helper in the control tower during most race weekends, was looking forward to a big weekend for her family on the track. Both, however, felt something just wasn’t right.
For most of the nearly 22-hour drive through the heart of the U.S. the married couple now 35 years strong had a lengthy debate about what God was doing in their lives. As devout Christians, Gary and Renee simply felt there was more to be done. But what?
With no easy answer, the Bingham family went about their weekend like any other. Gary put down a few solid laps that weekend behind the wheel of his Quick Rod machine, qualifying seventh, while Renee continued to mull over their conversation in the car.
On Saturday afternoon, while Renee was handling the timing system, then-IHRA president Bill Bader cornered her and proclaimed to have something he needed to share with her.
“You, I have the perfect idea for you,” Renee recalled Bill saying. “I will tell you all about it tomorrow.”
That evening Renee and Gary were sitting around enjoying a big dinner. Gary was openly disappointed having lost in the first round that very afternoon, but overall spirits were high. During their meal, Renee proceeded to explain to her husband about the strange conversation she had with the IHRA president earlier that day. As Renee continued to explain, Gary’s face began to turn white, his mouth dropped.
“What time was that,” he asked. “Around 10:30 this morning, why,” Renee responded.
Renee vividly remembers what happened next. With tears beginning to roll down his cheek, Gary responded, “Whatever he asks you tomorrow, just say yes,” he said. “I was on my knees today asking God to show us what to do about that time. Whatever Bill asks you tomorrow, the answer is yes.”
The next day Renee met with Bill to unravel the mystery. With a smile unlike any other, Bill asked the Bingham family if they would like to form a ministry for the IHRA. With little more than a vision, Bill gave Renee until Rockingham a few months later to make a decision and the rest of the year to put it all together.
Remembering what Gary had said the night before, Renee did not hesitate. The answer was an emphatic yes. Three weeks later, however, that year to plan quickly turned into now.
“We were incredulous,” Renee said. “We didn’t have a name or anything. We didn’t know how we could put this all together so soon.”
First, thanks to the naming expertise of Aaron Polburn, the Bingham family narrowed down the name from three to one – God Speed. Second, Renee went to work registering the domain name for the website and recruiting help. Two days later God Speed Ministries was formed, with Gary and Renee, along with Steve and Brenda Corker, serving as the Board of Directors. Another day later God Speed had its incorporation papers and bylaws in hand. By the end of the week God Speed already had three chaplains.
God Speed Ministries was well on its way.
“The organizing of God Speed Ministry was definitely a God orchestrated event capped off by a sequence of divine acts and appointments,” Renee said. “It forever changed our lives.”
Finally, in November of 2004, God Speed Ministry became the official ministry of the IHRA.
From its humble and quickly orchestrated beginnings to where it is today, it is clear that a divine hand was in place to craft an organization from scratch with the mission statement aimed at “connecting people to God and to each other, ever growing a community of faith, comforting the brokenhearted and proclaiming that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”
God Speed Ministry consists of roughly 50 volunteers, 20 certified chaplains, five ordained ministers and over 20 volunteers actively ministering. In addition, God Speed has dozens more that assist at special events and help keep the organization going. God Speed has chaplains based in eight states and one Canadian province and has a chaplain on hand at every IHRA national and divisional event, in addition to several special races – a grand total of over 50 races a year. And that is just what the organization does locally.
“Our physical outreach extends to every track where IHRA holds events in the U.S. and Canada,” Renee said. “We also share our teachings by mail to small churches across various continents. We provide God Speed decals and Bibles to anyone who asks. Our chaplains also provide ministry at the request of any track or person and through that effort every year we have seen a marked increase in professions of faith.
“In addition to our racing outreach, our spiritual outreach via the internet includes partnerships with small churches in Pakistan, Africa, Aruba, the Philippines and Nigeria. Our prayer partners cover the globe and we are ever expanding, having just added sermons online to the new God Speed Ministry website.”
And Renee and Gary are not alone. Their children, Christy and Lisa, are also actively involved with the organization, having spent most of their lives on the road either through the ministry or racing. Both Christy and Lisa grew up at the track and both even spent time behind the wheel alongside their dad, winning events and sharing the gospel.
At one point both daughters had an opportunity to double-up alongside their father, with Christy winning on the same day at the Emerald Coast Dragway Pro-Am and Lisa winning at the New England national event. While Christy and Lisa never shared in the championship success their father enjoyed, all shared in an experience unlike any other.
“Our children have literally grown up at the race track. Our daughters, Christy and Lisa, were nourished on gas fumed, burnout smoke, dust and dirt in pits in the Carolinas,” Renee said. “They had more friends at the races than they did in our rural neighborhood. Their horizons were enlarged due to the travel and circle of acquaintances. More than anything, they learned not to judge people from different backgrounds.
“The girls wrote extra papers about their travel experience to offset their lack of time in the classroom, in addition to all their regular classroom work. It was a price we were all glad to pay in exchange for the memories and experiences we were sharing. Living life outside of the boundaries and confines of traditional experiences was a choice. A very good choice.”
Today, God Speed Ministry is as much a part of the IHRA as the racing itself. At most races the organization holds church services on both Saturday and Sunday morning, Renee provides the invocation before national events and she even visits the staging lanes to pray with racers before their passes. Most racers would be lost without the familiar faces of Gary and Renee at the track.
“God Speed began serving IHRA with a 30 minute chapel service and invocations. As the relationship grew and trust grew, we added children’s ministry and services,” Renee said. “At the racers request, we added a second service on Sunday and then again on Saturday. We provide chapel services at every IHRA national, Pro-Am, Team Final and Junior Dragster event in both the U.S. and Canada. We have dedicated divisional chaplains and children’s chaplains as well as music ministers and volunteers. It is one big family.
“Gary and I are blessed to be part of an organization with so many wonderful, giving people. There is only one part-time paid position at God Speed. Everyone else donates their time, talents and resources to make this ministry function.”
In addition to providing a spiritual outreach at IHRA events, God Speed also helps raise money and donates time to different charities and missions. Over the past few years the organization has provided tens of thousands of meals to children through the Feed the Children campaign, provided shoe boxes to children through Samaritans Purse and supported the troops and victims of natural disasters through prayer and packages.
On the racer level, God Speed also helps support racers in need whether by helping cover medical expenses related to a death or illness or by supporting those that need a hand.
“IHRA is a family; a family we love and cherish. These are people with big hearts and who believe in overcoming evil with good,” Renee said. “Because the hand of God has blessed us with life and resources, we use them to glorify Him by helping one another. We know we are all in this together and when we improve the life of someone else, we have improved our lot in life as well. It is part of our mission of being a human being.”
And they certainly aren’t slowing down. Closing in on a decade of helping people around the world, God Speed Ministries has big plans for the coming years that they hope will help expand their outreach and spread the word that people are not alone in this world.
And as an even bigger step, just last week God Speed was selected to receive membership into the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability after two years of trying to achieve this status.
“God has given me a huge vision for God Speed that includes more ministry at local tracks and building a relationship with the local communities and churches to work together to impact the communities, especially children,” Renee said. “We plan to launch a model program of working with kids, healing hearts and helping them connect to their purpose in life. This will all require more resources and staff, but I know it is something we can accomplish.
“This will be step two of the four part plan. The next steps will include redemptive housing, a conference and training center and community rejuvenation as we follow God’s plan of redemption for people, situations, places and dreams.”
To get involved with God Speed Ministries, visit their website at