Greetings in the name of our Lord,
As a close and long-time friend of the family, and as a fellow believer in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I have been asked to write a little something about how and when Iron Horse Ministries got its start. But first, I feel I need to take a moment here, for a little qualifying background.
I first came to know Steve and Marlene Diaz (the co-founders with Christ, of Iron Horse Ministries), just weeks after their conversion. God used me to disciple them, and He also graciously allowed me to walk with them, as they grew into maturity in the Lord. Even to this very day (decades later), He has allowed us to stay closely in touch with one another. So as you can see, I was there pretty much from the very beginning. And I can't tell you what a joy it has been.
Now, as you know, many times in this life, we don't always get the chance to see the effect we have on others (which can be a mixed blessing). However, once in a while (not for the sake of prideful boasting, but for the sake of praising our God), we are allowed to see the positive effect we've had in someone's life. For me, that's just what has happened. Not only was I greatly blessed to be able to disciple Steve and Marlene as new believers and watch them grow and mature in Christ, but our gracious God has also allowed me to see much of the fruit of their labors.
With that having been said, this is basically how I saw God fulfill His will (through what the world might of considered as an ordinary couple), to do some very extra ordinary things. None least of which, has also included starting this ever-growing nation wide motorcycle outreach ministry.
So, in order to better understand the full extent of what our wonderful God has done, I need to go back to where it all began. It all got started in January 1986, when Steve with his colorful background, and Marlene with her own, and in their fifth year of marriage; became 'born again' believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. To make a long and wonderful story short, ever since then, they have been active in the service of the King. One of the great things about them, is that they've always been a team - if you see one, you'll surely see the other.
Now, in those first few years, God Himself chose to teach, train and equip them in preparation for His call into deeper service. As a result of that preparation, Steve succumbed to God's call upon his life, and was licensed to preach in February 1991; and in February 1992, he was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel. In July 1993, he began serving as the bi-vocational Senior Pastor of a church in Northern California, where he served until April of 2000.
In April of 1997 (while still in the pastorate), God planted them in the motorcycle ministry through Marlene's brother (which is a whole other story). Even though it had been years since either one of them had ridden, God led them to purchase a bike and to obtain their motorcycle licenses. A short time later, as they became more involved, they were led to form a "Biker's Fellowship" at their church - it was a blast. As things have turned out, that was just the beginning. They've been involved in motorcycle ministry ever since.
By June of 2000, Steve graduated from the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Academy, that God had led him to attend. He said that the things learned there, have proven to be extremely valuable in the ministry - especially in certain hard situations. Which is why I think God has chosen to use him to serve as the Chaplain to so many different secular motorcycle clubs, as well as other groups and organizations throughout the years.
Now, even though a number of years have passed since Steve was the Pastor of a church per se', God seems to still use him in that capacity from time to time. (Once a pastor, always a pastor, I guess.) However, instead of ministering to one congregation in one place, now they minister to many different sheep, in many different pastures all over the country.
With that in mind, isn't it interesting how nicknames can stick sometimes? Even though God has moved them on to serve Him in other ways, the names that they were given in those earlier years ("Pastor Steve" and "Marlena"), have stuck. In any case, it's really great to see what God has done, and is still doing, in and through them, as they travel all over the place, being about the Lord's business.
Well, now that you know a little bit of their background, here's where the rubber meets the road (in a manner of speaking). One day in April of 2000, Steve went out on the bike to talk out loud with God (which he loves to do). After a while, he decided to stop at an isolated place in the middle of 'no-where', so he could continue to talk with his Lord, and quietly enjoy His creation up close.
While he was there, he suddenly received an unexpected revelation from God. He said it was like a huge 'whoosh' - it took only minutes, but the knowledge gained, seemed like years. This is basically the vision that God gave him that day:
A new assignment was being given to them. They were to serve, 'at the pleasure of the King', living and working as full time missionaries to bikers - wherever that may lead.
They were to live totally 'BY FAITH' in God's loving provision alone; through His people alone; as His people are obedient to Him alone.
A new ministry was to begin, and it was to be called Iron Horse Ministries. Its purpose is to work quietly behind-the-scenes 'Building Bridges to Christ', by helping to bridge the gap between the bikers out on the road, and the churches in their neighborhoods.
Steve said that it was made very clear to him, that the new ministry belongs to God alone, and that it is God alone, that is to grow it - in His own way, and in His own time. It was also made clear to him, that God wants at least one fully patched member in each state, as well as fully patched members in other parts of the world.
He also said that God told him He wanted to use the new ministry, to help unify His Bride (the Church). This was to be done by creating a network of "biker-friendly" churches throughout this nation and the world.
Wow! What a HUGE God sized vision. All I can say is that, it must have been very overwhelming that day.
After trying to take it all in, and talking with God about it for a little while, Steve decided to make it home as quickly as he could, to share what had happened to him with Marlene, only to find out that God had already spoken to her heart as well. (That's because, when He calls the one, He also calls the spouse.)
So right then, they began to pray about it, wondering what they should do first. A couple of days later while at their computer, God gave them a design for the logo/patch (which you may have already seen). Then before they knew it, they were at a full gallop (so to speak), going and doing as they were led of God to do. Even to this very day, they are still serving - 'at the pleasure of the King'.
With that, as Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know, the rest of the story". That's basically how it all got started. Of course, there are many more details, but I'll let them, tell you about those.
Now, even though the ministry may be fully functioning these days, you need to know that in the beginning, none of us had any idea of how God was going to do everything He said He was going to do. But as the years have gone by, I have watched in amazement as God has grown the ministry, by taking what was once a vision in the heart of a Pastor and his wife, and creating a vibrant, powerful and far-reaching ministry. He has done this in part, by placing the vision in the hearts of the people He chooses; then He calls them into service; He then leads them to become members of Iron Horse Ministries; and as such, He sends them out to minister to the folks in their areas. But it doesn't end there.
Among many other things, I have seen God use this ministry to help teach, train and equip many churches to reach the motorcycle riders in their own neighborhoods - resulting in hearts won, and lives changed. In addition, I've watched as God has used I.H.M. (quietly behind-the-scenes), to help out other ministries - a thing, not often seen.
Speaking of other ministries. In addition to the things mentioned, God has also developed two very effective outreaches of Iron Horse Ministries. They are the Biker-Friendly Church Network, and the Bibles-4-Bikers.
God has set up the Biker-Friendly Church Network, so that if there is a motorcycle rider out there that is sick and tired of being sick and tired, then all they need to do, is go to the ever-growing B.F.C.N. web site and simply find a church in their area. What's also really great about it, is that all the churches on the network, are willing to accept the riders just as they are - no strings attached - no questions asked. It kind of reminds me of the parable of The Good Samaritan.
Another aspect of I.H.M. is the Bibles-4-Bikers. God has set up this rather unique part of the ministry, to give everyone an opportunity to have a part in it - whether they ride a motorcycle or not. How it works is simple. All anyone needs to do, is go to the B-4-B web site and make a donation to help supply the members of Iron Horse Ministries, with as many Biker Bibles as possible. That way, they can put one in the hands of every rider that God gives them to minister to. Or, a person can go to the same web site, and have a Biker Bible sent anonymously to a rider they know (at no charge to the recipient). In either case, what a great way to help get God's Word into the hands of as many people as possible.
So, to summarize, it has been absolutely phenomenal, to watch as God has made the slogan He created for this ministry ("Building Bridges To Christ"), come alive. To God be the glory for all He has done.
Now, if I may, I would like to change gears here for just a moment, and share a personal note with you. You know how it is, when something gets stuck in your memory, and you just can't shake it? Well, this is one of those things for me. I remember one day (fairly early on in their walk with the Lord), asking Steve and Marlene, "What if someone came up to you guys and asked you what your life's goals were, what would you say?" After some prayerful thought, this is basically what they said, 'They said that they wanted their life's goal to be, to strive to live a life pleasing to the Lord, by seeking, trusting and glorifying Him in such a way, that they would become lesser, so that He could become greater; to be prepared in season and out, to make as many disciples as possible, teaching, training and equipping them for service; and to stay the course, fighting the good fight, so that one day they might hear their Lord say, 'Well done, My good and faithful servants'. They made it clear that they just wanted to finish well for their King.' "After all," they said, "He finished well for us." And so, that's how they've tried to lead their lives over the years. What a blessing it has been, to watch them live and work their faith.
With that, I've had the absolute joy of watching them go about our Lord's business on two wheels (or as many wheels as it takes), following God's lead; wearing the ministry's back patch, bringing the love it represents all over the country; ministering to the bikers out in the field; and teaching, training and equipping the churches to do the same. As a result, I have seen God use their loving efforts, to touch the hearts of many people to a point, that they want to be part of God's Kingdom, and sometimes even this ministry. Not because they've been coerced or talked into it, but simply because they've been loved on. And that's exactly how God wants to grow His Kingdom and His ministry - one loving relationship at a time. To God alone, be the glory.
Finally, I would like to take this moment here, to thank God for being given the great honor and blessing of sharing with you, what He has done. Not only through this ministry, but also through the lives of these two people. I also would like to say, that for the sake of the King; the Kingdom; and the Saints of God, it has been an absolute privilege to serve alongside them.
To God alone be all honor and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
In service to the King,
A long-time friend and brother in the Lord.