As Howard Raney returned to his motorcycle, he saw the elderly man standing by it, holding a small zippered bag. Through tears, the man said, “Ain’t nobody gave me anything this nice in a long time.”
Raney is a motorcycle chaplain with U.S. Missions. He noticed the red, green, and yellow sticker on the pickup truck when he pulled up to the convenience store. Approaching the driver, Raney explained that he was a chaplain and the son of a Vietnam veteran, and he wanted to thank him for his service.
The man introduced himself as Delbert. He told Raney he was alone. His family avoided him because he was a “mean ol’ cuss.” As they talked, he said he “figured God was out there somewhere,” but he never had much to do with Him.
Chaplain Raney keeps Military Survival Kits in his saddlebag for just such encounters. The kits contain Christian literature, a camo Psalm 91 bandana, and a specially annotated Bible. He asked Delbert if he could pray with him. Delbert wasn’t ready for that. But while Raney was in the store, the Holy Spirit began to work. That simple gift helped Delbert understand that God really did care about him. God cared enough to send a chaplain to just the right place at the right time. Right there at the gas station, Delbert invited Christ into his heart.
Raney and other motorcycle chaplains meet many veterans. The biker community offers opportunities to serve and stick together, similar to values learned in the military. Many bikers join groups such as the Patriot Guard, which rides alongside military funerals to support the family, or Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), whose mission is to reassure vulnerable children. Motorcycle clubs are big contributors to Christmas toy drives. And for the last thirty years, bikers have honored fallen soldiers each May with the Run for the Wall. Riders from across the U.S. follow designated routes to converge in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam War Memorial.
Some people assume anyone wearing leather and riding a motorcycle is up to no good. Chaplain Raney explains that this misperception causes bikers to distrust outsiders. The term “motorcycle gang” offends most riders. They prefer to be called “clubs.” They refer to rides as “runs” or “missions” and just want to hang out with other bikers. Even as a rider himself, Raney must be patient when reaching out to people. He attends rallies and builds relationships with bikers and club leaders. As those relationships grow, he might pray for a sick biker or ask a blessing over a new motorcycle. He lets riders know he is always available to talk or pray.
Delbert wasn’t riding a motorcycle that day at the gas station. But chaplain Raney’s biker gear and respect for veterans helped him relate to someone other people gave up on.
Pray for Howard Raney and other motorcycle chaplains as they share the gospel in a culture that is often misunderstood. Please pray for open doors in ministry and for the hearts of bikers to be open to the gospel.
To learn more about motorcycle chaplaincy in the Assemblies of God, visit the HonorBound website.
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