South’s men put wheels on different kind of outreach

Mar 20, 2018 | by Brad Rowland

Motorcycle ministry seeks to grow with spring ride in MWV

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army's motorcycle ministry in the Southern Territory seeks to make a big ride forward in April, when the Maryland and West Virginia Division leads a ride-in to Camp Tomahawk near Hedgesville, West Virginia.

The ride was to have taken place last fall, but it was postponed because of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. This year, the cyclists will ride to "Chosen," the theme of this year's men's camp, April 20-22, "to encourage our men throughout the division that they are chosen by God for his work," said Major Christopher Thornhill, MWV divisional secretary for program.

Details about the camp program and speakers will be made available as the date approaches.

About 200 campers are expected, Major Thornhill said. Of these, 10 to 20 may arrive on motorcycles. It's billed as an MWV Divisional Motorcycle Ride In, but everyone across the territory is welcome. There's no charge to ride; the camp registration fee will be $75.

Ride information will be posted to The Salvation Army Southern Motorcycle Ministry Facebook page, Those interested in attending should speak with their corps officer.

The motorcycle ministry started six years ago in the North and South Carolina Division with four men, "and now it's branched to three chapters with 10 to 15 members apiece," Major Thornhill said.

Lt. Colonel Kelly Igleheart, Captain John Sikes and Major Tom Richmond asked Major David Dunham in 2012 to come down from the Eastern Territory to help them start a motorcycle ministry like the one he had founded.

The group "would include anyone who has a love for Jesus, a love for ministry, a love for The Salvation Army and a love for riding," said Captain Sikes, now corps officer in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

Their first ride was in 2013 – a tour of North and South Carolina and Georgia and Tennessee – with seven riders and one chase vehicle.

"As we rode, we stopped at many different areas – rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and so forth – handing out water and sharing Jesus," Captain Sikes said. "Since our initial ride, each year there has been an annual ride of ministry as well as a ‘Men's Camp Ride-in' in the NSC Division, now headed up there by Captain Phillip Stokes. Each year, we have seen an increase in the number of riders in the Carolinas."

With Captain Sikes' transfer to the Maryland-West Virginia Division and Major Richmond's transfer to the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division, "we hope to start this ministry in these divisions," the captain said.

Anyone else interested in starting a bike-riding outreach in their own division can contact Major Richmond or Captains Sikes or Stokes. "It's the goal to have this ministry in every division with someone approved through ‘The Salvation Army Motorcycle Ministry' to head it up. Major Richmond has worked in the past on a territorial ride-in, and we pray this will become a reality in the future," Captain Sikes said.

The riders take as their Scripture 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Paul says, in part, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

Captain Sikes said, "We find people are amazed that we, as ministers of the gospel, ride motorcycles. We find that we can minister to those who we might not otherwise be able to."

Major Thornhill said, "The idea that you can take something like a motorcycle, and people who like to ride around with friends, and turn it into a ministry has always been wonderful to me. It was really started as an offshoot of the Men's Club. If we can keep it closely latched to the men's ministry aspect of it and the Army, there's nothing that couldn't happen."

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