June 14, 2006

When Black Leather and Bibles Meet

1517 page28 capary Andregg accelerated smoothly as he left Townsend, Montana, the low rumble of his big Harley-Davidson motorcycle barely audible in his helmet. Behind Gary and the small tent camper he was towing, his wife, Karen, kept pace on her own powerful Harley.
Suddenly a family of ducks crossed the road right in front of Gary, who slowed quickly. Before Karen knew what was happening, she hooked the back of the trailer with her saddlebag, throwing her out of control.
Feeling the bump, Gary looked back to see Karen hurtling down a 10-foot embankment before landing in a heap. Losing the battle to control his bike, Gary crashed just down the road.

A Unique Ministry

Longtime Adventist-Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) members, the Andreggs were on their way that fateful evening from their Sandpoint, Idaho, home to the 2004 ASI convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had planned to visit Sturgis, South Dakota, on the way to help other Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA) members serve at the famous motorcycle rally held there each year.

CMA members regularly attend motorcycle rallies and offer to help organizers, who are more than happy to have the alcohol-free CMA members take tickets, keep order, run food services, and do many other tasks. CMA members are greeted like old friends by the rough-looking bikers at the annual rallies.

A Desire to Serve

The Andreggs’ commitment to service began long before they became two-wheeled ministers for Christ. After meeting at Gem State Academy and attending Walla Walla College, Gary and Karen married and moved to a series of small towns and rural communities in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, where Gary worked as a nurse anesthetist.

1517 page28While working in Shelby, Montana, the Andreggs helped their local church grow its membership and increase enrollment in the church school. Gary also worked on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and flew his Beechcraft Bonanza to serve six remote Montana hospitals, sometimes all on the same day.

Two for the Road

Gary has been riding motorcycles most of his life, and he and Karen began going on road trips together after their last child graduated from academy in 1986. In the beginning Karen rode with Gary on his “hog.” But one day Karen “saw a gal ride by with her fringe just a-flappin’ behind her.”

She went back to the house and asked Gary, “Do you think I could ride one of those myself?”
“I don’t know why not!” was his enthusiastic reply.
Gary found her a Harley-Davidson Sportster, and, at age 61, Karen became a licensed motorcycle driver.
On the open road they found that other motorcyclists were quite sociable and open to serious conversations. Over the years they saw that there was a segment of society that no one was ministering to. When they heard of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, they joined it and proudly added the association’s patch to their black leather jackets.
Gary and Karen have been awed as God leads them, in His perfect timing, to people who need Him. Karen says, “We do a lot of hugging, listening, and encouraging, and at the end of the day we are grateful the Lord put someone in our path to share with.”
While they gassed up on the way to a Montana camp meeting, another biker wearing the CMA logo came to fill up. Then another biker came in—a tough-looking, poorly dressed woman wearing an old army hat. “She just seemed like a little waif with a large tattoo on her arm,” Karen recalls.
Gary walked back to her and invited her to eat with them. “You’d never do that in a car, but bikers do that sort of thing,” he explains. “We’re programmed to look for opportunities like that.”
While they were eating, the other CMA member told the woman, “We belong to the Christian Motorcyclists Association. We don’t thump you with the Bible; we don’t preach religion. We don’t shove it down your throat, but what we’re all about is to make sure you know about Jesus Christ.”
The other CMA biker, who turned out to be the Missoula chapter president, got the woman’s phone number and set a date to study the Bible with her. They had prayer for her before they parted.
“We think God wanted us there just at that time and for that purpose,” says Gary. It is thrilling to know that the Lord looks out for bikers.
“It’s very difficult for Adventists to be with bikers on the weekend because most of us would rather be in our own churches Friday night and Sabbath. But the opportunities to witness there are 10 times what they are in our normal walk of life,” Gary says. “Bikers see our patch and know what we’re about. A lot of people will seek us out to talk, and at every rally there are people who really want to change their lifestyles.”
But the Andreggs don’t minister to only bikers. Gary is also president of Mission Projects Inc., which supports Adventist schools in southern Mexico, builds churches, operates a small hospital in Belize, and supports several lay Bible workers.

Down, Not Out

Gary and Karen did not escape injury in their motorcycle crash. Both of Karen’s ankles were broken and required surgery, and her right optic nerve was injured. Gary broke his right leg and shoulder, lost two units of blood, and had a laceration above his eyebrow.

Their recuperation took several months, but they did return to their two-wheeled ministry.
Today they’re back on the road driving brand-new matching Harleys as they head to rallies around the country to listen, hug, and encourage other bikers to change their lives through God’s love.
Richard Dower is editor of the North Pacific Union Gleaner. This article has appeared in the Gleaner and in ASI Magazine (Fall, 2005).