Bikers and believers

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By Brian Garner

Ride for Jesus organizer Al Boyd anxiously watched the weather last week before the fifth running of the annual event.

He told the assembled group of bikers and believers who gathered Sunday morning in the Fred’s parking lot in Chester, that a few weeks before the event, “ I was worried, because it’s been raining every day. I said, ‘Lord, are You trying my faith?’ He didn’t answer. I kept watching the TV. Eighty percent, 60 percent. (Saturday) morning I woke up and looked at the TV. It said: eight percent. I nudged my wife and said ‘Won’t He do it? Won’t He do it?”

In spreading the word of the Ride for Jesus, Boyd said he attends several veteran-related, motorcycle-related events during the year and spreads the word about the event. He told a contributing editor for “Carolina Chrome” magazine who wasn't sure he was going to make this year’s gathering, “what we need is for you to come up so you can experience what’s going on up here and tell the world.”

Boyd said the Ride for Jesus continues to grow and expand and he says the reason why this camp meeting on wheels continues to work is “this is a blessed event.”

Boyd said the vision was given to the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Blackstock to bring in people to the church.

“We had no idea that an outreach ministry (which is what this has turned out to be) could be like this.”

He looked around at the rapidly-filling parking lot where Harleys stood cheek and jowl with Hondas and Can-Ams. “The majority of the people here are not from Chester,” he said.

“The event grows each year, and you can go places and meet people and they’ll say ‘I’ve been to Chester to the Ride for Jesus.’ We were at a restaurant in Rock Hill and the waiter gave us a pen to use and it said: Ride for Jesus. I was floored.

“A group of us went out to Yellowstone and we walked out of the cabin and someone in the group had a Ride for Jesus shirt on. That’s just awesome for me,” he said.

“We had no idea that this event was going to happen like this,” Boyd confessed. “Normally, we average 200-300 bikes here,” he said.

Two Chester residents, Phillip and Darla Gregory, said they decided to participate in the Ride this year for the first time.

“We saw it in the paper and we heard about it through posters, and we said it was a Ride for Jesus and we said we definitely needed to do that,” said Darla. Phillip said several of their friends had ridden in the Ride before.

“We really didn’t know what to expect: you have all kinds of bikes out here, and bikers of every kinds and everyone’s just having a good time,” Phillip said.

“And they’re coming together for one reason, and that’s Jesus,” Darla Gregory said.

Chester City Councilwoman Betty Bagley was cajoled into riding a motorcycle for the first time at age 87. When you asked her what possessed her to ride, she points to Al Boyd.

“He’s hard to say no to. I tried everything in the world, I said I’d teach Sunday school…he said I would be an encourager by riding a motorcycle. I don’t like motorcycles, I’m scared of them, but I’ll be in God’s hands and Mister Al Boyd’s hands,” she said.

“I’m just happy to do this; I’m up in age now, and I can always say when I get to Heaven, ‘God, I rode for You,” Bagley said.