The Truckers Chapel Outreach Ministries operates out of a trailer at the TA truckstop in Cottondale, Ala.
When you’re hauling long distance, family time, relaxation and diet are not the only aspects of life that can be neglected. What many would call an essential part of coping with the everyday – your spiritual life – can sometimes suffer as well.
Several roadside chapels across the nation are on a crusade to provide truckers with much-needed spiritual refuge and guidance.
In Grand Rapids, Mich., The Refuge has been leading the campaign to provide truckers with a place of worship for three years.
“Truckers are away from home too much,” says volunteer chaplain Gordon Laninga. “Because of this, they deal with many family problems, loneliness and other troubles associated with being separated from the ones they love.”
Located next to the scales at the 76th Street truckstop on Highway 131, The Refuge is unique because volunteer chaplains are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most of the chaplains have also been truck drivers at some point during their lives.
“You never know when someone will need guidance, and it would be disappointing to truckers not to find someone here,” Laninga says. “The fact that most of us have been truckers allows them to say, ‘Yes, I have been there, and I know what your life is about.’”
Although Laninga was never a driver himself, he has been working at the chapel since its inception. He says that although many of the men he counsels are Christians, some of them have never accepted any form of religion into their lives.
“I would say that about 75 percent of the people I see are Christians and are just looking for advice and to strengthen their relationship with God,” Laninga says. “Some who come in just sit down and say that they don’t know why they have come. It is some of those who I have helped to convert to Christianity.”
As a retired pastor, Laninga says he has never been as thrilled with the ministry as he is with his job at The Refuge.
“This is the most excited about church I have ever been,” he says. “In being here, I had hoped to be a blessing to others, but I feel most blessed.”
The chapel operates largely from donations provided by local churches, Laninga says. The owner of the truckstop invited the chapel to come because of its ability to deter immoral activity that goes on at truckstops.
Last year The Refuge opened its doors to more than 2,000 truckers and averages six per day.
On the West Coast, Dave Quignon, pastor of the Transport for Christ Chapel in Sacramento Calif., spends five days a week ministering to truckers at the 49er Auto-Truck Plaza near the junction of I-5 and I-80 at West El Camino Avenue.