Some came on a Harley, others rode up on a Kawasaki or Yamaha. The brand of bike didn’t matter. These riders shared a single purpose: showing the love of Jesus to children around the world.
The Billy Graham Library’s second annual “Bikers with Boxes” charity event brought in 575 shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a project of Samaritan’s Purse.
The shoe boxes are filled with toys, grooming items, school supplies, candy and hand-written notes of encouragement. They are then hand-delivered to children worldwide who are suffering because of natural disaster, disease, war, terrorism, famine and poverty.
“The boxes are a little symbol of hope,” says Franklin Graham, who is president of the BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse. “Hope for people who live in poverty, for children who have never had a gift in their life.”
Scott Carroll, who rides with the I-520 motorcycle ministry, embraces the vision and mission of OCC. “It provides a great opportunity to talk about God with people who wouldn’t darken the door of a church. That little shoe box is an open door for a ministry opportunity.”
He explained that the I-520 group, which took the prize for bringing 110 shoe box gifts, is geared toward outreach. Their name is taken from 2 Corinthians 5:20, and is code for “Wherever I go, I am an ambassador for Christ.” But, they avoid using the word club: “We have a lot of former Hell’s Angels and people like that who are very cautious and say they never want to be a member of a motorcycle club ever again.”
Carroll adds, “It’s so neat to see how God has gotten hold of their lives and changed them. Guys who were hell bent and bound are freed up and redeemed.”
In talking about the Bikers with Boxes specifically, Carroll says the ride is a “perfect, perfect tool. I get chills just thinking about it. There is one gentleman who is not a believer at all, but he loves to ride. He couldn’t wait for today; he had his four boxes done about six weeks ago.”
The two men had coffee last week and, says Carroll, “I was able to talk to him about what God does through these boxes. I told him that he’ll be able to go online and track his gift. He was so excited! He said, ‘I want to see where my box goes and what it does.’ And I told him, ‘There will be a little child somewhere that has some bright eyes and a changed heart because of your box.’”
Scotty Edgison agrees that the shoe box gifts are a great way to touch the lives of children. “OCC is an awesome ministry. We’ve actually worked at the Processing Center and we are going to do that again this year. I tell everybody, ‘If you get a chance to go, do it.’ It’s the most heartwarming work you’ll ever do in your life.”
His motorcycle group, PIGS – People in God’s Service – brings together “a bunch of people from different churches and it’s all about the Lord. It’s all about Jesus. It’s not about denominations. It’s about using what God gave us, He gave us the motorcycles. They are His, and we need to use them to witness for Him.”
“Bikers are all about causes,” says Don Stewart from Full Circle Biker Ministries and Trinity Church of the Nazarene. “They have a soft spot for children, whether for health reasons or children without a cause themselves and are lost, bikers typically have a big heart. They like to help a community – and like being part of a community of bikers, whether through ministries or just riding.”
Fans Young and Old
Betty Butler traveled all the way from Derby, N.Y., outside of Buffalo, just to see the bikers. The lively 84-year old thought it would be “thrilling to see the bikers zooming in with the Christmas boxes!”
She rounded up her daughters Sarah Griffenhagen from Winston Salem, N.C., and Becky Hudgins from Binghamton, N.Y., to accompany her and to visit the Library. “I also have two friends who are bikers and I am praying for them and taking these biker decals back to them,” says Butler.
Michael and Tyler Braver, a father and son team from the group Grace and Thunder, rode all the way from Savannah, Georgia. Their group picked up the prize for longest ride. “We are fortunate enough to be able to give back and help kids who have never received gifts before,” says Michael.
In describing their first visit to the Billy Graham Library, Michael adds, “It was fantastic. We really enjoyed learning more about Billy Graham as a person, about the man behind the ministries.” Son Tyler enjoyed Bessie the talking cow.
But the youngest person helping out at Bikers with Boxes was four-year-old Oliver Higgins, who, according to his dad, had fun packing the box that will “help another little kid.”
“We are so excited about the great response from the biker community!” says Diane Wise, Library Promotions Manager. “There was a great sense of camaraderie as they delivered their shoe boxes and toured the Library. We can’t wait to do it again next year.”
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has hand-delivered more than 68 million shoe box gifts to needy children in more than 130 countries. In 2009, the project hopes to collect and deliver 8 million shoe box gifts.
Although National Collection Week is Nov. 16-23, Operation Christmas Child is not limited to just one week a year or during the holiday season. It is a year-round project, requiring months of organization and preparation to reach millions of kids around the world.
About the Library — The Billy Graham Library opened in June 2007, and has since had more than 330,000 visitors from around the world. The 40,000-square-foot complex provides a glimpse at the life of Mr. Graham and is a continuation of his ministry. Throughout the year, the Library hosts several special events and activities for all ages. For more information on the Library and its events, please visit www.BillyGrahamLibrary.org.
Get involved with OCC — For more information on how to pack a shoe box, please visit www.SamaritansPurse.org. This fall, shoe box gifts can be dropped off at one of more than 2,400 collection sites located in all 50 states, including the Billy Graham Library.