LAKE GEORGE — They may look tough with burly physiques, beards and black leather studded with menacing-looking insignia.
But look closer:
That patch? It contains three crucifixes. And on the fuel tank, written in gnarly letters, is a message: “In the shadow of his love.”
Behind these steely facades are warriors for the lord.
As riders from across the U.S. suit up and swarm into Lake George for the annual Americade motorcycle rally, one group of motorcyclists is carrying an evangelical message to their fellow bikers.
For the past nine years, Chaplain Marty “Padre” Herman and his associates from Christian Motorcyclists Association: Tri-County Riders for Christ have staked out a slice of real estate on Route 9 near Exit 23 on the Adirondack Northway.
Under a tent that says “Bike blessings,” they wait for riders to pull off the motorcycle-choked main drag for an extra boost of spiritual octane.
SIMPLE CLEANUPS AND TOUGH MESSES
Herman blessed a pair of motorcyclists on Thursday before taking a break in a canvas tent speckled with motivational sayings and religious imagery, including an illustration of a man with a CMA vest embracing a crying comrade.
For the blessings, Herman or a colleague places one hand on the machine and the other on the rider’s shoulder.
The goal, he said, is to lift people up through prayer to help with whatever needs the rider has:
“Everybody has needs,” he said.
Then the blessing is extended through their motorcycles to keep them safe. Afterwards, he sends them on their way with a sticker and an oilcloth:
“For simple cleanups, use this rag,” reads the inscription. “For tough messes, follow the enclosed instructions”
Inside contains a palm card with uplifting words paired with Bible verses.
NO ONE LEFT BEHIND
Each encounter is memorable. Earlier that day, Herman prayed for a cancer patient.
Several years ago, a group of four women pulled in. But one hung back as her friends lined up to receive their blessings.
She told Herman she couldn’t pray with them because she was a devout Catholic.
“When the Rapture comes, I don’t want to be left behind,” she said.
Herman asked if she’d accepted Jesus as her savior.
“Then you’re coming with us,” Herman told her.
She wept, joined the group and prayed. And wept again.
Total conversions are rare, but have been known to happen.
“Once in a while, we’ll have someone give themselves over to Jesus on the spot,” Herman said.
The offerings were slow to catch on, with just 40 blessings the first year. But numbers are growing: The amount Increased to 120 the following year, “and we just keep going up from there."
The group aims to hit 250 this year.
Being a warrior for Christ can be taxing.
“I enjoy it when I get home and I’m tired,” Herman joked.
The biker, who lives in the Tug Hill Plateau community of Barnes Corners, said he looks forward each year to the event, which includes a fair amount of good-natured teasing.
“If you can’t have fun doing something, you shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.
The relationships endure.
Jay Devan, who was blessed earlier that morning, steered his motorcycle into the lot to bid Herman farewell before debarking to the Plattsburgh suburb of Cadyville, a straight 107-mile shot up the Adirondack Northway.
“It keeps me safe,” he said. “I guess it’s doing its job.”
He joked about stopping in a supermarket after a long ride. A woman looked at him:
“You look like you met Jesus,” she said.
“What’s wrong with that?” he responded.