Blessings, Bibles and Bikes

David Benson and Liz Bartel
David Benson and Liz Bartel, members of Cruising Christians, examined the tire pressure monitor before heading back to their fellowship retreat campsite at Roper Lake State Park on May 23. Fellowship retreats allow members to bond and meet new members of the Tucson chapter.Noelle Haro-Gomez/NYT Institute
Steve Eddington and Mike Reich
Steve Eddington, left, and Mike Reich, right, members of Cruising Christians, gave spiritual guidance to a man inside the men's Gospel Rescue Mission Shelter in Tucson on May 26.Noelle Haro-Gomez/NYT Institute
Clifford Jennerjohn
Clifford Jennerjohn and his front patch of Cruising Christians, the Tucson chapter of Christian Motorcyclists Association on May 26. Jennerjohn, known as Crow, came from a long line of motorcycle club family members. He wanted to change his lifestyle and found Cruising Christians, he said. Noelle Haro-Gomez/NYT Institute
Cruising Christians used the Memorial Day weekend as a chance to have a fellowship retreat at Roper Lake Park in Safford on May 23.
Never mind the motorcycles and the leather vests. The men and women so outfitted who recently gathered at the Roper Lake State Park in Safford on Memorial Day weekend are not a gang or a motorcycle club.
They are the Cruising Christians — teachers, business owners, maintenance workers and others dedicated to evangelistic outreach to the motorcycle community.
The Tucson chapter is part of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, an international ministry active in 27 countries.

The chapter defies stereotypes found in popular culture by focusing its organization on Christian fellowship. Members do blessings at motorcycle stores and attend biker rallies, like Arizona Bike Week, where they hand out water — and Bibles. Members also do service-oriented work, such as feeding the homeless and volunteering at youth centers.

Cruising Christians
Cruising Christians used the Memorial Day weekend as a chance to have a fellowship retreat at Roper Lake Park in Safford on May 23.Noelle Haro-Gomez/NYT Institute

And they do it all on motorcycles.

“Everyone thinks we’re a club or a gang because of our colors, which is a back patch,” said Doc Madden, the vice president of the chapter. The patch, which takes up most of his back, is a large yellow triangle with a hand in prayer holding a Bible with a cross on it.

“We do not go out and start thumping the Bible and say, ‘You’re going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus,’ ” he said. “We wait for people to approach us, and then we share our own stories.”

The chapter fell apart at one point and was disbanded by the umbrella organization because it did not have enough members. Church visits and volunteer work brought membership back up.

“We don’t really focus on trying to go out and recruit,” Mr. Madden said. “We go out and get our colors seen at churches, so anybody who is there may say: ‘Hey, I ride a motorcycle. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, my lord and savior. I want to come join you.’ ”

Produced by Yolanda Martinez