Tim "Rocket" Folsted loved to ride motorcycles for a long time and always enjoyed sharing the experience with others, but he felt more could be done with two wheels and a leather jacket.
Then he learned about the Twin Ports chapter of the faith-based Seed of Abraham Motorcycle Club.
While attending Hillside Community Church in downtown Duluth, Folsted met "the biggest cheerleader this club ever had" and saw how the born-again community used motorcycle fellowship to reach people in need.
"To me it was a passion for First Street, a passion for the people that live there. The homeless. The impoverished," he said. "I just thought: 'Man, we can make a difference.' The church makes a difference, but if we can get out and continue to do this and show Christ's love for the marginalized and the people Jesus hung out with, I think it would be a really good thing."
After meeting members and working through the strict screening process in 2011, Folsted knew the Seed of Abraham Motorcycle Club was authentic and real. He joined the group and now serves as its national president. The commitment is emphasized with a prominent forearm tattoo.
"It's tattooed on my heart," he said. "I just want to do this thing right."
The Seed of Abraham Motorcycle Club was founded in Massachusetts in 1992 and has chapters all over the United States. The Lake Superior Chapter was established in 2006 by Beth Yeshua Twin Ports Rabbi Tim Anderson. The all-male club serves born-again riders through evangelism, fellowship and personal edification.
Around Duluth, The Seed of Abraham is headquartered and supports activities at The Encounter, a community center, concert venue and skate park for teens on First Street. It serves hot meals at the Union Gospel Mission and raises money for people battling addiction at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. The group provides security at concerts and summer events and rings Salvation Army bells over the holidays.
The club also works to spread the message of God in difficult places - like among other riders.
Gary "Sisu" Keskitalo found the Seed of Abraham Motorcycle Club during a bike blessing at The Vineyard Church in Duluth. He said the group mixes with riders from all walks of life, which provides a unique ministry opportunity.
"I felt the calling to go out and witness to some of these guys, try to show them the love of Christ. It's not always easy," Keskitalo said. "Bikers have a bad rap, and that's one reason we fit in because we're trying to show the communities that there are a lot of good biker people in our area."
"We feel the calling that God can use us to approach these guys wherever they're at," he said. "If it's at a bar, we'll go to a bar. We'll reach them wherever they are. That's what Jesus did. We're trying to do what he did."
Bruce "Roadblock" Anderson, a club member since 2014, said it can be difficult to build trust in motorcycle culture. But it all starts with being honest and genuine.
"It's a matter of showing up and getting to know people and being genuinely interested. One of the things that bikers in general are is that they are a really, really good judge of character." he said. "I think you need to be as genuine as you can possibly be in every situation, whether it's a comfortable situation or not."
Good communication through technology also helps.
Club member Ben "Nanu" Mork, who co-owns a downtown Duluth clothing store, said social media helps the group reach out into the biker world and spread the word of God to everyone.
"For the longest time, you would see just the negative things in the big press - which was very, very few and far between - but that's all the general public thought about," he said. "Now everyone is hooked into social media, and you can see all the great things that all the clubs do throughout the year and throughout the county. You'd be shocked to see how much money is raised just by motorcycle clubs for great organizations."
Keskitalo said the first Christian bike clubs were established only 25 years ago.
"I think that's helped change the perception of what biker people are," he said. "Bikers, they've got good hearts. Maybe you'd never believe it, but there are a lot of gentlemen that are big guys, rugged looking, but they've got good hearts."
Mork said hundreds of bikers attend the annual Vineyard Church bike blessing in Duluth. The event, now 20 years old, is one of many regular events that foster a healthy bike community. "It's been a lot of fun for us to be involved in, where you can go out and pray for a bunch of guys you wouldn't normally see," he said. "It's clubs, it's civilians, it's men, it's women, it's children. Everybody showing up all under the same roof. It's just loads of fun."
In 2015, the Lake Superior Chapter hosted the national Seed of Abraham Motorcycle Club meeting at Encounter.
Now, members say, the club has a place at local church events, on the gritty streets of downtown Duluth or at national events, such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Members are husbands, fathers and grandfather and work as carpenters, electricians, physical therapists and small business owners.
"If you can live it out and be authentic, we're doing something that we're called to do," Folsted said. "We're blessed to be able to combine our love for motorcycles with our love for Christ. That's it in a nutshell."
Mark Nicklawske is a Duluth freelance writer. He also reviews music and theater for the Duluth News Tribune.