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More Than 1,000 Accept Christ
During Stugis Biker Rally
Soft breezes and sun filter along the Black Hills near Custer to fill a rustic camp at the edge of town. As evening settles, pastor Jeff "Noose" Nuzziard performs a sound check for a band from Nixa, Missouri.
Bikers find a space in the grass to relax and listen after a long day of riding and sightseeing in the region. More than 600,000 bikers rolled into Sturgis, South Dakota, August 9-15 for the 70th Annual Sturgis Rally, the biggest biker party in the country. But the clean and sober Jazer Camp a few miles outside Custer offered a different tenor from the free-for-all in other parts of the Black Hills.
For $10 a night bikers get a place to park their ride and pitch their tent, and they're provided two good meals a day and good bands playing into the evening. Lodging is at a premium during the rally, as are locations where drugs, sex and alcohol don't flow freely. This makes the Set Free camp an ideal respite for weary road warriors and likewise a place where God's peace engages the senses in a way exactly opposite to the barrage of biker mayhem.
"They can come here and have fun without being confronted with all the stuff that's in Sturgis," said Bill Savery, pastor of First Baptist Church in Custer. First Baptist hosted Jazer Camp and has made a five-year commitment with the Dakota Baptist Convention and Set Free Ministries to run the camp at future rallies.
Noose Nuzziard from Set Free Church in Denver and J.T. Coughlan, pastor of Set Free Ministries in Great Falls, Mont., partnered with the Dakota Baptist Convention to provide security and ministry volunteers at the camp. Both have former lives and connections within the biker community and know how to provide an atmosphere inviting to bikers.
"We're just out here to reach these people who may not have any idea what goes on in a church," Coughlan said.
During the week, Jazer Camp hosted biker groups and individual riders whose first impression was a sign reading "No drugs. No alcohol. No joke." But the camp left a lasting impression as a place where judgments are withheld and truth and compassion are expressed through stories of God's power and acts of kindness.
Through the hands and feet of His people, Christ was in Sturgis this year, His love displayed by Southern Baptists who traveled from the nearby Dakotas and from states such as Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.