Heaven on Wheels

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Gary laughs at himself a lot; it's part of his humble persona that puts strangers instantly at ease. Although members of Church in the Wind appreciate his easygoing, self-deprecating ways, the pastor's tell-it-like-it-is attitude is what really commands respect.

Gary polished that no-bullshit demeanor three decades ago, during a two-and-a-half-year stint in an outlaw biker club whose identity he'd rather not reveal. "It wasn't the Hells Angels," he says, but it was a wild time nonetheless. "There'd always be a ride on the weekend, and when we got to where we were going, it was a party," he remembers. "Occasionally there'd be fights, and some of the guys did drugs, but I did not."

"That was my department," interjects Diana, his wife.

Gary was working for an automotive-supply business back then, and three of his co-workers were in the same biker club; they all drank a lot, and one of the men had a particularly bad alcohol problem. "One day after a club run, I came in and he was all cleaned up and spiffy, and he didn't have the usual strong smell of alcohol on his breath," Gary recalls. "I asked him what happened, and he said he'd met Jesus. I was like, 'Yeah, sure.' I figured in a week he'd be back to where he was, but he stayed clean for several months, and it intrigued me, so I went to church with him one Sunday.

"They had a guest speaker that day, and I felt like he was talking to me. I was going through a bad time in my personal life, and I was in a bad marriage. He said he didn't care what the question was; the answer was Jesus. I got comfort from that."

Gary decided right then to become a Christian, and he noticed an immediate change in his attitude. "I instantaneously quit drinking," he says. "And the desire to hang out with everyone at the club disappeared."

He'd only joined the biker group because he wanted to be with people who would accept him for the anti-establishment Southern California native he was, Gary explains. After he became a Christian, he no longer craved their acceptance. "I didn't need them, and because I kept talking about God, they didn't need me," he says. "A few months later, I stepped out of the club."

Since then, Gary has been an inspiration to numerous bikers. He's appeared, like an angel, to many people just when they needed him the most. One of those people was Diana.

"I was busy trying to find the meaning of life, and it meant doing drugs and going from guy to guy," remembers Diana, a hippie who had never been involved with bikers until she met Gary. In the '70s, she took speed, smoked pot and even snorted animal tranquilizers. "I finally got tired of life. I couldn't trust any man; all of them were unfaithful. One night I sat down and wrote a suicide note, leaving my three kids to my mother. I took out all the prescription drugs in the house and poured a drink, and then there was a knock on the door."

It was Gary. They'd met through mutual friends and had been flirting with each other for a while, but Diana figured he was like all the other men. "My thought was, 'Cool. We'll play, and when he leaves, I'll do my deed,'" Diana recalls. "I was not going to let anyone else reject me."

But Gary, who says he'd felt an inexplicable but nagging need to visit Diana that night, wasn't going to make things easy for her. "He had on a belt buckle that said 'Jesus is Lord,' and I kept looking at it; it was driving me crazy!" Diana remembers. "I said, 'I don't understand how you can wear that.' He told me to get my Bible. I had a burning question: I'd lost a son to crib death, and I wanted to know where he was. Gary led me to a verse that gave me such comfort."

The verse was from Mark: Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them. But His disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me; don't stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." After taking them in His arms, He laid His hands on them and blessed them.

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon