Wheels of Faith
STURGIS, South Dakota — Near the Mangy Moose Saloon on Main Street in Hill City, South Dakota, an Assemblies of God lay ministry called Wheels of Faith set up a booth to help bring the gospel to those in the vicinity for the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally.
It’s a family affair for chapter leader Perrie D. Benton, 51, his wife Jenny, 45, their daughter Amber, 26, and son-in-law David A. Smart, 30 — all from Minot, North Dakota. For nine years running, Perrie and Jenny have spent their vacation time here offering ministry to riders and their families. It’s also personal for Perrie: he came to Sturgis as a teenager with his uncle, a Hell’s Angels member, and lived wildly before finding his way back to the Lord.
Benton’s wayward years, and addictions, ended 11 years ago at River of Life Church, an AG congregation in Minot. Upon receiving prayer and a powerful word of knowledge, Benton says the Lord delivered him completely from a taste for drugs and alcohol.
“There hasn’t been a setback since,” Benton says. “The glory is only God’s, because I had never been able to do it myself.” He also says Wheels of Faith stems from visions the Lord gave to him in prayer of doing ministry work from motorcycles.
Those visions came true when the Bentons in 2012 started a chapter of Wheels of Faith, which is based out of Faith Assembly in Orlando, Florida. Perrie excitedly returned to Sturgis.
“I had a different mindset and for different reasons — not to get high, get in fights, and be an idiot,” he says. “Some of the people we ministered to that first year I had seen in those visions.”
This month, the streets of Sturgis, Keystone, and many other South Dakota towns rumbled constantly with the sounds of thousands of bikes rolling through the streets. The Sturgis rally has matured from a once-violent, vulgar, drag-racing mega-party to an event which draws suburban professionals, some of whom haul their Harley Davidsons in on trailers behind their RVs, with their wives and children in tow. The change surprised Perrie, who rides a titanium and black Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager.
“People come from all over the world with their kids,” he says. “The age group of the riders is definitely in the 40-plus range.”
Jeffery B. DeWitt is president of Wheels of Faith, which started in 2000 and has 13 chapters, primarily in Alabama, Florida, and North Dakota.
“Our mission is to reach guys that are like we used to be, the ones that have never heard of Jesus Christ,” says DeWitt. “We can relate to the motorcycle community.”
DeWitt rides a 2009 Harley Road King touring bike. He and his wife, Susan, and son Benjamin lead outreaches at major events like the rallies in Daytona and Sturgis, and in small town festivals popular with bikers.
DeWitt shares the testimony of one outlaw motorcycle club member he met in Daytona. The man had grown tired of the outlaw lifestyle and wanted to break out of it. Through friendship, he eventually came to church with DeWitt, met the Lord, and now serves as an usher at Faith Assembly.
At Sturgis this year, DeWitt and Benton say 107 people prayed to receive Jesus at Wheels of Faith’s multiple outreach sites.
“It’s been very fertile ground,” says Benton.
New converts leave the booth with a free “biker Bible” — a version of the New Testament with motorcycle handlebars on the front — and a promise to connect them to an AG church in their area when they get back home. Jenny heads up the family’s “glitter tattoo” ministry, creating shiny, multicolored art on children’s arms, and talking to their parents while she works.
Throughout the year, Wheels of Faith members ride together regularly and conduct outreaches in their respective towns.
“When I was just chasing freedom, I didn’t realize what I was actually chasing was being close to the Lord,” Benton says. “When I’m out there by myself it’s the closest I can get to the Lord.”