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Randy Hanson, Forum News Service, Published December 29 2013

Heaven on wheels: Wisconsin truck-stop ministry gets new mobile chapel

HUDSON, Wis. – There’s a new Powerhouse Chapel at the TravelCenters of America truck stop on Interstate 94 east of Hudson.

Cerwin and Doris High of Pennsylvania delivered the 48-foot-long, 102-inch-wide converted semi-trailer on a bitterly cold Friday in early December.

Cerwin is the chapel maker for Transport for Christ, a Christian ministry for truck drivers with chaplains and chapels at 34 truck stops around the United States and Canada.

The Hudson truck stop has had a Powerhouse Chapel since 1992, when Chaplain Tim Sackett arrived to start the ministry.

The old chapel, made from a trailer manufactured in 1977, had some cosmetic problems, Sackett explained. There was a rip in the roof that came open from time to time, resulting in water streaks on the walls and a sagging floor.

A year ago, a Transport for Christ leader came to Hudson to conduct training sessions. He brought photos of the old chapel back to the home office in Marietta, Pa. Then in July, the ministry decided to replace it. The work on the new chapel began in August.

It took three months for a team of volunteers led by Cerwin High to convert a 1994 Stoughton trailer donated by a Pennsylvania trucking firm into the new chapel.

Transport for Christ was started by Jim Keys of Toronto in 1951. Then a new Bible college graduate, Keys began the ministry by taking his station wagon to a truck scale and handing out Christian literature to the drivers waiting to have their loads weighed.

“We are leading truck drivers to Jesus Christ and helping them to grow in their faith,” Sackett said.

The chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A chaplain, either Sackett or one of a number of volunteers, can usually be found there between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. Some volunteer chaplains who travel a distance to be there stay overnight on the hide-a-bed in the office.

Services are conducted at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays, but the majority of the ministry takes place in one-on-one or small-group visits with the truck drivers who stop by the chapel.

Some are looking for a fellow Christian to talk with to help combat the loneliness of the road. Some are dealing with life issues and looking for guidance. Some come to pray and have devotions with the chaplain on duty. Some come to read the Bible and study.

Having grown up in a trucking family and been a driver himself, Sackett has great empathy for the drivers, who increasingly include couples and women. He sometimes calls a woman from a local church to befriend the female drivers in need of a sympathetic ear.

The loneliness of the road isn’t the only difficulty drivers confront these days, Sackett said. With the advent of GPS tracking and electronic logbooks, much of the freedom of the road drivers used to experience has been taken away.

“Now, they (the employers) know where you’re parked. They know how long you’ve been parked there,” Sackett said. “It’s depressing, really, for the drivers. So they have a whole new reason to be depressed, and it’s not loneliness. It’s electronic control.”

He said sometimes the problem for husband-and-wife teams is the opposite of loneliness.

He told of a driver who related to him: “The nice thing about being together on the road is that you’re together a lot. The bad thing about being on the road together is that you’re together A LOT!”