FACES OF FAITH:
The Rev. Bob and Debby Bogart were missionaries in Liverpool near Ringo’s childhood home before coming to Pierre’s Capitol Heights Baptist Church a decade ago. This weekend they will be at the annual state meet of the Christian Motorcyclists Association in Chamberlain.
Capitol Heights Baptist is out on the highway on the north edge of the city, 1720 E. U.S. Highway 14.
They spoke this week to Capital Journal Reporter Stephen Lee. This is an edited version of the interview with Pastor Bob Bogart, who consulted with Debby while answering questions.
How did you two meet?
We were both born and raised in Atlanta. I was pastoring a church in suburban Atlanta and she was the secretary of a downtown church. So we met in church.
Did you grow up in the Southern Baptist Church?
I was born and raised in a Christian home, a Southern Baptist home.I am thankful for that. But I am a follower of Jesus Christ more than I am of a denomination.
My wife and I are Southern Baptists, but mainly we are followers of Jesus Christ.
I found out that just being a member of a church and the son of a deacon doesn’t make you Christian. So there was a time in my life when I realized I was a sinner and needed a savior and asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my savior. And so both my wife and I have the same testimony: Once we were lost and now we are found.
From being a Southern Baptist serving churches in the South, how did you end up in Liverpool, England?
Well, after New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I pastored churches in Georgia and North Carolina. And then God called us to missions in Europe and we were in England for 10 and a half years. We were in Liverpool working with the homeless, poor and needy, with the Liverpool City Mission. It’s the second oldest city mission in the United Kingdom. It dates back to 1829. The only older one is in Glasgow. We were there from 1999-2009.
The home of the Beatles. What was that like?
I love the Beatles. I was born in 1950 so I grew up with their music, the British invasion. Ringo Starr grew up just a few blocks from a church I pastored in the Dingle Mount in Liverpool. It was pretty rough part of town, still. George Harrison died while were there and of course John Lennon had died years before. But you can see the homes they grew up in. On our way to the Mission we would walk by the gates of Strawberry Fields. And walk on Penny Lane. There’s the church hall in Woolton where Lennon and McCartney first met, when Lennon was playing, and the Anglican church there, St. Peter’s, in the graveyard you can see the grave of Eleanor Rigby. (The inspiration for McCartney’s song of that name.)
Not many people attend church in England these days, it’s said. Is it quite different from the Bible Belt in Atlanta or the Dakotas?
Apples and oranges. I saw one survey that said only 1 percent of the people in the cities in England claimed to be Christian. I sat with parishioners in their homes and asked them when the change happened. Most said right after World War II. England was devastated by the war and London was just ripped to pieces. And at that point, people just gave up on God and just walked away, they said. I’m not sure if that’s true. But there is a big difference between Atlanta, where there’s an openness to the gospel, but in Liverpool there was a darkness.
How big was your church there?
We started with about 12 and by the time we left Liverpool, we were running about 90 in attendance. We had teams coming over from the United States to help in the homeless shelter and food program and we ran a clothing program. The Liverpool City Mission is much like a Salvation Army.
How did you two come to Pierre?
After almost 11 years there, we heard from a friend in Atlanta and he knew of a Southern Baptist pastor in Watertown, South Dakota, who said they were needing Southern Baptist pastors. We had been praying, asking God what was next. So I sent my resume here and got called by Capitol Heights Baptist.
Quite a change from Liverpool, I’d guess.
Yes. We are a long way from home. We were actually closer to Atlanta when we were in Liverpool because we had to fly. Here, we end up driving two days and two nights. We still see ourselves as missionaries to this area of the country.
This is the safest place I have ever lived. I could never have left my keys dangling in my car door and the car still been there in Liverpool, like it happened here.
One similarity we find here like Atlanta and the South is that people in this region of the United States are sympathetic to the things of the Gospel, to the things of the Bible. So it’s pretty easy to engage in conversation with people. There’s just good folks up here in the northern Midwest. It really is the heartland of America.
Do you keep in touch with anyone in Liverpool?
Yes, every week we are talking to people there. In fact, two of them are coming over here to Pierre this fall.
You guys have four children?
Yes, all grown. Our son is in Italy, has 31 years in the Navy. Our daughters, we have one in Tampa, Florida, one in Marietta, Georgia and one in Columbus, Ohio.
So, grandchildren, then?
We have 13 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
How big is your congregation?
A good average is 50 to 60 in attendance. It can fluctuate a lot. We had a family of 11 move to Pine Ridge, so that is a big blow to the church.
You are a Baptist pastor and a biker. Do you have a Harley?
I had a Harley for a few years but got tired of getting the fillings put back in my teeth and got an Indian motorcycle.
Did you have a bike in Liverpool?
Yes, we had a BMW.
We are part of the Christian Motorcyclists Association. We were in the CMA in Liverpool. When we came to Pierre, we started a local CMA chapter, the Missouri River Riders, in 2010.
Does Debby have a bike?
No. She rides with me at times but usually she takes a van. A lot of the wives don’t want to ride the whole way, so they bring a van.
We are go to Sturgis every year to the Motorcycle Rally and work out of there.
In fact, the South Dakota state CMA rally starts Friday, June 14 and goes to Saturday, June 15, in Chamberlain. We will have about 100 people there. And the national CMA rally is in Gillette., Wyoming next week.