The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally brings hundreds of thousands of bikers and countless motorcycle clubs to the Black Hills. But it wasn't all about partying and mischief for many at Sturgis.
Patches, bandanas, and loud pipes are common among bikers. And although some biker gangs are known for trouble, that's certainly not the case for the Hellfighters.
"You put a cross on your back and it suddenly takes that hard-core-ism down a notch. But at the same time, I've learned to appreciate my relationships with those who the culture would consider to be the hardcore biker," Hellfighters member Craig Wexler said.
Wexler became a full-patched member back in January after a year as a prospect.
When he's not on his bike, Wexler is a Lutheran pastor in Hill City.
"Our mission is to be a guiding force and to be the presence of Christ within the lives of different people that we meet," Wexler said.
The organization is based in Mississippi, but has 26 chapters in 15 states, including one in Sturgis.
In spite of their tough exteriors and reputations, Wexler says that most of the bikers that the group encounters are receptive to the Hellfighters' message.
"There's this general aura that, yes, they are a rough and tumbling bunch of guys. To be honest they are some of the nicest guys I've ever met. They are some of the first ones that would give the shirt off of their back to help you out with anything you need," Wexler said.
"We go after everybody. Everybody needs Jesus," Hellfighters member Don Klug said.
Klug joined the Hellfighters five years ago after moving to Rapid City from Minnesota.
"In my opinion, if you're not changing a person's life everyday, you're not doing ministry," Klug said.
Klug remembers his life before the ministry.
"Well, it was drugs and alcohol and whatever I wanted to do, whatever I needed to do. Now, I have more peace with myself," Klug said.
During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the Hellfighters held different events to spread a simple message.
"We decided to hand out free gas. Some of our chapters raised enough money to put together a budget and part of that moment is to see people's faces when they pull up to the pump. We got them over there and asked them how it was going, what their favorite part of the rally was, then we'd enter into those questions about faith," Wexler said.
"First get to know people, and then try to introduce them to Christ," Klug said.
And as the gas flows, so does the conversation.
"You kind of have them trapped as you have the nozzle shoved in the gas tank, but it's surprising how many are willing to talk about it," Wexler said.
The group also did street testimonials all around the Rally, and the God-loving bikers didn't hesitate to bring their message anywhere.
"We're not afraid to go there and talk to them. Like Jesus, he went into all the brothels and bars and stuff, we're not afraid to do that. We need to go in there and talk with these people," Klug said.
Bringing light into the darkness is an important part of the ministry. Because when you travel thousands of miles a year on two wheels, anything can happen.
"When you throw your leg over a motorcycle every single day and you understand that it could be the last time you ever do it, you kind of figure out what your belief is," Wexler said.
"I'm more into working with other people rather than worrying about what I do. I'm not into drugs and alcohol anymore. I'm trying to lead people to the Lord," Klug said.
It's a mission and a message that are being well received at the rally, on the road, and at Wexler's Hill City church.
The Hellfighters Sturgis chapter is based at the Mission to the Cross on Junction Street.
Click here to check out the Hellfighter's Official Website.