Josh Mueller wasn’t exactly sure what he was getting into when he drove to the annual Sturgis bike rally.
Dakota Baptist Convention photo
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally visitors pass by Dakota Baptists’ bike giveaway venue where “catchers” invited them to register for a 2016 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softtail Classic by first listening to a three-minute testimony. The evangelism initiative yielded 242 professions of faith.
His brother Jeff is his pastor at Restore Church in their hometown of Yankton, S.D. Jeff had recruited Josh to volunteer at the Dakota Baptist Convention’s Sturgis Bike Giveaway evangelism initiative.
During their first shift at the evangelism venue, Josh was too nervous to share his faith with anyone, much less a stranger. Like many Christians, Josh was nervous about personal evangelism. Unlike many Christians, Josh develops a stutter when he’s nervous.
That night he observed and prayed for the team.
The next night Josh was a different person, Jeff said.
“It was definitely divine circumstances and by God’s grace that he was able to share his testimony and faith in Jesus,” Jeff said.
On that shift, Jeff was in front of the venue working as a “catcher,” interacting with Sturgis attendees and inviting them to register for the free Harley-Davidson motorcycle drawing at the end of the rally. First, they would need to listen to a three-minute testimony from someone like Josh, who was a “sharer.”
The brothers had a signal. If Josh was too nervous to speak to the prospects Jeff brought in, he would nod. As Jeff approached with the first two guests, there was no nod. Josh shared his story with two young men who had life stories similar to Josh, and they both made professions of faith in Christ.
“We were on cloud nine that whole night,” Jeff said. The rest of the week, Josh was a “witnessing machine.”
Dakota Baptist Convention photo
At the Dakota Baptist Convention’s 2016 bike giveaway, “sharers” meet with Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees as they presented their three-minute testimony.
Josh and other volunteers made 3,085 gospel presentations that yielded 242 decisions at the Sturgis rally. Visitors came not just from across America but also from England, New Zealand, Australia and Slovakia.
Not every decision to follow Christ was immediate. A couple from Arizona visited during a 7-10 p.m. shift, and the woman told a volunteer sharer from Georgia that she was a Wiccan. After leaving the event venue, the woman felt deeply troubled and decided to go back and find those “church people.”
It was after midnight, and the venue had closed. But someone directed the couple to a recreational vehicle behind the storefront venue in an alley where Buck Hill, director of missions for the Dakota Baptist Convention, and Bob Clardy, a volunteer from Whitefield Baptist Church in Belton, S.C., were staying.
“I need something, and I need it now,” the woman said through tears.
Hill shared God’s plan of salvation, and the woman prayed to receive Christ. Afterward, Hill congratulated her on her new spiritual birthday.
“Does that mean I’m worth something now?” the woman asked.
The next day when the couple revisited the venue, Clardy didn’t recognize the woman. Her countenance had changed from darkness to light.
“Only God can do what only God can do,” Hill said.
This year’s Sturgis attendance, estimated at 300,000 from Aug. 8-14, was down significantly from the rally’s 75th anniversary last year. Still, the spiritual conversations with visitors were deeper and more intense, Hill said of the interaction.
Garvon Golden, the Dakota convention’s executive director, said the success of the annual Sturgis Bike Giveaway has been their prayer emphasis. Each of the 128 volunteers received a guide called “Thirty Days of Prayer for Sturgis” to prepare spiritually to share their three-minute testimony.
The giveaway’s prize was a 2016 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softtail Classic, which maintains historic characteristics of original Harley-Davidson motorcycles, other than minor tweaks through the years.
The 2016 Sturgis Bike Giveaway – the 11th occasion for the evangelism outreach – entails a partnership between the Dakota Baptist Convention, North American Mission Board, Georgia Baptist Mission Board and donations from individuals and businesses. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., supports the event by bringing students for an evangelism practicum in a course led by administrative staff member David Sundean.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a writer and photojournalist living in Atlanta. For more information about the Dakota Baptist Convention’s annual ministry at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, visit facebook.com/SturgisBikeGiveaway.)