Originally created 04/29/00

Fateful encounter put one-time biker on straighter road



A small man handing out religious tracts at a San Diego Western Union office in 1974 never seemed to notice shaggy-headed Mac Gober's filthy jeans, black biker boots or chains. He just gave him a tract.

The fierce biker tried to throw the paper away -- but it stuck to his hand -- he was so dirty, he was like human flypaper.

Despite his bleary eyes, the words on the paper leaped out at him. "Be honest with yourself and confess your sins. ... Ask Jesus into your heart and repent," the tract said.

The words took. "Mac the Maniac" -- a drug dealer, woman abuser and drunk who had entertained friends by jumping onto a bar and pretending he was Jesus on the cross -- came out of the gutter, he said in his biography, Unchained.

Now, he's the Rev. Gober, founder of Canaan Land Ministries in Autaugaville, Ala. He will lead a blessing of the bikes at New Hope Christian Center, 715 Old Belair Road in Grovetown, at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Members of Augusta-area Christian motorcycle clubs will help with ushering, and some will give testimony. New Hope expects clubs from as far away as Savannah to be represented.

Bikers are an underserved part of the community, and New Hope wants to reach out to them, said the Rev. Brad Bowen, outreach and missions director.

When people from his biker days learned of the Rev. Gober's conversion, some were taken aback by the change. They couldn't believe what had happened, said his wife, Sandra Gober. But others, including his mother and his former biker buddies, have reconciled with him.

The Rev. Gober was ordained through the International Convention of Faith Ministries Inc. in Arlington, Texas.

After working for three years with Teen Challenge in Birmingham, Ala., and a brief pastorate at a small Alabama church, the Gobers had become overrun with young men wanting to give up their hoodlum lives and start over. At times there was literally no floor space.

So, the Gobers bought a 70-acre retreat in Autaugaville in 1981 and started their ministry, Canaan Land. Hundreds of young men needing direction in their lives have been helped at Canaan Land, a nondenominational ministry. They stay up to a year to restructure their lives through Bible study, prayer, counseling and work, according to the ministry office.

The Vietnam veteran has been a frequent guest on the 700 Club and Kenneth Copeland broadcasts and speaks to veterans' groups, bikers and others nearly every weekend.

The Rev. Gober found that many bikers were also Vietnam veterans. The brutality he witnessed in Vietnam contributed to the difficulties he had, he wrote in Unchained.

Sunday is also the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

For more information on the ministry, call 868-6410.

Revving up

Who: The Rev. Mac Gober

What: Blessing of the bikes

Where: New Hope Christian Center, 715 Old Belair Road, Grovetown

When: 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Phone: 868-6410

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.