Biker preacher has been there

August 5, 2018

Bourbonnais resident Dave Diveley says old friends have a common reaction when he tells them about the life he is leading now: You’re kidding me.

They have a point. He is a changed man.

For the last five years, he has served as pastor of the Salvage Yard Biker Church, which meets every Thursday at the College Church at Olivet Nazarene University. Now, he wants to help those in need, particularly the homeless. He’s been there.

When he was 17, his parents allowed him to join the Army because his other choice was jail. During his seven years in the military, his missions included Vietnam. By his own account, he was a good soldier, but “not a nice person.”

When he left the Army, he was homeless for six months in Georgia.

“I had a tough time making a decision, like so many veterans,” Diveley said. “I lived on the streets and slept in a 1973 Ford Pinto in a junkyard. When people came out of restaurants, they would flick their cigarettes. I’d get them and smoke them.”

The next years were not good for him. He joined a biker gang, dealt drugs and “beat people up.”

Later, Diveley worked at a truck stop, where he lived in a van. He also was a bouncer at an American Legion post in the suburbs. One night, he carded his future wife, Suprema. She was only 20. But he said if she wrote her phone number on his hand, he would let her in. She complied, and they danced one song, Huey Lewis’ “Bad is Bad.” And that was it — she gave him an incorrect number.

Later, he became a car salesman and attended a wedding. The groom had grown up with Suprema in West Virginia. When Diveley saw her, he requested the Huey Lewis tune and approached her, saying, “I believe this is our song.”

She didn’t recognize him because he had cut his beard and was wearing a suit, a far cry from the “grubby” guy before. But they hit it off this time. They married six months later and now have three children — two sons and a daughter. They have lived in Bourbonnais for 30 years.

Two decades ago, he founded D&B Installers, which installs school lockers, bathroom partitions and linen trash chutes. With his children now involved in the business, he was semi-retired in 2017.

Years ago, when his daughter was in the fourth grade, they attended a service at Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene. She enjoyed it so much she wanted to go again. The next time, the late Pastor Ed Heck told the congregation, “Sometimes God will give you a second chance. When he does, you better take it.”

“I felt goosebumps on my arm,” Diveley recalled. “My wife said, ‘He’s talking to us.’ We then dedicated our life to God. The next year, I started the motorcycle ministry and have had it for 12 years.”

Wearing a black Harley-Davidson T-shirt and jeans, he said he has an ability to reach bikers. His services are on Thursdays, so his members can ride on Sundays. He is also the chaplain for the local chapter of the Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club and has been elected to that post for the statewide organization.

“It’s amazing what God has done for me,” said Diveley, holding back tears.

When he was a teenager, the church barred his father from membership because he was a smoker. Yet Diveley later noticed the deacons privately lighting up. That angered him.

“I walked away from God. He and I hadn’t talked in years,” he said.

Now, his new project is getting a homeless shelter in Kankakee County. The Salvation Army shelter closed last year. The Gift of God Church in Kankakee has 12 beds for men, far short of what is needed.

Diveley became particularly interested in the issue last month when the extended-stay Route 50 Motel told tenants it was closing. Some of the residents are now believed to be on the streets.

Diveley has sent letters to dozens of local organizations trying to drum up interest in raising money for a new shelter.

His idea is to use the Route 50 Motel as such a facility. He has yet to get in contact with its owner, Ahmed Zaheer, but Diveley said Zaheer, a developer, could donate the building to the community and take a tax writeoff.

Diveley would keep the rooms on the first floor and designate them for families. On the second floor, the interior walls would be removed and it would serve as space for men. The shelter, where drugs and alcohol would be strictly prohibited, could be a place where people could learn a trade and get back on their feet, Diveley said.

“I just feel that God wants us to be productive. We are all his children. I don’t care if you are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim. This community really needs a shelter. We have good people on the streets. Everyone talks about doing something, but we’re not taking action,” he said. “We’ve got veterans in our area who are sleeping under the bridge. I think that outright sucks. We are a strong community, and our unemployment rate is low. We should be able to help them out. This is God’s project.”

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