Truckers Ministries : The Chaplaincy of a Former Trucker
Meet Olen Thompson, founder of the Truckers Ministries, which he chaplains by providing counselling and fellowship for truck drivers and transients; or to anyone who enters the semitrailer that he converted into a chapel. Being a former heavy duty towing truck driver who hauled heavy equipment across the US, Olen is able to relate to the challenges and hardships of being on the road for months.
Not finding chapels to which he was religiously affiliated, or for that matter not finding any open chapel or available chaplains in truck stops led him to enlist as a chaplain to a local ministry. This also led him to recognize what he believed is his calling from God. Based on his own experience as a long haul driver, Olen personally knew that there is a need to provide ministry to transients and travellers.
Olen Thompson recalled that it was in a chapel in Harrisburg, Pa. that he took the biggest leap of faith by quitting his job as a trucker to go into full-time ministry. He is glad that others have taken the same step by joining him in founding the Truckers Ministries.
Now a Free Methodist elder, he and other members of the Truckers Ministries act as chaplains. They provide help whatever and whenever needed by people seeking to get closer to Christ in order to be led out of deeper waters. Trucker Ministries operate mainly on donations given by employees of trucking companies.
Who is a Chaplain?
Oleg said that as a chaplain of the Truckers Ministries, his functions have led him to deal with different unexpected situations for different denominations. Their chaplaincy includes helping bring to a hospital people who are having a heart attack; or to dissuade persons from wanting to commit suicide. As a chaplain he has officiated services for weddings, baptisms and funerals.
What exactly is chaplaincy and who is a chaplain? While the most common place where a chaplain is mentioned is in the military or in the hospital, chaplains here are enlisted to provide counselling. Such service is usually extended as part of normal base operations; or to provide crisis counselling while in the battlefield. A military chaplain acts as the pastor even to individuals who do not share the same faith and practise the same religion.
While all chaplains act as pastors to specific groups of people, not all pastors can be chaplains. Unlike pastors, chaplains are enlisted, committing to serve not only people who belong to the same faith as theirs but to everyone regardless of beliefs and religious affiliations.
In the battlefield, chaplains run, eat, perform drills and sleep alongside soldiers but they are not allowed to fire weapons. However, in actual conflicts, chaplains are typically assigned to medical stations to help comfort wounded or dying soldiers. That way, soldiers will have a chaplain to keep them company during their darkest hours.