A drug-addicted alcoholic on the brink of divorce – that was Phillip Morris’ fate.
“I’ve done everything but the needle. Pot, pills, cocaine, LSD, all that,” he told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on Saturday.
But he’s since found a new habit, giving up brief highs for a hand in more fulfilling service like “Bikers with Boxes.”
This year, more than 850 riders rumbled into the Billy Graham Library parking lot for the Fifth Annual shoebox event. And out of that sea of chrome and leather came nearly 1,500 boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child – the biggest contribution from the event to date.
Morris believes motorcycle groups are the “perfect tool” to reach the unsaved, especially those caught in the often lawless biker world like he was.
“They think because of what they’ve done, they can’t ever live the life I got,” Morris said. “And I want to tell them, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, Jesus forgives all.”
At age 12, he took an interest in the biker world, studying the edgy lifestyle down to its gangs and the colors and tattoos they bore. As a teen, Morris went to biker rallies with his brother-in-law, who was also a drug dealer.
After his dad died when he was 16, Morris said he “went haywire.” His mother grieved for years, leaving the streets to teach her son the lessons of life.
By age 20, he was married, but that didn’t bring maturity. To keep his steady job, which required random drug tests, Morris turned to alcohol instead.
“After about seven years of running the bars, I came home one night and my wife’s crying her eyes out and said, ‘I can’t live like this anymore,’” he recalled. “I needed to make a change.”
With some nudging from a co-worker, Morris asked Christ to come into his life and take control. He knew he was close to losing it all.
“It wasn’t instant,” Morris admitted, but over time he and his wife reconciled, “fell in love,” and now have an 11-year-old daughter. The pair also got involved in church and eventually joined a Christian bikers club, the Carolina Faith Riders.
For the last four years, Morris has coordinated club members from across North Carolina to gas up their motorcycle of choice (he prefers Harleys) for a massive parade to Bikers with Boxes. And each year is an emotional ride.
“I cried from my church to here,” Morris said.
That’s about 50 miles of tears.
Carolina Faith Riders was the largest group to participate this year. With each box filled with small but meaningful gifts, they helped give hope to a needy child.
The Greatest Gift
Sorina Riddle is all grown up now, but the impact of Operation Christmas Child still brings her to tears. With the roar of bikes coming and going behind her, she shared memories of her childhood in communist Romania.
“I grew up in a country that did not want to teach the children and the families about the existence of God,” she told Bikers with Boxes attendees. “I did not know who God was or what He had done for me.”
Very poor, a Christmas present from her parents consisted of a banana and orange, sometimes a piece of candy. It was in 1991 that she prayed to God asking for a little more.
“That particular Christmas I hoped with a child’s prayer that maybe I could get something I needed for the winter time,” she said tearfully. ”I imagined that I could have maybe a hat, gloves and a scarf, but I didn’t think I could get them.”
Around that same time, Riddle was asked to go to a kids program at a nearby Baptist church. So, she and her brother trekked in the snow to the event, not knowing what to expect.
“They told us that if you don’t have anything, you can have Jesus, because He’s a free gift,” she said.
At the end of the service, Riddle and her brother were given shoe boxes from Operation Christmas Child.
“And to our surprise we found coloring books, and pens and pencils, and school supplies,” she said.
But for her, the box meant much more.
“On top of everything, I found in that shoebox my child’s prayer. Remember I had wished for that hat, scarf and gloves – that is what I found in that shoebox in 1991,” she said.
“I believe that God honored my child’s prayer and sent somebody like you to the store to pack those particular items, so that they would make it to me,” Riddle continued. “And that those items would open my heart as a child to the Gospel of Christ.”
Riddle was eventually baptized at age 17 in that church.
“Know that your job is to pack the box and to put a prayer with it,” she told the bikers. “And to trust whether you chose a scarf, hat and gloves, or whether you chose just toys, that God will know what child in what country needs that particular box.”
Bikers and other donors still have time to gather their boxes. Samaritan’s Purse National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child is Nov. 12-19. To learn more about Operation Christmas Child and how you can help impact a child’s like through these simple gifts, visit here.
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