By Josh Pruden
Transport for Christ (TFC) is an international ministry that seeks to evangelize and encourage truckers while they’re on the road. TFC began in the early ’50s in Ontario. Jim Keys started the ministry as a refuge for Christian truckers who had to miss regular meetings with their local congregations as well as an outreach opportunity to unbelieving operators. Initially, Jim and a group of volunteers traveled around the province with a small trailer towed behind an old car. Then, they modified a step van to use as a mobile chapel. As the ministry grew, chaplains began using modified tractor-trailers that could accommodate more drivers for the services, prayer breakfasts, and safety training meetings. TFC quickly expanded south of the border, where, in 1986, the ministry model changed to what it is today. For the first time, TFC parked a permanent chapel in Harrisburg, PA, which enjoyed immediate success. TFC is available to 3.7 million truckers each day across North America and also has permanent chapels in Russia, Zambia, Paraguay, Tanzania, and Brazil.
Sam McIntosh is the chaplain at the Road King Truck Stop at 4949 Barlow Trail in Calgary. His journey with TFC began almost 20 years ago. At that time, Sam was a trucker himself, attending a church in Fort Saskatchewan. His travels would often bring him to the Road King truck stop in the north end of Sherwood Park. He often noticed a trailer parked on the property with a logo reading “Mobile…” but stopped reading there as he assumed it ended with “…Radio Repair,” and thought that it was a mobile radio repair station. One day, another driver asked him if he’d ever stopped in at the mobile chapel at the Flying J, which came as a surprise to Sam as he had no clue there was a chapel on the property. So, the next time Sam stopped in to fuel up, he made a point of walking over to the trailer he now knew was a chapel. That began an almost 20-year relationship that has seen Sam go from casual acquaintance to volunteer to full-time chaplain himself.
In Matthew, Jesus commands us to “make disciples of all nations” and that includes the boys and young men in your community. His calling however doesn’t include “when we have COVID figured out.” So how do we as Christians follow Christ in building future generations when we have rules and protocols to be heeded? First, we obey the guidelines provided by our government authorities, church leadership, insurers, and parents.
Second, we work together to figure out what can be done in person and what must be done virtually at a distance. Building Christ-centred boys and young men isn’t all that complicated even under COVID. CSB is partnering with our churches and groups to develop a comprehensive list of options through which you can build the next generations for Christ. Under COVID, we will find better ways to bring others to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Check out: www.csbbc.org/brigade-under-covid for the details.
About a year and a half after his first visit to the mobile chapel in the Flying J parking lot, Sam began volunteering two days per week. Volunteers go through some initial training and then start assisting the full-time chaplains by spending time at the chapel. It’s the perfect gig for someone willing to be a friendly face and for those who enjoy sharing the love and good news of Jesus Christ. After Sam became a volunteer, the chaplain started bugging him to become a lead chaplain himself and transition from his job as a full-time trucker. At first, Sam had reservations about the idea. Then, in August of 2003, Sam’s life changed when he suffered a heart attack. This health scare was the catalyst for Sam, as he decided to make the trip to Pennsylvania for training on becoming a chaplain.
Initially, Sam was planning on starting a chapel in Calgary, but as it happened, he was needed in Sherwood Park for the time being. During this time, Sam would see 300 visitors per month with monthly prayer breakfasts that were always well attended. After ten years at the Sherwood Park location, one thing led to another, and Sam and his wife Janet moved out to Thunder Bay, Ontario to start a new chapel at a truck stop in Pass Lake. After ministering faithfully for three years and praying for volunteers the whole time, God sent two men, Ken and Shawn, to work alongside Sam. Although they had no intention of leaving Pass Lake at the time, God had other plans for Sam and Janet, as he called them back to Alberta to take over a chapel in Calgary that had begun in 2012 but remained mostly unmanned. Initially, they resisted the idea, but seeing that God had supplied the volunteers to replace them in Pass Lake and becoming aware of the need in Calgary, the McIntosh’s packed up their home and made the trek back west, arriving in late 2018.
Satisfying the Need
Despite virus-related shore leave restrictions for sailors, Lighthouse ship visitors are still able to visit ships in Vancouver and reach out to sailors. While Gospel work remains the priority for Lighthouse visitors, currently they are also active with other virus-inspired tasks. An example of this is seen in the increased number of shopping trips being made on behalf of the mariners who cannot go ashore themselves. Purchases range from lap tops to potato chips! Many crew show deep gratitude for the assistance and often communicate heartfelt thanks for Gospel material received. The spiritual is being fed, not just the physical. A third officer from Croatia recently expressed his gratitude for the service he received from Lighthouse and was touched by words of Scripture spoken to him by ship visitors.
“I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry.” (John 6:35) Please visit www.sealight.org
As you can imagine, the global pandemic has done no favours for the ministry that was already struggling financially and in need of a refresh when Sam and Janet took over in 2018. Since the truck stop and restaurant opened back up to the public, Sam gets out when he can to talk to whoever might be around and keep up the relationships he’s formed. Along with the struggle of fewer numbers, the chapel has been struggling to maintain donations at this time. The most significant monetary boost for the ministry comes from the yearly banquet – an event that had seen upwards of 300 people when Sam was holding them in Sherwood Park. Obviously, with the restrictions that are in place right now, a live banquet is off the table. To adjust to the unprecedented times, Sam and Janet will be “hosting” virtual banquets with their supporters from the comfort of their own homes. Hosts can hold these smaller banquets within cohort families or small groups as they follow government regulations and individual comfort zones. The virtual banquet will feature a video message from the Canadian director, Dennis Finnamore, as well as a video devotional and update from Sam.
If you want to learn more about Transport for Christ, or are a trucker in Alberta, then reach out to Sam at email@example.com or by phone at 403-369-1407. You might consider supporting the ministry by becoming involved in the virtual banquet. It would be a great way of getting to know TFC while making a monetary donation. Also, if you’re feeling isolated during this time, Sam had some excellent advice to share. If you notice that you’re feeling lonely or losing touch, then reach out to someone you can talk to, meet with other believers as you are able, and don’t forget that you can always talk with God. Even the “smallest” answer to prayer rewards your faith and encourages your soul.