On this “crazy road of life” we are all on, people sometimes come into our lives that can only be described as blessings. This year, I was blessed to share MATS with my “Sis” Heather Hogeland, and she introduced me to two very dear friends of hers – Chaplain Joe Hunter and his lovely wife Jan. You can’t go to Louisville without having at least a few special moments, and this year I left with wonderful memories and new friends.
I have heard Chaplain Joe and Jan on Dave Nemo’s radio show before. Now, I will always be grateful to not only have met them, but become part of their Truckstop Ministries (TMI) family, as well. Sunday night, after the show had ended, Heather, Daniel and Phyllis Snow, and Michael and Jackie Wallace stood with me while Chaplain Joe and Jan blessed and prayed over my new truck. I will not push my beliefs on anyone, as I would hope they would not try to push theirs on me, but I would like to share some information about this amazing ministry, and then you can make a choice for yourself as to if you would like to attend their services or become part of their very special family, or not.
TMI is a trans-denominational ministry, meaning that all are welcome! Many drivers are often gone on Sunday morning and they are unable to attend church at home, if they belong to one. Well, if that is your story, or if you have been looking for a new “home” on Sunday mornings, here is an alternative option for you that allows you to worship with others, while still doing your job. Truckstop Ministries, which was loosely founded back in 1981, now has 84 locations in 29 states! Chapels are in both large and small truck stops and they utilize TV rooms, trucker’s lounges and movie rooms. At many of the locations, there are permanent semi-trailers that have been converted into very nice little chapels. But, like all of us, Joe’s journey of faith first began on a bumpy road.
Chaplin Joe got a job at a truck stop when he was only 14 years old, even though he was extremely afraid of big trucks. His initial fear was so bad that if a driver left the truck running, he wouldn’t even fuel it. Curiosity finally overcame his fear and he learned to drive a rig in the truck stop parking lot. It wasn’t long that the drivers learned that he would vacuum the interior, wash the windows and check everything on the truck, just for the chance to drive it from the pump to the parking lot. At 18, Joe began driving as a student driver, and then, at 19, he was drafted into the army. He married Jan while on leave during basic training before being shipped off to Vietnam.
While there, he quickly learned that everyone was just looking out for themselves. Before he left, he had tried drugs and alcohol. After being in that hell-hole, he was drinking all the time – they called it “courage” over there. Three days after being discharged from the service, he was back on the road – and back on drugs. A year later, he went to work for a big company with fast, fancy trucks. Being paid by the mile, more miles meant more money, and to run more miles you took more pills. During that time, money become Joe’s God. Bringing in good money, he thought, “I’ve really got it made now.” But there was still a void. Life went from bad to worse, and Joe couldn’t understand why Jan stayed with him, except for their baby boy.
Things really changed in 1971 while on a routine run from Dublin, GA to Greenville, SC. Joe went into an “S” curve too fast, lost control, and ran off the left side of the road. The truck turned over and skidded 150 feet on the driver’s side. When he realized he had lost control, he was more afraid than he had ever been – even in Vietnam, where bullets had gone past his head. The rig was totaled. The load of carpet he was hauling had went through the roof, side and front of the trailer. He knew if he died where he was going to go. Turning his back on God for many years, Joe felt that his life had been spared – but why?
Two weeks later, at the invitation of a pastor, Joe found himself in a church, pouring his heart out to God, and with that, a “peace that passed all understanding” (John 14:27, Phil. 4:7) came into his heart and he knew that he was completely set free and forgiven of his sins. The next day, when he began telling other drivers what had happened to him, he thought surely everyone would want to hear this wonderful experience, but he was surprised when they laughed at him. And after all these years, some still laugh, but many have found new life in the ministry that was born from this experience.
In 1974, while still trucking, they moved to Atlanta and began a deep study of God’s Word at a Bible-believing church. God used Joe to win souls as he traveled the United States. He would talk with truckers like himself about the problems we all face, and how Jesus could help, if they just turned those problems over to Him. In 1978, he was called to preach at a church in Dumas, TX where he was invited to share his testimony. Later that year, he was licensed into the ministry, and in 1980, he was ordained. Joe and Jan started hosting truckers’ fellowship meetings in 1981 at the T/A in Georgia, and these meetings eventually led to the formation of Truckstop Ministries, Inc. (TMI).
Over the years, the ministry has been blessed with growth, and Chaplain Joe and Jan are grateful for that fact. TMI reaches out to drivers on truck lots, on fuel islands, in restaurants, and even on park benches located in some truck stops. There are Chaplains located all across the United States, a 24-hour Prayer Line, a 24-hour Devotional Line, a bi-monthly newsletter, a Facebook page, their website (www.truckstopministries.org), and they have a Sunday morning segment during the first hour of Dave Nemo’s radio show on Sirius/XM radio, called “Morning Devotional with Chaplain Joe & Jan.” As you can see, there is a lot happening at TMI!
Since back in January, TMI partnered with Truck Stop Docs and is now offering DOT physicals and minor walk-in medical services in an old chapel at the T/A Travel Center in Jackson, GA. At the present time, their hours are noon to 8:00 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and noon to 4:00 PM on Wednesdays. Sometimes, it’s hard to get to a clinic when you are on the road, and by having one in a truck stop, it takes the parking issue out of your equation. While there, you can see a Nurse Practitioner and even get a prescription, if you need it. For more info, call them at (706) 819-3516.
It’s not easy being on the road and trying to do “normal” things that people who are home every night are able to do, like going to church or seeing a doctor. Trucking is a lifestyle, and it is not for everyone, but for those of us who choose to drive, we find ways to make it work – and I, for one, am thankful for all that so many others do for me. I am also excited to be a part of TMI, now.
The next time you find yourself in Jackson, GA at exit 201 on I-75, stop into TMI’s National Headquarters and see Joe and Jan, and the rest of their amazing staff. You will be welcomed with a cup of coffee or water, and no doubt, partake in some uplifting conversation. And these days, we need all of the “uplifting” we can get while out on the road, which can be very frustrating on many days. Donations are always greatly appreciated, and tax deductible, of course. There are three ways to give – you can go to the website (www.truckstopministries.org), call the office (770-775-2100), or get one of their newsletters at a truck stop (there is a form in there that you can fill out and then mail to P.O. Box 80, Jackson, GA 30233).
If you would like to receive a copy of the Trucker’s Prayer Guide (free), receive a paper newsletter in the mail (free), receive a newsletter by email (free), or be enrolled in the Bible Study Program (free) – for truckers and their adult family members – you can send your request, along with your address and information to, Truckstop Ministries, P.O. Box 80, Jackson, GA 30233. You can also become a member of the Coffee Club. For a $20 monthly donation, you can receive a special message directly from Chaplain Joe each and every month.
If you have any questions or just need to talk to someone, their office hours are 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday-Friday (EST), and the number is (770) 775-2100. The Trucker’s Prayer Line is (800) 248-8662. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in becoming involved with TMI in any away, please contact them directly for details – there are many opportunities. If you are having trouble “finding faith” these days, this ministry just might be what you have been looking for. God Bless you.