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'Sturgis call' given for Georgia Baptists to assist at annual motorcycle rally

 

Scott Barkley/Index

Georgia Baptist Executive Director J. Robert White, left, and Phil Pilgrim, right, speak with a group of GAs at the Missions and Ministry Center June 4.

When up to 800,000 bikers gather in Sturgis, S.D., in early August for the annual bikers rally, it might be the last place they would to expect to find a Georgia Baptist minister. But Phil Pilgrim, dressed in black leathers and riding his Harley Davidson, will be right at home – sort of – as he shares the gospel with the unique subset of American culture.

Pilgrim, a ministry resource consultant for the West Central Georgia Region based in Sharpsburg, will be ministering alongside Dakota Baptist Convention (DBC) members and other Southern Baptists who will also converge on the small hamlet for the annual event.

The Georgia Baptist Convention is partnering with the DBC this year to sponsor a booth in the thick of the action where a gospel presentation will be the main venue, along with the chance to win a new Harley with a street value of about $20,000. The DBC is issuing a “ya’ll come” to Southern Baptists nationwide to come help with the booth and street witnessing opportunities.

The event is scheduled for Aug. 3-10 with the booth being available Aug. 4-12, Pilgrim said.

To say the population of the small town will “swell” is an understatement. The 2005 census estimates the Sturgis population at 6,260. More than 800,000 visitors are expected to pour into the area for an event that captivates media outlets for days at a time.

Even the population of the entire state – 781,000 by U.S. Census estimates – will more than double for the week-long event.

“This is, by far, the largest single event that the Georgia Baptist Convention has ever been involved in. The Olympics are always a big event, but they only average attracting about 250,000, with about 90,000 attending opening and closing events,” he explained.

Pilgrim is hoping Georgia Baptists will be among those ministering at the event and will come early for witnessing training. Individuals will be needed to share their testimonies at the booth and chaplains will be needed to wander the crowds to minister as needs dictate.

Scott Barkley/Index

Phil Pilgrim, ministry resource consultant for the West Central Georgia Region, explains to GBC Executive Director J. Robert White the finer points of his 2000 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic.

The booth is expected to be a popular place since those who want to register to win the motorcycle are first required to listen to a three-minute testimony. At the end of the presentation they can leave or remain to hear more and have their questions answered.

Pilgrim said he will be training volunteers from the Peach State, as well as other conventions, on how to relate to those in the biker culture.

Regardless of how many volunteers attend, Pilgrim is asking churches to participate in 30 days of prayer for the ministry beginning around the time of the Fourth of July and continuing through the end of the rally. Churches desiring to participate will be able to be linked up with DBC churches as prayer partners in the effort. Churches desiring to enter into a prayer partnership can contact Garvon Golden at the DBC at garvon@dakotabaptist.org or by phone at (701) 255-3765.

“We plan to have a strong Christian witness at this event and we are praying for as many Georgia Baptists as possible to participate, either in person or through their prayers,” Pilgrim said.

Last year about 270 individuals made professions of faith at the August rally. Pilgrim said this year’s volunteers are already praying for a similar harvest and for the planning of “a lot of seeds” for future harvests, as well.

For more information on the rally read a more indepth story on Baptist Press at http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=25707.