I found myself at Boomer’s Roadhouse in Waterford, Michigan on Sunday. I don’t tend to frequent bars, but sometimes a motorbike event takes me to one. This was different though. The owner of Boomers opens up his bar one Sunday a month for the Michigan Chapter of the Heaven’s Saints Motorcycle Ministry to hold church. Church in a bar? Absolutely!
When Jesus gave the command to go into the world and preach the gospel, He wasn’t talking about building a church building and hope they show up. It’s not a reality anymore that the church building is the refuge place for those in pain and seeking comfort. Christians need to get into the world and meet people where they are at. These Heaven’s Saints are taking the commission and going into the world.
The wait staff are also there voluntarily. This is one day that they are not paid to work, but they serve us with joy and exemplary service. The general feeling amongst the bikers is to bless the staff there, with courtesy and great tips.
At this service, Michigan Chapter Road Captain Roger Crawford shared his story in an interview style setting with Michigan Chapter Chaplain Victor Torres.
Roger is a Vietnam Veteran. “I was a peaceful man, but Vietnam turned me violent” he said with tears already choking his words. His first week at war he witnessed 70 men dead in an attack. Picking up body parts was a part of initiation into Vietnam.
Roger wanted to be a mechanic, instead he was made into a medic. “I saved some lives, I guess.” The pain is clear as Roger spoke of his trauma. Vietnam hurt this man, this brother. When anyone was killed or seriously wounded in a battle, the front line men were moved to the back for a 3-day break. Problem is, at the back, there’s ample access to heroin, pot and alcohol. Roger had his share. He explained that the troops would get stoned, high and drunk for three days. “It’s how we handled death.”
This created the foundation for the next 30 years of Roger’s life. When he returned from battle, he was a violent man. He knew the drug trade and turned to it as a means of making much needed money. He became a dealer. “That’s what I learned in Nam.”
Roger was also abusive. His voice shook as he opened himself to judgement as he spoke of the abuse he put his wife through, “She should have left a long time ago, but she stayed.” In 1991, Roger made a “deal with the DA” and had his wife charged, so he could stay a free man. This was indeed a low point for Roger.
In time, Roger hung himself in an attempt to end the painful life that was all too familiar. His attempt was unsuccessful and he woke up 8 days later in the hospital. His first words, “Did I wreck my bike?”
Three years ago, Roger ended up at Boomer’s Roadhouse, much like this Sunday. Victoria Torres, Victor’s daughter, sang Amazing Grace – which I believe is one of the greatest songs ever written. Roger shared that his father’s favorite song was Amazing Grace, and he had just passed away. Hearing Victoria sing the words to the song was “like my dad was standing behind me, talking to me.” Roger explained at that moment, God’s hand started to work through his life. In the parking lot at Boomer’s, amongst the chrome and shine of polished bikes, Roger asked for God’s forgiveness. His life began to change, he hasn’t smoked pot since that day. Roger says, “You have to want to change.” Despite all that he has been through, it was three years ago that Roger heard God’s call on his heart, and he wanted the change.
John 10:7-10a says, Jesus therefore said unto them again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door, by me, if any man shall enter in he shall be saved.
Roger has a story. A story with a blessed lesson. No matter what, no matter the mistakes, the pain, the drugs, the alcohol, the violence, God is calling in your life. You have to want to accept, you have to want to change.
Everyone has a story.