STURGIS, S.D. (BP)–These three minutes in Sturgis, S.D., could be the most important moments of a biker’s life.
At the 68th Annual Sturgis Rally, bikers passing by the Dakota Baptist Convention’s “Sturgis Bike Give Away” tent are asked to sign up for a 2008 Harley-Davidson to be given away at the end of the Aug. 4-10 gathering of more than a half-million motorcycle enthusiasts.
Signing up takes three minutes — to hear someone’s testimony of their life before Christ, how they met Christ and how He changed their life.
“Is it really free?” the bikers regularly ask.
Yes, it is, just as the gift of God’s grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, is free. To sign up, you have be 18 years old, hear a testimony and write your name, address and contact number on a ticket. Your ticket is placed in a large drum with all the other tickets entered during the week. If you win the motorcycle -– well, you do have to pay the taxes.
Preparations for the outreach on Main Street in Sturgis entail a year of planning and praying.
“We start in the fall planning for the next year’s rally,” said Garvon Golden, one of the Dakota convention’s sharing Christ team leaders. “We reserve the booth space and revise the website — www.sturgisbikegiveaway.com. Volunteers are contacted and sent out packets of information to start the process of scheduling for the booth workers.”
The tent space is in its same location for the third year in a row, right in the heart of the action, where two blocks of Main Street are blocked off for bike parking and only pedestrian traffic is allowed.
A plus for Dakota Baptists’ 2008 ministry tent is that space in the Sturgis Realty Company allowed the Dakota convention to rent the air-conditioned office behind the tent for storage and data input.
Permits, meetings with the Sturgis City Council and the Rally and Races Committee and securing state sales tax licensing are just a few of the matters to be addressed during the 11 months prior to the rally.
During the winter, the Dakota convention convenes a Sturgis Rally Round Table, which took place this year in February. More than 25 volunteers traveled to the Dakotas to participate in the meetings and to prayerwalk the town of Sturgis.
“They came up with new and creative ideas for this year’s rally,” said Buck Hill, the Dakota convention’s new mission team leader/church planting strategist. “The inspiration for a follow-up booth came from a prayerwalk on a very cold day when an unused [booth] space was up for rent across the street from the ministry tent location.”
Thus, the “What’s Next Booth” is being managed by volunteers from a biker-oriented church in North Carolina. After someone has prayed to receive Christ, they are escorted to the What’s Next Booth where they are encouraged to find a church home and to share with others what has just happened to them. They are given a “Hope for the Highway” New Testament and other materials along with a phone number of a new brother or sister in Christ and a prayer of blessing. Prayer requests from new believers also are written down and forwarded to volunteers focused on praying for the Sturgis outreach.
During the spring months, preparations for the Sturgis outreach include securing volunteers and networking with partnerships across the United States. The North American Mission Board and churches from several states all donate resources. Some of these funds help in purchasing the giveaway’s motorcycle from a dealer in the Dakotas, after finding the best price available. This year’s bike is a 2008 105th Anniversary Edition Softail Deluxe. The Harley-Davidson’s coppery bronze body with black-and-tan leather seat provides a focal point that certainly grabs the attention of rally-goers as they pass by the ministry tent.
In July, a prayer focus for the entire area affected by the rally includes physically prayerwalking the town, local campgrounds and the spot where the ministry tent is located, interceding for the needs of the ministry volunteers and for many to turn to Christ as their personal Savior. Some volunteers who are unable to walk drive through the area in prayer and a virtual prayerwalk can be conducted on the ministry’s website.
The week before the rally, a few local Dakota Baptist volunteers and staff members stay busy checking schedules and housing accommodations, securing equipment, taking care of glitches that come up and organizing transportation for volunteers who will arrive at the airport in Rapid City, S.D. Two days before the official start day of the rally, the tent is set up and boxes of tracts, tickets and forms are hauled in.
This year, more than 160 volunteers from 15 states are slated to work at the ministry tent. Some stay in campgrounds, in homes or at area churches on cots and air mattresses. This year, the Montana Southern Baptist Convention has brought their shower trailer to be used at Calvary Baptist Church in Rapid City for the F.A.I.T.H. Riders who have traveled across the country for the outreach.
Each volunteer is trained to give their testimony in three minutes. The training, available Monday through Friday, takes place at Black Hills Baptist Church in Whitewood, S.D., about 10 minutes from Sturgis.
Evangelist Ronnie Hill of Texas-based Ronnie Hill Ministries, leading the training, tells the volunteers, “People are looking for satisfaction like the song from the Rolling Stones says, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried and I’ve tried.’ Only Jesus can give you satisfaction!”
This year, training also was held on Saturday for early arrivers and a “dry run” was held at the booth on Main Street on Sunday afternoon from 2:30-5:30 p.m. for volunteers to put into practice what they learned at the training the previous day.
“Many months of preparation paid off beginning with what happened on Sunday,” said John Little, one of the Dakota convention’s church planting missionaries. The Gospel was presented 271 times and 65 decisions were made to receive Christ in just three hours on Aug. 3.
The tent opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. each day from Aug. 4-9. Volunteers and Dakota Baptist staff members work in the booth in three-hour shifts. A live web cam shows the action on the Internet on the www.sturgisbikegiveaway.com website. The bike drawing will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10.
Diana Bricker is a regional reporter for the Dakota Baptist, newsjournal of the Dakota Baptist Convention.