Old Tractors, New Connections
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As missionaries through U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Motor Ministries, David, 63, and Brenda, 59, attend rides and rallies across the country, riding or trailering their special edition 2002 Harley Davidson Softail. They carry ministry supplies, including “Hope for the Highway,” a pocket-sized New Testament with testimonies and stories especially for bikers about lives changed by an encounter with God.
Recently, however, the ministry expanded in a new direction. During a special event at the fairgrounds in Springfield, David felt drawn to the different ways in which exhibitors connected with visitors, using items such as bracelets with colored beads to share the gospel. He and Brenda began discussing possible ways to connect with collectors of old tractors.
“They’re similar to the motorcycle community in that they enjoy camaraderie with each other, attending shows and fairs, but don’t always feel like other people relate to them,” says Brenda. Tractor collectors include older folks who want to preserve tractors like their parents operated, as well as younger people who want to learn more about earlier farming techniques and equipment.
Acquiring an antique tractor of their own to serve as a connection point seemed problematic. Nicely restored old tractors can cost thousands of dollars and not-yet-restored models require time and money. God already had prepared a way, however.
While ministering at Trinity Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Pahrump, Nevada, the Pantleos became acquainted with Bill H. Moore, an avid collector of old tractors. God used a guest speaker at the church to speak to Moore’s heart about being less attached to material possessions, prompting him to give away three of his collection of 30 tractors.
“I just felt the Lord telling me I had too much stuff,” says Moore, 78, a Vietnam veteran. He originally gifted a tractor to the Pantleos and two to the church. However, pastor Gary J. Senff — unsure how the church would exhibit the tractors, yet seeing their potential for ministry — urged Moore to donate all three tractors to the Pantleos. In 2020, the couple became owners of 1939, 1942, and 1949 International Harvester Farmall tractors. They added tractor shows to their Motor Ministries chaplaincy, the first chaplains to focus on that special interest.
The tractors ride to shows on a trailer pulled by the couple’s pickup truck and are parked near a ministry tent, where they are a great conversation starter. Along with the motorcycle Scriptures, another special pocket Bible, “Faith for the Farmer,” has been developed, provided by Light for the Lost. An additional giveaway is a simple plastic foam cup with the message: God’s love, like the contents of this cup, is free. Depending on the weather and type of event, David says, “We’ve had everything from hot baked beans to ice cream in those cups.”
In addition to motorcycle and tractor ministry, the Pantleos serve as chaplains to all-terrain vehicle as well as utility task vehicle (also known as side-by-side) enthusiasts. They attend the off-road races at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, and continue to add other ATV/UTV events to their calendar. As the ministry expands to include tractor shows and fairs, the Pantleos currently attend events in 23 states.
“I’m excited to see what God is doing through Bill’s obedience in giving the tractors and David and Brenda’s calling to use them for the Lord,” says Senff, 62. “It’s wonderful to get them out on the road where they can become ministry tools.”