Truckers Ministry Continues Amid Holiday Hustle …… | News and reports
With reports of a supply chain crisis causing delivery delays this holiday season, many Americans were praying that truck drivers would receive their Christmas merchandise on time. Meanwhile, a fleet of ministers stationed in truck stops across the country prayed for the drivers themselves.
Despite the headlines, news of a truck driver shortage this year was largely misinterpreted and exaggerated, experts say. Local drivers are in fact in surplus, according to labor statistics, and long-distance trucking has been a exhausting work with a lot of turnover for decades.
Truckers “move America forward,” said Chaplain Jay LeRette, an Illinois pastor who prayed for drivers on CB radio, counseled them on their faith and relationships, and organized services in the city. an 18-wheeled chapel that has been mobile since 1992. “They’re all over America, but they’re separate from the people. It’s a very lonely job, especially during the holidays, because in the trucking industry there are a lot of broken relationships.
This Christmas is especially like any other on the road. Chaplain Rick Youngdahl of Pennsylvania said he had not seen a change in the number of interactions “to a great extent” as he might if the labor shortage was as severe as some claimed.
Chaplains have had fewer opportunities to connect with drivers due to the pandemic, but things are getting closer to normal in recent months, according to TFC Global (formerly called “Truckers for Christ”).
“God is greater than the pandemic, so even though our visitors are down we still have great interactions and great things have happened. Now I see more drivers coming in, ”said Chad Roedema, director of US operations for the international ministry.
Local and national ministries are at the service of truck drivers all year round, including during the peak holiday season. The harsh conditions and pressure of the job highlight the need for peace and hope, making ministry to leaders deeply necessary.
The main way for TFC Global to reach truck drivers is to use chaplains serving as truck stops. Sometimes the chaplains have an office inside the stop itself, and sometimes they have a caravan next to the building where they can organize religious services and meet the drivers.
While Christmas is a great time to start conversations about the faith, LeRette, who is chaplain at a truck stop in Rochelle, Ill., Has found that the activity of the season means fewer drivers want to take the time. to speak or attend the services he holds in his trailer. Drivers still stop regularly on vacation – they may only be on the road a certain number of hours before needing to take a break – but they seem less likely to take time out of their schedule to ask for help. ugly.
Even during normal weeks, drivers may be reluctant to approach a chaplain. LeRette finds ways to start conversations. Many days he rides his horse — yes, a horse — around the truck stop. LeRette wears a cowboy hat and the horse wears a saddle with Bible verses hanging from either side.
“A lot of truck drivers are cowboys at heart, so when I come into the parking lot with this horse it really catches their eye. They jump out of the truck and run out screaming, “Hey, come back here with that horse,” LeRette said. “It gives me a platform to share with the pilots. I have saddlebags with leaflets and Bibles and things of that nature to try to serve them and point them to Jesus.
Sometimes these encounters are more than the start of a conversation. LeRette once gave advice and a prayer to a truck driver’s wife for his sick horse over the phone after the truck driver saw LeRette out for a walk. The next day the driver returned to tell LeRette that the horse was doing better. During their conversation, the man accepted Christ.
Many truck drivers live with the constraint of working independently from their wives and families. And even those who bring their spouse experience the marital stress of closeness, constant travel and instability, LeRette said.
These and other stressors within the trucking industry were part of the job long before trucker shortages were blamed for supply chain issues and delays in the fall of 2021. Yes, companies are looking for tens of thousands more people to sign up to drive. But the industry has always had problems, with a reported turnover rate of around 90%, an aging population of drivers nearing retirement, and a grueling and lonely task. When there are blockages at ports or other warehouses, they often feel that their time is not being valued, which adds to the stress, Los Angeles Times recently reported.
In addition to national ministries like TFC Global, local ministries are also at the service of truck drivers. Youngdahl lives in Brookville, Pa., Near Interstate 80. After the completion of the freeway in the 1970s, local churches recognized that truck drivers might need help when they were in the city. the region. They developed a board of directors and founded a chaplain, and the ministry continues to this day, several chaplains later.
Youngdahl does not have physical space in a truck stop. Instead, local stops and hospitals have his phone number and call him if a driver needs help. Often times, Youngdahl will take drivers to the hospital to buy truck parts or to the airport if their truck breaks down. This convenient service opens doors for conversation.
“Whenever I go looking for someone, often one of the first questions is, ‘Who are you and why are you doing this? ”Said Youngdahl.
Youngdahl keeps Bibles with him to distribute if they are interested. A retired truck mechanic, he goes out of his way to be a resource for passing truckers and he answers calls at any time of the day or night. Even during pandemic shutdowns, Youngdahl continued to help in any way he could.
LeRette experienced firsthand how God could work even during blockages. A driver asked to speak to LeRette remotely because he was ill.
“I asked the driver, ‘Where are you with Jesus? ”Said LeRette. “He said, ‘That’s why I came here. I feel like I might die, and I don’t agree with God. I was able to share the gospel with this man. I said, ‘You have to ask for forgiveness and ask Jesus to come into your life to save you,’ so he did.
LeRette asked the driver to call her after seeing a doctor. When LeRette heard nothing from the driver, he called the company the driver worked for and asked how he was doing. The driver had died in hospital just days after speaking with LeRette and accepting Jesus.
The loneliness and turmoil in the lives of many truck drivers makes this ministry both crucial and fruitful, and Roedema believes it is a ministry that needs to grow and expand to help even more men and women.
“We are one of the biggest ministries that no one knows about,” he said. “We are a dynamic ministry for a dynamic group of people, but we need help. “