There are a lot of ways people deal with grief. It can be paralyzing to lose a family member or a truly close friend who knows your heart better than anyone else. In one moment, they are standing alongside you, and in a second, they are gone.
When such things happen, we don’t understand why our loved one had to go so soon, when there were so many plans made and so much yet to do. What do you do when such a close friend is gone? Mark Rose answered that question by honoring his nephew, Matthew Higgins, who was killed in a motorcycle accident on July 7, 2015. Mark, himself a survivor of a paralyzing accident, was told he would never walk again, but he is walking and giving his energy to do what he and Matt had long talked and dreamed about. In 2010, Mark became a member of the Lone Star Cowboy Church of Ellis County, which was established in 2006.
Jon Coe, pastor and founder of the Lone Star Cowboy Churches, oversees 28 churches, eight of which are in Texas. It was Mark’s niece, Amanda Vanderveer, who first introduced Mark to Matt, whom she had met while they worked together as EMTs. That was seven years before Matt’s accident. Seven years is a short time for friends to spend working and riding together.
Even shorter were the two years Amanda and Matt had as husband and wife. Matt’s accident was just days before their second wedding anniversary. In August, just one month after Matt’s death, Mark along with Amanda, her family and Matt’s family joined together and stepped out in faith, making a commitment to build a new ministry called Matthew 7:7 Riders. This ministry would fulfill the vision Mark and his nephew, Matt, shared, of organizing a group for motorcycle riders, so they could fellowship and ride together. The group, which started with six core members, doubled in size with the addition of new couples and individuals who had found kindred hearts with a desire to help families in the community.
They take the Scripture in Matthew 7:7 sincerely as they go out into the highways and the byways with a message of caring, giving and of befriending the community. Matthew 7:7 Riders ministry is under the umbrella of the Lone Star Cowboy Church of Ellis County and is a 501 (c)(3) organization. In part, Matthew 7:7 Riders’ mission is to raise funds in order to help others. This past Christmas, they adopted a family to help them have a nice holiday. When the recent tornado assaulted area homes, churches and schools, Matthew 7:7 Riders reached out to bikers from all over, and with the youngest member leading, they held the 2016 Ellis County Relief Ride for the tornado victims. More than 120 bikers participated in the event, contributing over $3,000 in cash.
The goal Matthew and Mark had was for the ministry to consist of one neighbor helping another. Matt loved helping others and would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it, so the group is continuing this legacy, whether it is with school clothes, groceries, a bed for a child or helping with the cost of utilities or fixing a car. “Some people fall between the cracks and just need a helping hand up, once in a while,” Mark explained. “There’s no red tape. We just look for a need that can be met by a group of people with caring hearts. Matthew 7:7 says, ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’” Motorcycle riders are as diverse and as unique as the patches they wear.
The patch identifies a club or organization. This identification is taken very seriously. “Recently, at the Fort Worth Stock Show, a husband and wife stopped us. They were trying to read the patches on our vests and said they were looking for a Christian group to ride with. They are just like so many who are looking for fellowship and to make friends,” Mark shared. These days it is common to see men and women riding motorcycles, sometimes to save money on their commute to and from work or school, and sometimes just for the freedom of riding and seeing what is down the road. Riders are as diverse in appearance as are their professions.
Some are doctors, lawyers or military veterans. Matt’s mom and dad, Deloris Allen-Kiracofe and Mike Kiracofe, serve as secretary and vice president of Matthew 7:7 Riders. Deloris rides and is an administrator over a kidney dialysis service. Mike works as a security and maintenance director. Since visiting the Fort Worth Stock Show, there are six new riders. “Anyone is welcome to ride at any time. They are encouraged to share about Jesus, but above all else, lead by example, follow laws and be there for nothing but good,” Mark stated. “There are road rules that drivers of any vehicle recognize, but when a biker sees a helmet on the ground behind a bike, they know there is a biker in trouble, and they will stop and help,” Mark said. “Bikers ride together for safety.”
Military personnel live by the code that no one gets left behind. Mark has taken this thought to heart, and that is what brings him to the road to reach out to riders. No one should ride alone. “Matthew 7:7 Riders is planning a ride to visit three churches in Southeast Texas that have invited us to share with their congregation. The pastor rides and is considering forming a bike ministry, as well,” Mark shared. The community and bikers from Ellis and surrounding counties came to pay tribute to Matthew Higgins at his funeral and were there to support his wife and children.
There is currently discussion of doing a Memorial Ride in July of this year and designating the funds raised to assist families of fallen riders. “One of the reasons we started Matthew 7:7 was because there was an overwhelming amount of support from the community, the churches and individuals for the family when Matt passed,” Mark shared. “We just had to give back in the way he would have done. Playing baseball with the kids and riding with the parents, this was the epitome of Matt. So, helping a neighbor build a fence, being a friend — that is the ministry we want to be.”
Written by Jo Monroe.