Rest Stop for the Soul

May 20, 1994

The car-chase movie comedies of Burt Reynolds aside, the life of a commercial interstate trucker leans more toward the stuff of gloomy drama. A man or woman alone behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, on the road for days at a time, away from home, spouse and children, all too susceptible to the temporary comforts of booze, dope and purchased love.

The Rev. James R. Brown understands the trucker's hardships, himself having spent 27 years driving a rig. There's little romance to the existence, he says, noting many truckers "have given up on life. . . they've been on the road a lot of time and have given up on their marriage and family."

bTC In an attempt to put some meaning back into the lives of truckers, Mr. Brown last month began leading religious services and offering spiritual counsel to drivers, inside a trailer converted into a chapel.

The trailer, marked with a large sign proclaiming "God's Trucking Ministry," sits behind the parking lot of the Truckers Inn, a popular stop at U.S. 1 and Route 175 in Jessup. Because the big rigs can't be parked at most churches, the ministry's roadside location is particularly welcome to drivers in search of sustenance for the soul.

Mr. Brown, an ordained minister for four years, tries to provide guidance or a friendly ear much of the day and night at the trailer or in a room he rents at the inn. His nondenominational ministry is supported financially by the Howard County Baptist Association and donations from his trucker congregants. In addition, clergy and lay volunteers from local churches help out by performing counseling duties and maintaining the trailer-chapel.

This truck ministry grew out of a program that was started in 1990, operating in a room at the Truckers Inn, by lay chaplain and former trucker Reginald Pelletier. Mr. Pelletier resigned last January and was succeeded by Mr. Brown, who was selected by the ministry's advisory board.

Mr. Brown expects the ministry will soon be catering to about 50 people a day, once word spreads of the new trailer. He also

hopes to open a second truck-stop chapel soon in Frederick, nearer his Hagerstown residence. As he points out, his own experience on the road makes him that much more determined to provide spirit-troubled truckers with a place to turn to.

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