Sunday, December 10, 2000

Chapel reaches out to truckers

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — The cross outside may be pink neon, but the message of the old rugged one is the same inside this tiny chapel converted from a semitrailer.

        Truckers come year-round to hear the Gospel and sing familiar hymns at the Trucker's Chapel, a fixture at the Travel Centers of America truck stop off Interstate 75.

  • What: “Mary, Did You Know?” Christmas program.
  • When: 9 a.m. Dec. 17.
  • Where: Travel Centers of America truck stop lounge, Florence. Take Exit 181 (Florence-Burlington Pike) off Interstate 75.
  • Information: (859) 426-1936.
        But at Christmastime this place gives truckers — and local residents — a special place to have fellowship, turn for guidance and to pray.

        “Particularly if you're away from your family; then it means something,” said Ed Kirkpatrick, a minister from Burlington, Ky., who led the Wednesday night service last week.

        At this year's Christmas program - to be held in the truck stop's lounge at 9 a.m. Dec. 17 - the ministry will play host to Gary Griesser, a motivational speaker from Burlington.

        The program, “Mary, Did You Know?” will bring a Christmas message through the eyes of Mary. As many as 50 are expected to attend.

        “At Christmastime everybody's a bit more nostalgic,” Mr. Griesser said. “They have thoughts of home, loved ones who have died. They're more receptive to God's love.”

        As with any Sunday service there, an announcement will be made over the loudspeaker and over the citizens band radio. The service will start with only a few participants and slowly grow as the singing voices swell.

        “I've seen more people saved here than at other big churches,” said Naomi Elam, a Fort Wright resident who attended Wednesday's service. “I get things here that I don't get anywhere else.”

        Bob Vallandingham of Florence leads a truckers' service once a month.

        “These guys have problems like everybody else: financial problems, sickness, marital problems,” he said. “The Lord sends them here.”

        The truckers ministry is one of more than 50 outreach programs sponsored by Union Baptist Church in Union, Ky. Organizers started the program nearly eight years ago.

        A dozen or so members from Tristate churches take turns leading the Sunday service.

        “Sunday (for truckers), in many ways, it's another day,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said.

        “Here, with the cross lit up,” he said, pointing to the pink neon cross, “it fills a void.”


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