Sunday, August 21, 2005

Set Free liberating for 'outlaw' believers

From: The Sun

About 25 men, most with leather vests, shaved heads and prominently displayed tattoos, gathered on the sidewalk to wash each others' feet.

They held Bibles and smoked cigarettes while singing praises to Jesus Christ.

"I see nothing here but the same disciples you see in the Bible,' said Bryan "Spike' McGeo, who roared up on his fully loaded, $50,000 Harley-Davidson.

Maybe he's right. Jesus' closest followers were a far cry from today's model Christians. And Jesus did wash the apostles' feet to set an example of humility.

But most of the people who meet on Mondays in front of Rialto's Heroes and Madmen tattoo shop on Riverside Avenue would turn heads walking into church.

"We're reaching out to the outlaw bikers, the people on the streets, the punks those who nobody else wants to deal with,' said Johnny Neuneker, an unpaid associate pastor for Set Free Rialto and owner of the tattoo shop.

Neuneker joined Set Free last year after starting a Bible study in his parlor's lobby. He uses his shop to sow the seed of the Gospel on seemingly rocky soil.

Neuneker and others involved with Set Free seem like the kinds of guys and gals you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. But it's difficult to hold a conversation with them without being asked, "Are you saved?'

They are bent on sharing Christianity with people like Mario Chavez.

When the 36-year-old Colton resident met Neuneker six months ago in a dark alley behind a San Bernardino bar, he wasn't a resident anywhere.

Chavez was homeless, gangbanging and using drugs. Neuneker handed him a pocket Bible and told him he would become a Christian within three months.

He did.

"They keep it real,' Chavez said. "All they try to do is show you the way, the truth and the life.'