It was a cold and snowy Wednesday night when Hank walked into the rickety mobile home trailer. Slowly making his way to a seat, he lifted off his hat and gently closed his eyes to pray.
Hank, who declined to give his last name, is a truckdriver and hails from Alabama, where he has what he calls, in a raspy southern voice, a “bundle of kids.” At barely 50 years old, his deep charcoal skin is dry, as if it was nearing 60. He is missing a finger on his left hand (from an “accident that doesn’t matter anymore”) and wears a baseball cap that reads: “Jesus saves,” which is an appropriate accessory given where he just landed: the Mobile Chapel.
Nestled in a small patch of grass by the Ind. 334 and U.S. 65 truck stop, there sits a small mobile trailer with neon flashing lights that welcomes visitors to the ‘Mobile Chapel: A dynamic ministry for a dynamic industry.’
And dynamic is certainly one word to describe it. This tiny chapel-on-wheels houses Christian chaplains 24 hours a day, providing not only spiritual guidance but comfort to truck drivers who pass through on their long drives.
The idea for the mobile ministry began in Ontario, Canada after a group of pastors saw the need to minister to those without a stable church or home: the truck drivers of North America.
They founded the ministry and called it Transport for Christ. Since its start in 1951, more than 30 mobile chapels have been set up across America and the borders of Canada.
“This is enough,” said Scott Weidner, president and CEO of Transport for Christ, so “that no trucker should have to drive more than a day without being able to find a mobile chapel.”
Weidner said he has met many truck drivers and truck stop workers who have found solace in the unlikely places of these “donated and decorated” trailers.
One man, he said, parked his truck at a travel plaza and woke up in the middle of the night to find his truck on fire. The mobile ministry at the truck stop was able to give him food and clothing.
“Trucking is an incredibly stressful and lonely job,” Weidner said. “We want to support the men and women who transport all of our goods. Our country cannot run without them.”
Howard Burrel is the 52 year old chaplain that runs the mobile chapel on Ind. 334. After 27 years driving a truck, he can relate to the drivers who come into his trailer.
“Sometimes you are on the road and away from your family for three or four weeks at a time,” Burrel said.
He said that many times, young truck drivers go to trucking school and learn the basics of driving but are never told how hard the lifestyle is.
“One man came in here and just burst out in tears. He had been on the road for 3 months,” Burrel said. “And the first thing he said was, ‘Nobody told me trucking was this hard.’”
Burrel said on some days he sees as many as seven or eight drivers who are looking for someone to talk to.
“They really want someone to listen to them,” Weidner said of the truckers. “They are always alone.”
Listed in a lined notebook at the entry of the Mobile Chapel are the names and prayer requests of former visitors. The writing is hard to read, and the spelling errors are many.
One lady, named Jamee, wrote that she needs prayer because the doctors just diagnosed her with lukeumia. A man named Frank wrote, in broken English, that he is praying for love.
Joann wrote that she needs a “happier relationship” with her husband, and an anonymous person wrote that they are scared to go home.
“The drivers don’t have consistency in their lives,” Weidner said. “We try to give them that.”
In addition to meeting the daily needs of truck drivers, Transport for Christ is also speaking out against sex trafficking. Weidner said there are millions of young women trafficked across America and sold at truck stops.
“We have started to educate the drivers and our chaplains on how to help these women,” he said.
Already, the organization has helped girls as young as 12 get out of prostitution.
“This is not a Sunday service,” Weidner said. “This is a full-time ministry to help.”
Visit truckersagainsttrafficking.com for more information.