Taking Faith On The Road With Transport For Christby Jake Tully - Published: 9/06/2016
Combating the issue of wellness within the trucking community is no easy task, especially when it comes to the subject of one’s mental health.
Replacing candy bars with celery and getting in 15 more minutes of sleep certainly can’t hurt a driver, but there’s absolutely no substitution for sanity, and for that matter, one’s faith.
“Sometimes I’m out there on the road for 7, 8 days and I don’t even know the last time I stepped into my church,’ said Josh Kitchen, long haul driver in Oklahoma. “I find it absolutely impossible at times to feel like a good Christian when I haven’t talked about the Bible, much less looked at one in weeks.”
Kitchen isn’t alone – according to Trucking Statistics, the entire evangelical population in the United States is comprised of 20 – 40% of the trucking community. Additionally, 10% of independent owner-operators in the trucking community identify as Christians.
With no apparent lack of Christians on the road, one wonders how these drivers maintain their faith and how many more continue in the industry identifying as a Christian.
One resource for drivers seeking faith, respite from the road, or a friendly face to talk to is the organization Transport For Christ.
Since 1951, Transport For Christ has maintained a presence on the road for truckers by way of mobile chapels, providing a church-like setting in an atmosphere similar to a truck stop.
Transport For Christ has made it a mission to help truckers on the road establish a better relationship with their faith as well as maintain a healthy mental attitude while working a job that can be stressful and altogether unforgiving. Providing bible studies, church services, spiritual counseling and friendly faces all around, Transport For Christ has been a respite along the highway for countless drivers over the past 65 years.
To gain better insight into issues of faith on the road and driver wellness, Truck Driving Jobs spoke to Lynn Kolb, Business and Finance Supervisor and Website/Social media Manager of Transport For Christ about the organization and its impact on the trucking industry.
Truck Driving Jobs: For someone who has never heard of a mobile ministry before, how might you describe it?
Lynn Kolb: When Transport For Christ first started in 1951, we traveled with a donated trailer we converted to a mobile chapel from truck stop to truck stop offering safety courses and spiritual encouragement. In 1986, the Wilco Travel Plaza on I-81, Exit 77 (Rt. 39) near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania invited us to place a mobile chapel at their truck stop on a permanent basis. That year, 150 drivers trusted Christ through the ministry of that one chapel. Operational costs were dramatically reduced and many local people became involved in the ministry as volunteers. From this point on, all new TFC Mobile Chapels were placed permanently at truck stops across the country.
TDJ: What can a driver expect upon their first visit to a Transport For Christ stop?
LK: TFC Chaplains will listen to drivers who needs to “unload” about the issues they are struggling with. They will also provide practical suggestions, prayer, and encouragement from God’s Word. If a driver needs professional help for mental, emotional, family, or health issues we provide information on resources and in many cases have helped the driver by taking them to the appointment.
TDJ: Transport For Christ sets up shop in parking lots, similar to the stops a driver might make on their routes. Do you find that this format extends some familiarity to truckers?
LK; Very much so; it’s a familiar setting and recognizable across North America at our 38 locations. Each chapel looks like a TFC chapel.
TDJ: Who is the average trucker that stops by? Are there typically “regulars” that come in for TFC’s services or do truckers find the stops by chance and come by to take a load off?
LK: We have a wide range of truckers today; the old timers who got into because of the independence and travel this lifestyle affords them, many younger ones who are getting into it because of the chance to earn a good living without a college education, and more who immigrated to our country in search of a better opportunity to provide for their families who are back in their home country. Some locations have “regulars” who travel the same route because they have made a good connection with one of our chaplains. Many more we will never see again.
TDJ: The trucking lifestyle may lend itself to a driver experiencing physical and emotional distress. In addition to leading drivers to become a stronger Christian, does TFC also see drivers begin to maintain a better balance between health, work, and life?
LK: While we do see many drivers who already know the Lord visiting at our locations and attending Sunday services or Wednesday Night Bible Studies, we meet many more who have never even heard of the Bible, too. Maintaining a balance between health, work, and life is a great need in the industry. Trucking also puts a tremendous strain on families and relationships. A part of our response to help a driver manage his relationships better, we started an anti-human trafficking initiative we call Exit 58. We joined a campaign to raise awareness that U.S. women and children were being involved in trafficking at truck stops and along our nation’s highways in hopes that drivers would call in tips to the National Trafficking Hotline. The campaign was very successful. According to the hotline’s Resource Center Director, Nicole Mueller, truckers are “one of the most motivated and well-organized industry groups working on this issue, and their tips have led to countless arrests and recoveries of victims across the country.”
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We also began to raise awareness with drivers of the links between pornography, prostitution, and humans. Through Exit 58, we can provide drivers with access to resources to help them change a sexual habit or addiction that is indirectly fueling the demand for the sex trafficking of minors. Lately, we’ve also been focusing special attention on our Truckers Wellness Initiative. We see drivers who struggle with health and stress related issues and have heard from many drivers who cannot continue their work because of their health. It’s difficult for a driver to get access to medical care because there is nowhere to park their rig at the facility, or there are no facilities near the major trucking corridors. Many drivers don’t ask for help until the pain becomes too great to bear on their own. We hope to open a new organization – Trucking Wellness Centers – to help them address these things as well.
TDJ: Transport For Christ also publishes Highway News and Good News – how do these news outlets differ from other news outlets?
LK: The Highway News and Good News magazine is written exclusively for truck drivers and the trucking community. We also do not offer advertising in the magazine. It is provided by the gorgeous contributions of readers and friends of the ministry who want to encourage drivers. The content is simple yet refreshing and set in the framework of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
TDJ: Is it ever difficult to recreate the atmosphere of a church when set up on the road?
LK: Although we do offer Sunday Services and Wednesday Night Bible Studies, creating the atmosphere of a church is not our primary goal. Of course, when we do have services some locations have a pianist or a guitarist who volunteers to lead worship or we will use a CD. The chaplain shares a salvation-oriented message because our primary goal is to share the Gospel with lost drivers – some of whom have never even heard of Jesus. Of course, we also want to help those drivers who know the Lord to grow in their faith. We often will have an impromptu Bible Study with anyone who asks. Most of the time, a driver comes in at the end of his rope and needs someone to talk to; our chaplains are there to prayerfully listen and offer a spiritual perspective that leads the driver to the Lord.
TDJ: There are drivers coming in from all across the country for your services – do you find that there are any differences from drivers in more historically trucking-heavy areas such as the Midwest and South versus drivers on the West Coast?
Yes; though not necessarily because of trucking regions but rather due to the geographical locations where the driver grew up. You can’t minister to a driver who is from California in the same way as you can someone from Michigan because they were raised with very different presuppositions on life.
TDJ: What does TFC ultimately want to impart upon the drivers that stop by?
LK: Ultimately, we seek to share with driver’s the love and hope that can be found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Many are searching for answers to life and we respectfully share with them ‘The Answer’ – Jesus Christ.
Visit Transport for Christ to learn more about their operations. You can also find their Facebook and Twitter profiles for more information and resources.