Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Transport For Christ: Mobile Chapels Meet Truckers "at the Well"

I can only imagine how hard life is for over-the-road truckers -- and the temptations with which they are faced in a high-paced, high-stress, long and lonely life.  I found this article at The Christian Post describing the special niche -- or "body part of Christ", if you will -- that Transport for Christ (TFC) has.  They appear to have the polar opposite approach to ministry found in larger congregations, and yet perhaps more practical and down-to-basics. (Emphasis added.)
Truck Drivers Find God at Mobile Chapel
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Daniel Mullins walked awkwardly into the middle of Sunday service at the Wilco Travel Plaza mobile chapel, looking confused and worn out.

He wore a red and black, long-sleeved flannel shirt with a large rip in the back despite the 80 degree summer heat. His eyes were sunken in and his shoulders slumped as if beaten by the world.

“Something just brought me here, I don’t know why,” said Mullins, 47, a truck driver who made an unplanned visit to the Transport for Christ mobile chapel in Harrisburg, Pa., on Sunday.

After spending an hour talking to a chaplain, Mullins emerged from the back room of the 18-wheeler-truck-turned-mobile-chapel with a sheepish smile on his face.

“It was like a weight took off my shoulders,” he explained about his smile and straightened back.
Mullins is among the expected 60 to 70 truck drivers who come or rededicate their lives to Christ each year at the TFC mobile chapel in Harrisburg. There, truck drivers find refuge from loneliness and temptations in a chapel manned by chaplains 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We never lock our door, our lights are never off,” David Roberts, the main chaplain at the Wilco mobile chapel, said proudly.

There are 33 mobile chapels in the United States and Canada, four in Russia, and ones being set up in Zambia and Australia. The Harrisburg mobile chapel is the first permanent TFC site in the United States.

The Need
Roberts, who had served as a pastor to six churches prior to being a TFC chaplain, said in his best year as a pastor he led 20 people to Christ. But in his first week at TFC he was surprised that he led 14 truck drivers to Christ.

“To see drivers actually come in and say, ‘Could you tell me for sure how I could become a Christian?' I never heard that before," Roberts said. "It was one after another and I realized that it wasn’t us. It wasn’t the chaplains. The chaplains just have the greatest privilege in the world.”

Roberts said truck drivers are open to the Gospel because they have so much time to think. Drivers are “HALT,” the chaplain said, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired.

“We have all the time to listen to them,” Roberts said. “We build relationships. Jesus Christ came to build relationships … he just had to go to the woman at the well, the woman taken in adultery, the demoniac, the blind man.”

TFC chaplains, said Roberts, do not talk down to the truck drivers.

“We identify with them. When they confess their sins, we confess our sins with them. When they pray for a wayward child, we pray for a wayward child.”

The chaplains shared stories of the people they have led to Christ, including a man who was a member of the Puerto Rican mafia. After the man rededicated his life to Christ, he turned himself and his truck filled with contrabands in to the police. The police allowed him to go free and he lived with Chaplain David Hershey and his family for six months. Other TFC chaplains and volunteers said they have brought home drug addicts and allowed them to live with their families in an effort to rehabilitate them and show them the love of Christ.

Lost Church
At a time when churches are criticized for focusing on bigger buildings and better programs instead of reaching the lost and hurt, the low-budget, no-frills TFC mobile chapels stand in sharp contrast.

Young megachurch pastor David Platt in his new book Radical fretted over how the American church culture defines success by “bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings,” which he says looks nothing like Jesus’ “minichurch” or the early church.

“I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe,” Platt wrote.

Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, has complained about how American Christians are neglecting God’s mission.

“Here the people of the world are swarming into our cities – the immigrants, Muslims, the South Asians, Hispanics – and what do our churches do?” Rankin said in a recent interview with The Christian Post. “They abandon where these people are and move out to the suburbs so they can continue to build their programs and fellowship among their own kind of people and neglect the lostness of the people of the world in their own city and neighborhood.”

TFC Chaplain Roberts agrees there is a growing problem with churches in North America, which he said has become a “business enterprise.”

“They say how many bodies can I get into this building, how many bucks can I get out of their pockets so I can put bricks up,” Roberts said. “I’m seeing churches split all over the place because of building this program and that program.”

While Roberts resisted comparing ministries, saying all have an important part in the body of Christ, he said emphatically that TFC chaplains have one shared passion.

“[I]t is to see drivers come to know Jesus Christ, not an organization,” said Roberts. “[O]ur part is a small part focusing where they are at and introducing them to our savior Jesus Christ.”

Jewish Conversion
Last January, Roberts introduced Phil Saunders, a Jewish truck driver, to Christ. The two recalled spending seven hours talking and reading the Bible before Saunders dedicated his life to following Jesus Christ ...

Saunders said his faith conversion has resulted in conflicts with his parents. He explained that Jews consider believing in Jesus Christ as one's savior a betrayal to Judaism. But he said he does not see a conflict between the two faiths but a completion.

“The final piece of the story, if you will, is that now you can suddenly see this is what the picture looks like,” he said passionately.

“Without that one piece called Jesus Christ you have no idea what you are looking at. It might have a name but you have no way of discerning whether it is true, whether it is a lie,” he said. “Even if it is true it is not a complete truth because something is missing.”

He added, “I never knew in my heart that hole here can only be filled with Jesus Christ.”

His wife, who is also Jewish, came to Christ two months after Phil accepted Jesus as his Lord ...
If you're interested in learning more, I found that TFC has a website.  Check out their website at transportforchrist.org.

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