Robert Bean loves riding motorcycles on open roads, and his life hasn’t looked much different.

“It was a long, hard road,” said Bean, 52.

Bean, who rides under the nickname “Souljerboy,” actually rode motorcycles before bicycles.

“I started on dirt bikes when I was about 5 or 6,” added Bean, a Southeast Christian Church member. “I grew up riding with my uncles and cousins on little 50cc and 80cc bikes and then graduated up to 125cc and 175cc bikes. I got my first street bike at 16 because I was dumb and wanted to go fast.”

Though his mother didn’t approve, his dad co-signed for the loan.

“I was making the payments, so she was like, ‘Well, if you’re making the payments, I guess I can’t stop you,’” he said.

Burn survivor

Bean, who sells medical equipment internationally, grew up in Louisville and his family had a farm in southern Kentucky, but bikes may have been the easiest way to escape his home life.

“I came from a broken marriage, and my father was an alcoholic and mental and physical abuser,” Bean said.

When he was 13 years old, Bean was severely burned in a grease fire while cooking at home. His left arm, left leg and both feet were burned to the bone.

“It was on Oct. 16, 1980, at 3:23 p.m. on a Thursday,” Bean said. “That’s how much of an impact something like that leaves in your life. They don’t know why I was alive because my body temperature and blood pressure dropped so low. I remember the doctors standing next to the table, talking, ‘I don’t know what’s going on here. He should be in a coma.’”

For the next three-and-a-half years, Bean’s life was focused on recovery.

He had physical therapy, skin grafts and reconstructive surgery. Doctors thought he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, but Bean learned how to walk and use his left arm again.

When Bean went back to school, some classmates bullied him because he wore compression garments.

“I was the meanest, maddest person you ever met for years, even into my early adult life,” he said. “You look at me wrong, I would beat the snot out of you. I had so much rage built up because people were mean.”

Bean followed in his father’s footsteps when it came to drinking.

“I actually worked in the nightclub business when I came of age and that’s a part of my downfall,” he said. “I became an alcoholic and used drugs for a number of years.”

Bean’s parents got divorced when he was in high school.

In college, he rode motorcycles and chased after the pleasures of the world.

But Bean’s life changed when he met his wife, Teri, around the time his father was murdered.

“She was a good girl and I wanted to become a good boy, so I quit doing drugs,” Bean said. “I think what saved my life was my wife and her father, who was a devout Catholic who went to church every week. That was my turnaround, but I was a slow learner. I had some personal issues that caused me to hit rock bottom. It took a long time for all the weekly sermons to hit home in my mid-30s. That’s when I became sober and all that built-up anger subsided. God gave me a hunger and a thirst for Him that has yet to satisfy as I continually stay in His word. He’s my focus.”

Bean and his wife had two sons, and he sold his motorcycles.

Buying a bike

When Bean was in his 40s, Teri put the bike topic back on the table.

“Eventually after years of my wife getting tired of me complaining, she finally said, ‘OK. Just go out and get you a motorcycle if that’s what’s going to make you happy,’” Bean said. “I said, ‘Really?’ She said, ‘Just go get one.’”

After six months of online research, Bean found a deal on a bike that seemed too good to be true.

“It was a huge sale and I was like, ‘This is insane,’” Bean added. “So, we went over there and got it. Somebody made a mistake on the website and added an extra zero on the sale price, and they honored it. Instead of $500 off it was $5,000 off.”

Bean felt like the new motorcycle was a blessing from God.

“I was like, ‘Thank you Jesus. This is a gift from God, and I am always going to use this motorcycle for ministry work because to me I was blessed with a huge gift,’” he said.

Bean was baptized at Southeast in 2012.

“One of the things I loved about Southeast is when I first started coming here and joined, I rode up on my motorcycle and had all my leathers and stuff on,” Bean added. “I walked in and everyone welcomed me just like they welcomed everyone else.”

Bikers for Christ

About eight years ago, Bean joined the Louisville Chapter of Bikers for Christ—the only one in Kentucky at the time—and is now the Bikers for Christ Louisville elder.

“I had been looking for a motorcycle ministry so that I could ride with a well-behaved group that wouldn’t get me in trouble and tempt me into my old wicked ways,” he said.

Bikers for Christ is a motorcycle ministry with the primary mission of bringing the love of Jesus to those in the motorcycle world.

Bikers for Christ Louisville meets the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. in FH 109 at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.

“In the motorcycle world, you’re going into places that are dark,” Bean said. “There may be alcohol, drugs, knives, illegal and sexual activities. Whether it’s a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, a bike week or a clubhouse, you’ve got to make sure your faith is strong enough so you’re not tempted into that. That was the main reason I wanted to find a Christian group so I wouldn’t be drawn into any of those bad habits.”

The group attends bike nights, events and rallies year-round to spread the Gospel. They also have a food pantry and do outreach to addicts, the homeless and prostitutes.

At Daytona Beach Bike Week in Florida, they handed out 1,900 Bibles and shared the Gospel with countless people.

At Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, Bikers for Christ baptized roughly 75 visitors.

Motorcycle clubs also call Bikers for Christ members to perform weddings and funerals and make hospital visits.

“Last summer, one guy was unresponsive in a coma, and they were unsure if he was going to make it,” Bean said. “We got a phone call from somebody out of town to go down to University of Louisville Hospital. I totally believe in the power of prayer, and we prayed as we walked into the hospital. We asked two guys outside the room, ‘Would it be OK if we go in and pray for him?’ They’re like, ‘Yea, I guess.’ So when we got done the guy said, ‘Normally I wouldn’t let you all come in here because we don’t believe. He’s been completely unresponsive, but when you walked in he started moving. Maybe there is something to all of this.’”

Bean said Bikers for Christ breaks biker stereotypes, especially on food or gas stops.

“I think what’s interesting is they don’t read our Bikers for Christ patch at first,” Bean said. “They see us in the do-rag, shades, earrings, piercings, nose rings, beards, goatees, tattoos, leather or wallet on the chain. They get this stereotype they have seen and believe at what’s come out in Hollywood. Then you start talking to them, and they kind of take a second look, they’re like ‘Wait a minute. You look like that, you dress like that and you know your Bible. I never knew you all existed.’”

For more information on Bikers for Christ, contact Bean at bfcsouljerboy@gmail.com or (502) 439-7961 or visit the BFC Louisville Facebook page.