Yesterday, I hugged some of these bikers goodbye. I served them for the last time at the restaurant where I work.
While our family-style restaurant is a popular Saturday breakfast stop for central Ohio bicyclists, we also have a group of legit bikers who reserve our banquet rooms for monthly meetings. I remember the first time the bikers converged on the buffet; I was wondering who let them into our restaurant. Covered in black leather, tattoos, and piercings, this group at first seems like a pretty rough crowd. But then I got to know them, and I realized the important work they’re doing in the Kingdom of Christ. If you look a little closer, many of the tattoos and jewelry feature images of the cross. And of all the religious patches on the leather jackets, this one is the most coveted: “Riding for the Son.”
CMA is a ministry dedicated to evangelism to the motorcycle subculture. Members of CMA chapters minister to the unsaved, are dedicated to maintaining a Christian witness within their own subculture, and provide Christian fellowship for bikers everywhere. (And I mean everywhere. CMA International has a presence in 32 countries!) CMA is also mission-minded and donates money to different ministries, including the Jesus Film project, Open Door, and Missionary Ventures, a ministry that provides transportation for indigenous pastors in the form of (you guessed it) motorcycles!
Two years ago, I started serving the local CMA chapter once a month. It was a little tricky to figure them out. I don’t exactly identify very much with that lifestyle. But as a server, I had to overcome whatever I felt toward them and treat them with respect.
Waitressing is really hard work. There are so many skills that go with it, and it took me a solid year to fully understand what it takes to be a good waitress. I have found that it’s a good idea to invent a personal service style based on a singular customer identity. This customer identity allows you to treat everyone the same, and it gives you important personal expectations. I’ve chosen to treat everyone who comes into the restaurant like my uncle. I chose the uncle personality because it is personal enough that you will be quite friendly and accommodating, but it is distant enough (at least in my case) that you don’t know their personal preferences.
So I took the uncle identity and ran with it. Suddenly, the bikers were my uncles. (Kind of.) I looked past the loud jokes, the leather, and the tats, and I quietly refilled the sweet tea AGAIN. And I asked the group how I could serve them better. When should I come into the banquet room? How can the mornings run more smoothly?
I think this group had felt judgment in the past. There had been problems with other waitresses who had served them. Were these servers judging the bikers by their appearance alone? Did these servers understand how these bikers are reaching a very specific evangelistic need? Were these servers themselves even saved? Maybe they didn’t understand what the bikers were even meeting about. (I knew about their biker ministry because two of the members are members at my Mennonite church.)
Soon it was requested that I serve them every Saturday they had a meeting. And so, I served them “like an uncle”. But more importantly, I served them like Jesus would. I felt it my small part to play in their ministry. They soon became very attached to me. (Probably because I started to memorize their drink and menu orders.) It was a little tricky keeping all the orders straight: separate checks, and they trickled into the meeting at different times. But I began to truly enjoy their funny biker vibe.
So when I announced I was moving to Indiana, and that I would be serving them one last time, they were all pretty sad. They thanked me profusely, encouraged me in my new endeavors, and one old guy all in leather gave me a hug. Before I left for the day, they gave me a generous check and a card that read, “God’s incredible goodness shines through you. Thanks for sharing it.”
Serving these bikers reminded me to look beneath the surface when it comes to matters of appearance. It reminded me how God places certain people within certain cultures and subcultures in order that His Word is preached. For example, what relevance do I (a young, white, Mennonite woman) have in a seedy bar? Nothing. But these bikers go to bars and pass out tracks and talk to people. They fit. They have big bikes and big leather. I may not choose to don a bandana and leather chaps, but I’m not going to stop anyone from sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in culturally relevant ways. I’m excited by the work of CMA. I think it is reaching a specific need.
Have you hugged a biker today?