As truck drivers grapple with loneliness, improper nutrition and poor healthcare, organization brings ‘mobile chapels’ and spiritual counselling to truck stops
I heard about Transport for Christ about a year ago, when a friend who was moving apartments tossed me an old Bible published by the organization. It had been given to him by his uncle, who used to be a truck driver. It was printed in the 1970s, a thin, pale yellow book with the title Your Roadmap of Life printed above a simple sketch of an 18-wheeler. I took the copy home.
The religious organization has been around since 1951. It sets up mobile chapels and currently boasts 35 across the US, two in Russia and one in Zambia. The long hours and unpredictable schedules of drivers make it nearly impossible to catch a service at their home churches, so TFC brings its chapels to the parking lots of travel plazas and trucking events. It also publishes a monthly magazine, Highway News and Good News, and offers a prayer hotline in case a trucker needs quick guidance.
This year, TFC’s 45th annual family truck rally took place in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. This time around, 80 tractor-trailers sat in the parking lot of the Valley Expo Center – most years, the group gets upwards of 200 trucks in attendance, but events were canceled due to torrential downpours.
Prayin’ on the road
TFC chaplains have a variety of jobs, but they mostly do outreach work. They hold services, give sermons, offer spiritual counselling, and evangelize at truck stops, which they call “walking the lot”.
Chaplain Jake Wise explains it in plain words: “I often say that three-quarters of our jobs is listening. We got two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Wise started driving in the late 1970s, when the interstate system was a network of unlit two-lane roads snaking their way through towns. He has spent the better part of 50 years fixing his gaze on the open road, and he knows a thing or two about the job’s difficult side.
Long, isolated and sedentary days with improper nutrition lead to many health issues, while limited access to healthcare makes way for quick, over-the-counter fixes. According to a 2013 survey, 66% of drivers polled reported having a problem with obesity, and 90% were on at least one prescription for blood pressure, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease.
And then there’s the loneliness, which follows a driver down the highways of America for four to eight weeks at a time, which is the average span of time an over-the-road driver spends away. This can creates chasms within the family. The loneliness edges its way into significant gaps of silence, into desperation, into unlocking a key into the door of an empty house, or finding a stranger in your own bed at the end of the night.
The chaplains with Transport for Christ have seen it all.
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SOURCE: The Guardian