Representing Christ on the Racetrack
Racing in the sportsman’s class, Ed Bernhard heats his tires in the burnout box, letting the chemicals that improve traction rise to the surface. Rolling up to the starting line, he waits for green to signal go.
The sound of engines tuning and the smell of gasoline mixed with exhaust are all anticipated at a racetrack. However, unsuspected by most, a church service may be heard as well.
Drag racing is something Ed Bernhard has always been interested in. Even as a little boy, Bernhard was attracted to the sound of a roaring engine. At a time when gas was only 35 cents a gallon, a teenage Bernhard could be found beneath the engine of an automobile. And he still is today when he’s not managing one of his many responsibilities on Bethel’s campus. Often, Bernhard can be found at the local racetrack.
As the director of auxiliary services, managing Bethel’s partnership with Sodexho, the Sufficient Grounds Café and Campus Store, the mailroom and other self-funded enterprises, Bernhard’s career is serving others. But his lifelong passion for the track prevails.
“Growing up, I was very much into cars. I lived and breathed it,” says Bernhard.
As an adult, Bernhard sought a way to combine his faith with this passion. Through God Speed Ministry, Bernhard became a chaplain. Racing is one of the few sports left that opens with prayer. Some larger races host a Sunday service as well.
“I call it my trackside ministry. There are folks like myself that volunteer our time to just be there. Sometimes it’s just about getting to know people so that they know you are there if they need anything. In the course of conversation is when we do our best work for Christ,” Bernhard says.
With his 1951 Hennery Jay, his 1969 Camaro and a decal that reads “Christ at the Helm,” Bernhard represents both Bethel and Christ on and off the track.
“If you’re into cars, there is nothing better than having a church service next to a racetrack. With the smells and the sounds, it’s two loves coming together.”