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 CNS Story:

AUSTRALIA-BIKERS Aug-7-2007 (550 words) With photo. xxxi

Australian bikers' club offers Jesus to those willing to accept him

By Dan McAloon
Catholic News Service

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- Ever since Marlon Brando popularized the stereotype of rebellious youth with the outlaw biker in the film "The Wild One" more than 50 years ago, leather-clad men on big noisy American bikes have been forming themselves into outlaw motorcycle clubs that exude menace at the edges of society.

Known by their insignia or colors, about 35 outlaw bike clubs exist in Australia today. And despite reports of recent police crackdowns for criminal activities in the clubs, the number of members is estimated to be around 3,500 and growing.

However, within the fraternity of bikers, one club rides another road entirely; it offers the promise of Jesus' redemption to any biker willing to accept it.

God's Squad Christian Motorcycle Club has chapters in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. Founded in Melbourne in 1972 by a Methodist minister, the club is a ministry of the nongovernmental charity organization Care Australia.

It is the only bike club started in Australia and exported overseas. The club has chapters in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Finland, as well as supporters in the United States.

Dave Hansen, 38, a Catholic member of the club and the Sydney chapter president, said the club is an active Christian ministry that puts itself in the bike scene as an "outreach of hope."

"We feel we're doing the same mission that Jesus started when he went out to people at the very margins," said Hansen. "Being on the biker scene, we're able to meet many types of people. We're a visible presence and a calling to Christ in places where his light ordinarily wouldn't reach."

Hansen said some members are ordained ministers who officiate at weddings and funerals.

"But we're all chaplains to the biker scene, and at various times our members will be found at bike shows, swap meetings, in pubs, and attending church services in prisons and juvenile detention centers," he said.

In June, the club formed a bike escort for the arrival of the World Youth Day cross and icon at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Parramatta.

"We like to keep a high profile," said Hansen. "As regards evangelization, I like to quote from St. Francis, 'Preach the Gospel at all times -- sometimes even with words.'"

Another member of the club, Tommy Masi, 44, is married with three children. Masi joined the club in 1997 after what he described as a conversion experience.

"I always had a sense that God was grooming me for ministry. When I had my conversion experience I felt God calling me to testify," he said. "I'd reached a point in my life where I felt I wanted to give something back, that I wanted to be wholly claimed by Our Lord."

He added: "When I had my conversion I felt this profound feeling of Jesus' love for me. I understood then that he wanted me to be his instrument."

As he spoke, Masi pulled up the sleeves of his leather jacket to reveal elaborate tattoos of Jesus and Mary inked on his forearms.

Before he joined the club, Masi said he never wore colors.

"Now you could say I never take my colors off. Not ever," he said.

END


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