SEDALIA — The 1967 Ironhead Harley Davidson motorcycle slumped against a wall, in bad shape and with an 8-inch mulberry tree growing through its heart. Rescued and restored, the Harley brought several motorcyclists back to God’s house.
As soon as Donnie Hayworth eyed the vintage bike, he knew Brothers of the Son, a Sedalia-based motorcycle ministry, had to attempt to restore it. As the months-long effort took shape, the men dubbed the Harley “Lazarus” and the process “the Lazarus Project.”
“We brought it from something unusable and undesirable to something beautiful, usable and desirable,” Hayworth explained.
They recognized that God had accomplished the same thing in each of their lives. “Jesus Christ does the same for us,” Hayworth said. “We brought this motorcycle from the dead just as He raised Lazarus.”
The men wanted to use their Harley “Lazarus,” which hadn’t been licensed since 1982, to publicly demonstrate God’s transforming work in their hearts. So they opted to give the bike away — but to add a little twist. They wanted to encourage the unchurched motorcycle community to see the church as a place of refuge and hope.
They found 12 churches willing to welcome motorcyclists into their congregations. They created tickets and distributed them at rallies and wherever they found ministry opportunities. “All they had to do was to go to church, fill out their contact information and place it [the ticket] in the offering plate when it was passed,” Hayworth explained.
Believing God has not called them to start a separate church, members of Brothers of the Son relied on the 12 partner congregations to follow up with motorcyclists who showed up in services.
“Our goal is to get bikers in church…not to create a church of our own, but to get them involved in those out there. We want to be a bridge,” Hayworth said.
“I stressed [to the pastors] that [follow-up] was the most important key to the program. We gave them more tickets so that whoever went to do the follow-up could leave another ticket.”
One hundred seven tickets appeared in various offering plates prior to the April 10 giveaway. The event attracted some bikers to worship more than once. “One guy finally stopped putting in tickets but kept going to church,” Hayworth said.
Shannon Albright, who dropped his ticket into the plate at Olive Branch Baptist Church, Sedalia, won the April 10 drawing. When they gave him the bike, the Brothers of the Son emphasized that God had a purpose for his life. “We told him that God had chosen him to receive it,” Hayworth said. “He was completely blessed.”
Although his parents still attended church, Albright had dropped away.
The Brothers of the Son meet monthly “but are involved in each other’s lives daily,” Hayworth explained. They usually don’t sponsor events. Instead, they participate in those scheduled in the motorcycle community where they can reach out “and get involved in their lives.”
“Unless we build relationships with the people we try to minister to, it [ministry] will come to nothing.”
The group is refurbishing a downtown building in which they hope to host drug and alcohol recovery meetings and possibly a Friday or Saturday night service of some type. “The weekend is hard for those trying to straighten up their lives. Many won’t go to church,” he said.
The Brothers of the Son see their lives as bridges to the church because they remain bikers themselves. “We live in the motorcycle community,” he said. “The only difference is now we have Christ.”
Hayworth started attending motorcycle rallies at age 18, going every time he could and building a biker “image and reputation.” He had come to Christ as a youngster but had turned away.
But “God had a master plan” that drew Haywood back, restored peace and “quieted that anger and rage” Hayworth had. And then the Lord allowed him to step back into the biker world. “I just want God to use me because I lived that lifestyle…. I just felt blown away that God called me back to this community…but as His witness.”
The Harley is actually the second bike Brothers of the Son have given away this year. They recently turned over title to a 1972 Honda Scrambler to Terry and Carolyn Routon to use in their mission work in Haiti.
The bikers have already started restoring another “basket case” — a 1965 Triumph — to be given away next spring. “The rebuilding gives us a chance to pray over everything…to make it into what Christ wants,” Hayworth said.
And a chance for another “Lazarus” to bring a biker to Christ.