FULLERTON, Calif. Thundering pipes, chrome and leather collide with style at Nick's Super Burgers on Monday nights. The parking lot is jammed with shiny motorcycles and their proud owners, enjoying all-American fast food fare and just hanging outinside the restaurant and especially outside.
Bike Night happens from March to December every Monday night at the Fullerton eatery on Orangethorpe Avenue just east of Brookhurst. But you don't have to be a biker to attend. The fun begins at 6 p.m. and culminates with the Best Bike award before 9 p.m. The winner takes home a trophy and half of the cash from the evening's 50/50 raffle-ticket sales.
The tradition began six years ago when Paid in Full motorcycle ministry organized the event that helps to raise money for the needy. Bike Night began meeting at Nick's in April after it outgrew its former location at Johnnie's Jr. Burgers in La Palma.
"The bikes draw people," said Izella Albertson of Anaheim, a Bike Night regular, as she stood next to her 1990 Harley Davidson Touring Bike. A veteran biker who started riding nearly 20 years ago, Albertson also attends Holy Ground Christian Fellowship, the Buena Park Church that grew out of the Paid in Full motorcycle ministry.
It is hard to resist the scene in the parking lot with 80 motorcycles lined up the length of the blacktop two or three deep. The lot is center stage for the evening and the venue where ministry leaders Jose and Betsy Mata run the raffle event that attracts area bikers and local families.
Inside the restaurant the Matas sit in a booth finishing their burgers and an order of onion rings. The couple started Paid in Full 13 years ago, and serve as pastors of Holy Ground Christian Fellowship, which they launched in 2002. The church uses the money raised at Bike Night to buy food it distributes to the needy on Wednesday nights.
"We're not Bible thumpers," Jose Mata said as he told how the weekly event operates. "We let our walk be our testimony for people to see."
There is no preaching, Mata explained. But prayer is part of the evening during set-up and cleanup. Sometimes people approach him and ask him to pray for a specific need.
"We start with prayer and we end with prayer," he said.
But there is preaching on Sundays at the bilingual church in Buena Park where Mata pastors the "come-as-you-are" non-denominational congregation. On Sundays there is morning worship in Spanish at 10 a.m. and a 4 p.m. service in English. Holy Ground holds an open Bible study on Friday evenings.
Jose Mata knows firsthand the value of a ministry to bikers. He found faith in Christ in 1993 at an outreach in Perris put on by the Born to Die motorcycle ministry. He can easily recognize a seeking heart.
Earning the patch
Proudly wearing a Paid in Full "patch"the bike club insignia that is carefully earned by those who take their faith seriouslyMark Taylor explained its significance.
"We like the patch because it says what it is. It says what He (Christ) did for us," Taylor said. "Everybody watches you. If you do something that is not of GodBoom! People are in your face."
For bikers a club's patch is like a sports team logo. It typically covers the back of a leather riding vest or jacket. A motorcycle club's reputation is gained or lost by the behavior of those who wear its patch.
Taylor, a deacon at Holy Ground, likes to point out the word sown on the front of his vest"servant." He explained that he wears his patch whenever he rides. In addition to motorcycle trips, the club organizes ministry trips to Mexico. They are a hands-on group in every way.
"They respect us. They know what we're about," he said of the myriad motorcycle clubs Paid in Full members encounter, including the Hell's Angels.
Nick's Burgers owner Henry Azzam agrees that the club has earned a good reputation. He welcomes the bikers and others attracted to Bike Night as clientele.
"They are a good bunch of people," he said. "It definitely helps business."
Non-biker Robert Stearns said he rides a bicycle rather than a motorcycle but he was attracted to Holy Ground Christian Fellowship and the Paid in Full ministry because of the way they help people.
The church has established men's and women's sober living houses for those seeking to break free from drug addiction and other destructive behaviors. The probation department is a source of referrals for residents. Funds raised at Bike Night are also used to help support these efforts.
"They're actually out in public doing things," Stearns said of the ministry. "It is the first time I've seen someone like Betsy and Pastor Jose. They definitely do it 24/7."
But for him the biggest attraction the ministry holds is its authenticity.
"It's a true heart atmosphere," he said. "Everything is right from the heart."
For more information visit www.holygroundchurch.org.