By Adam Miller
STURGIS, S.D. (BP) – The sights and sounds in Sturgis, S.D., change where Main Street meets Junction.
Roger Persing, pastor of Church at the Warehouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., points across Junction to a strip of bars “where anything goes.” Bikers stagger in and out of the bars, as scantily clad women sit atop outdoor counters as a lure to the false hope inside.
“There’s a wall here. You can’t see it but it’s there. It’s spiritual darkness,” said Jim Hamilton, executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention.
And this is exactly where leaders such as Hamilton and North American Mission Board missionary Garvon Golden wanted to have a Gospel presence. Only a few yards away from Junction, more than 100,000 bikers out of an estimated 600,000 in Sturgis will cross paths with Southern Baptist volunteers each day who offer them true hope before they are bombarded with an alternative message only a few steps away down Main Street.
“That’s why we’re here,” volunteer Matt Searing said. Searing had never told a complete stranger about Jesus, and his first time was three days ago following a trek on a sport motorcycle from Missouri.
He and his wife, Amy, are part of a 20-member team from First Baptist Church of Nixa.
“I just drove 940 miles. I basically got off my bike and started sharing my story. It was awesome,” Searing said. “All I had to do was tell people how Christ had saved me. I just told my story.”
The Searings are two of hundreds of volunteers sleeping on church floors and in RVs who have traveled hundreds of miles to make Christ known to the swarms of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts at the 70th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Like every other vendor in the town, Southern Baptists provide a natural way of starting a conversation. If you listen to a three-minute story of how God changed a life, you can register to win a Harley or a four-wheeler. This year the Baptist ministry expanded to three venues — Sturgis, Rapid City and Custer, each with its own giveaway.
“Using a bike to draw people in communicates to them we’re serious about connecting with them,” Hamilton said. “We want to engage people in a way they understand with a language they understand.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of people who stay way past the three minutes just to talk,” he said.
Whatever the initial draw, God is using the stories inside the tents to create new stories among the hard-driving, hard-living bikers. Many of them leave the tent with a New Testament in hand and a deeper understanding of the Gospel.
“Everybody has been very open and receptive, which I wasn’t expecting,” said Tonya Hodgin of the Faith Riders from Beulah Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga.
Seeing an opportunity to reach women in the biker community, Hodgin said, “I just want to reach out to bikers and let them know that Jesus can save them. It’s not just for churchy people. It’s for all of us.”