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Biker with a Bible swims against the tide

Published Sep. 2, 2005

Preaching to bikers isn't as easy as it used to be, says Outlaw-turned-preacher Ken Brooks.

Bikers of old were a breed of rough-living, sometimes law-breaking men who called themselves Outlaws, Hell's Angels and Pagans.

"It was easy to talk to them because they knew they were going to hell," Brooks said at the preaching tent he set up here in the middle of town to save souls during the recent Bike Week.

But today's bike rallies are full of what Brooks calls the "yuppie bikers." Doctors, dentists, lawyers, office managers _ pretenders dressing up like easy riders.

And they rarely lend an ear to this leathery-skinned, gray-whiskered, 62-year-old Vero Beach pastor who still rides a bike.

"They already have a god: money and material goods," he says. "Their god is their affluence. You can reach a few, but most of them aren't reaching for an answer."

That doesn't stop Brooks from trying. He dropped his old ways decades ago when he found religion. But he won't shed his biker attire, leather, chains and patches that show a cross on a highway and "666" inside a circle with a line through it.

After all, he's with a North Carolina-based biker church called His Laboring Few Biker Ministry. It's a nondenominational ministry that survives with the help of other churches.

Brooks and his wife, Pam, both formerly of Pawtucket, R.I., travel to 14 biker rallies a year. They begin and end their tour in Daytona.

These days his audience is more often than not the local down-and-outs coming in for a free meal, along with a few bikers mixed in.

Under a sign that declares "Jesus loves bikers too!" they dole out coffee, sandwiches, Doritos, Key lime pie and soft drinks.

Then comes the preaching, for anyone who sticks around.

Some bikers stayed, like Sarasota roofer Larry Sharp.

"I ain't no goody-two-shoes," he says, joining about 50 other people in folding chairs. "But I think it's important to be here."

The group settles down as Brooks starts the worship about 6 p.m.

"We're here to win the lost and bring them into the kingdom of heaven," he says to a round of "amens."

"You can have fun and games in Daytona Beach, you can have the sex and the beer, but does that give you the answers you're looking for?"

"No's" and more "amens" follow.

Brooks turns the service over to his associate, the Rev. Aubrey "Rocky" Parks of Columbia, S.C.

Stopping whenever his voice gets drowned out by roaring motorcycles as they pass, he preaches about how Satan has fooled people.

He says people are mistaken if they think a nice house, car and some money in their pocket means they are on the right path to an eternal reward. They're lacking spirituality, he says.

Brooks and Parks say most people who stick around for their message are folks who say they have already been saved. Still, they hope someone in the audience will answer the call.

Their associate, Bob Hanus Jr., 36, of Utopia, Texas, decided to take the message directly to the Bike Week participants rather than rely on coffee and sandwiches to lure them in.

Hanus left the tent about 10 p.m. to walk through the revelry of Main Street, carrying a wooden cross strung with battery-powered blinking amber lights.

Some people ignored him, but others shook his hand and smiled. Maybe they'll come to the next sermon, he says.

Brooks says their next biker rally is in May in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The location is new, but the message is the same.

"If you're a Hell's Angel, you know where you're going," he says. "But a lot of other people don't know even that much."