JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. - Members of a Jefferson County church are working to support their priest after his motorcycle was stolen from the church grounds.
Soon after moving to House Springs, Missouri from Russia about a year ago, Father Mikhail Volzhanskii drove to South Dakota to buy a motorcycle. He purchased a 1989 Harley Davidson Tour Glide for $4,500.
Volzhanskii became interested in the motorcycle lifestyle when he was invited to pray with a group of bikers in Russia. He hoped to continue working to spread his faith and passion for motorcycles by building a ministry for Orthodox motorcyclists in Missouri.
"When you ride on a motorcycle, you feel through nature," Volzhanskii said.
Volzhanskii said he enjoys riding his motorcycle because he is able to clear his head and connect with God. He spoke of feeling the sun on his face, the smell of fresh air and seeing nature all around him.
"If you see through the world, you can feel the grace of God," he said.
Volzhanskii serves a small Russian Orthodox community at Holy Archangels Women’s Monastery. He leads services at The Church of Saint John Chrysostom. He travels to Benld, Illinois to serve liturgy at Holy Dormition of the Theotokos Orthodox Parish. He has also begun a prison ministry with inmates in Tennessee.
Volzhanskii works without an official salary, relying on donations from others to support his family. He shares a car with his wife, so the motorcycle was his primary means of transportation.
"When weather is higher than 32 degrees, I usually use the motorcycle," Volzhanskii said.
He had just taken his motorcycle out for a ride Sunday (Feb. 3) during the weekend warm up.
"Sunday was a good day," he said.
After returning to the church grounds, he parked his motorcycle under a porch. He noticed it was missing Thursday (Feb. 7).
Friend, parishioner, and fellow motorcyclist Darren Johnson said the loss is devastating for Volzhanskii.
"It's like a death in the family," said Johnson. "It's not like losing a close relative, but it's that feeling."
Johnson set up a GoFundMe account in hopes of raising $6,500 to buy Volzhanskii another motorcycle so he can continue his life's work.
"Hopefully, maybe a few people will be generous, and we can get him back on two wheels again," said Johnson.