Local man starts church congregation ministering to motorcycle riders
When he was younger, Bill Kleckner rode with a motorcycle gang in Texas. Now a born-again Christian, Kleckner still feels a connection to the biking community. He is organizing a church for bikers in Hagerstown. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / November 16, 2012)
The preacher asked Kleckner to say a prayer of confession, to admit his sins and ask God for forgiveness. Kleckner struggled to get the words out, and finally did. He said he felt immediate release.
"When I asked Jesus into my heart and set me free and confessed my sins, I felt a rush from head to toe, and I felt clean," he said. "I felt like this whole big huge weight got lifted off my shoulders. When I got home, my wife took one look at me and just busted out bawling. She said I knew it: 'The Lord told me today was the day.'"
Fixed, but not forever
Kleckner said his life changed immediately. He stopped using drugs. Stopped drinking. Stopped engaging in criminal activity.
Life got better, but Kleckner still had ups and downs. He and his family joined a large church in Dallas. He became active in mission work.
"I went in prisons. I was a convict talking with convicts," he said. "Worked in a homeless mission. We bused residents in, had clothes for them, we'd feed them, and had a service for them."
The Kleckners switched churches, and Bill's style of mission was not as welcome in the new church. He clashed with church leaders and became frustrated. After 10 years as a Christian, he put the Bible aside and returned to some old habits, such as drinking.
But his career took off. For the next five years, the Kleckners moved to Pennsylvania, to Nebraska, to Georgia. His stature in the auto-repair industry climbed, but inside, he felt empty. His drinking increased, and he spiraled into bad decisions and depression.
Then, while working in Georgia, Kleckner was charged with a DUI. Within a year, he got another, and ended up in jail.
"I looked around and said, 'This is like the prodigal's son. I'm in the hog pen. How did I get here?'" he said.
He said he prayed for forgiveness, for a second chance to live a Godly life. Once again, he felt that rush of relief and acceptance.
The pastor at Kleckner's next church encouraged him to study theology and the Bible. Never much of a class-based student, Kleckner reluctantly agreed. He stuck with it, and eventually was ordained. Soon after, the Kleckners moved to Hagerstown.
God seeks the broken
Now members of Bridge of Life in downtown Hagerstown, the Kleckners are deeply involved in ministry. Diane offers Bible-based spiritual counseling. Bill is an elder in the church, organizes a series of free family movies in the church's movie theater and helps broken people turn their lives around.
And he's close to launching the biker church. He is working with management at Cancun Cantina West in Hagerstown. Details are still being finalized, but plans are for the congregation to begin meeting at the bar in January.
Kleckner is excited about the planned church, but his eye is on a larger population: Everyone who is hurting, who feels life is not worth living.
"I'm a biker. I love bikers. But I want to touch as many people as possible," he said. "God takes the broken and makes them into something good. And that's what I want him to do through me. I can't fix people, but God can fix them."
If you go ...
WHAT: A church congregation for motorcycle riders
WHEN: Beginning in January; details being finalized
WHERE: Cancun Cantina, 901 Dual Highway, Hagerstown
CONTACT: Call Bill Kleckner at 301-582-9073 or 770-601-2083