Michael T. Abadie has loved motorcycles since he was 6 years old and his uncle, a state trooper, took him for a ride on his police cycle. It’s never been his profession, but it became a passion.
And a ministry.
Abadie is a motorcycle chaplain. For several years, he was affiliated with the Christian Motorcycle Association, but more recently he has operated independently, ministering to cyclists at huge rallies and in individual encounters.
“I’ll pray for any type need that a biker might have — for his family or her family,” said Abadie, 70. “Just general needs that they’re not going to go up to a church door and knock and say, ‘I need somebody to pray for my daughter or my wife.’ ”
Which is ironic, because that’s similar to how Abadie became a Christian.
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Growing up in Baton Rouge, Abadie’s family attended a Baptist church, but he drifted into alcohol and drug use and, eventually, the occult. A barber, Abadie found that some of his customers were influencing him.
“There were people that were coming into my shop — pastors and all these peoples during the early ’70s — with this weird smile on their face and something in their eyes that I could see in the mirror when I was cutting their hair,” Abadie said. “I wanted part of it, but I didn’t know how to get it. … We called them ‘Jesus freaks’ back then. I wanted that in my life, but I thought I’d done too much to be forgiven.”
Abadie started attending First Assembly of God, slipping in the back of the sanctuary and slipping out before the end of the service. In 1975, he asked the pastor, the Rev. David Kelly, for help, and Kelly told him how he could receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
“When I was walking down the sidewalk after I left him, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I was as white and clean in that point of my life as any Christian anywhere,” Abadie said. “That is the biggest load that I’ve ever had lifted in my life.”
A friend, Glenn DeMoulin, invited him to join the Christian Motorcyclists Association, which ministers to bikers. Abadie began writing inspirational articles for CMA’s local publication, which led to opportunities to write for other motorcycle magazines. In 2005, he compiled those stories into a book, “Shiny Side Up.” Abadie also became known locally for teaching about end-time prophecy.
Much of his ministry, however, has been face to face.
Abadie attends motorcycle rallies, including events where hundreds of thousands show up in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Sturgis, South Dakota. Among the many patches on the front and back of his leather riding vest are ones identifying him as a chaplain.
But he doesn’t always wait to be asked for help. When he feels God’s direction, Abadie approaches people in the crowd. He carries pocket New Testaments with a topical index that directs readers to passages dealing with different problems. Abadie offers it to bikers as the “manufacturer’s handbook” for people, and he uses it to preach the gospel.
“I don’t do it randomly,” he said. “I wait for an unction from the Lord. I can’t give you the exact words; I don’t always get words. But I get, pretty much, ‘This one.’ I lean over and say, ‘My name’s Michael T. Abadie. I’m a chaplain. If there’s some needs in your life where you need somebody to pray for, I promise you I’ll pray.’
“You’d be surprised. Boy, the doors will start to open: ‘Can you pray for my wife? She’s been sick lately, and I’ve really been worried about it.’ I’ll pray for that, and you’ll see tears coming out from under those sunglasses. I’ve had guys tell me, ‘You’re the only guy that’s ever prayed for me my whole life.’ ”
Abadie struck up a conversation with a Daytona Beach Police Department motorcycle officer at a rally. When Abadie asked if he had prayer needs, the policeman said he was going through a difficult divorce. They prayed, and the next day, they saw each other again. The officer gave Abadie one of the department’s patches, which Abadie still wears on the front of his vest.
“He said, ‘I just wanted you to have this from me to you. Whenever you look down at the patch, think about me,’ ” Abadie said. “I said, ‘Oh, I’ll pray for you.’ I always do. I’ve prayed for that guy for years. I haven’t seen him since.”
Then, there are the seemingly random encounters. One Saturday morning, Abadie took a pleasure ride down Airline Highway when a motorcyclist came up to him at a traffic light. Abadie has a large Iron Butt Association patch referencing an organization for long-distance riders. The other cyclist wanted to learn more, so they pulled into a parking lot.
The conversation led to Abadie praying for the man and his daughter, who’d been diagnosed with AIDS, and Abadie gave him New Testaments for both of them.
“He said, ‘I guess it’s no coincidence that I stopped you about that Iron Butt stuff, is it?’ ” Abadie recalled. “I said, ‘As far as I’m concerned there are no coincidences. I pray every day to be led by the Lord, and everything happens for a specific reason.’ ”