MANKATO — Ben Priest had been involved with a violent motorcycle gang for some time when his actions finally caught up with him.
He was charged with various crimes and facing years in the Louisiana state penitentiary. Priest didn't elaborate on the charges but did say his past was full of violence and drugs. He himself had been stabbed and shot, he said.
“We were guilty of everything we were charged for and more they didn't know about,” Priest said during his guest sermon at Jesus Assembly of God in St. Peter Sunday.
The case was blown on a technicality and Priest was set free, which later he said was God intervening, although he didn't realize it at the time. The same night he was released his home was fire-bombed with him in it.
The fire burned through the clothes he was wearing, and as he lay almost lifeless on the ground, rescue officials said he wouldn't make it. But his grandmother stood over him and called on God to heal him, and he started “spitting, spurting, coughing and carrying on,” he said.
“God spared me,” he said.
But it wasn't until a short time later, while in Texas, that Priest “ran into God.” In the midst of a drug overdose, his brother's girlfriend, whom he had never met, called him and told him he needed to go to church that morning. His brother had found his faith several years before and had been trying to help Priest do the same.
So, for whatever reason, Priest went to church that morning “full of dope and full of the devil.” And three decades later, Priest is a pastor, he's a husband, he's a father and he's a believer that happiness and salvation are dependent on a full surrender to God.
“If you will honor God and live for what's true and right, God will sustain and keep you,” Priest said to the congregation.
Priest, founder of the Tribe of Judah Motorcycle Ministries in 1984, was the guest speaker for Jesus Assembly's annual Motorcycle Sunday event, in which people are invited to ride their motorcycles to church.
For the past several years the Motorcycle Sundays have been co-hosted by the Christian Motorcycle Association. In conjunction, a hog roast and silent auction fundraiser for locally abused and neglected children was held.
“Bikers are people who really like to do something to make a difference,” said Lead Pastor Greg Stone. “That's why we started linking these two events.”
The funds raised go to the St. Peter chapter of Royal Family Kids Camp, in which abused and neglected children have a week of fun at camp, with two kids per counselor to ensure they receive a great deal of support and attention.
Ten years after the camp's inception, Camp Director Larry Spiess still became emotional talking about it Sunday.
“This is a week's vacation for these kids,” Spiess said. “We treat them like royalty.”
The $25,000 needed for the camp is raised through various means, including Motorcycle Sunday's hog roast and auction and a softball tournament, among other things.
For more information, call Jesus Assembly at 934-1468.