Terry Slachter has been a busy man since he stepped down near the end of last year from his pastor role at East Leonard Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Slachter now serves as executive director of Project Philip Ministries and the Truckers Friends’ Network, two organizations that place Bibles in truck stops around the country. Earlier this year he oversaw a merger of the organizations that has sparked new life in the ministries.
Since trucking is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S., Slachter sees a vast opportunity for outreach. The ministries recently ordered 50,000 Bibles that will be distributed around the country by truckers and other volunteers. The Bibles include an invitation to start a Bible correspondence course.
“[These volunteers] could be like the ancient apostles that took the Roman trade routes and took the gospel throughout the Roman Empire,” Slachter said.
Project Philip and the Truckers Friends Network distributed more than 1,300 Bibles earlier this spring at a truckers’ trade show in Louisville, Ky. They also made connections with other organizations that minister to truckers, most notably Transport for Christ, which operates mobile chapels at 34 truck stops around the country.
“Project Philip provides the Bibles, and we hand them out to the truckers,” said Chad Roedema, a Transport for Christ chaplain and member of First Christian Reformed Church in Byron Center, Mich. “It’s a great partnership.”
Most of the board members of Project Philip and Truckers’ Friends Network have ties to the CRC; several are truckers themselves.
“People don’t realize how big the mission field is we’re working in,” said Herb Advocaat, a part-time truck driver who chairs the organizations’ board of directors. “At any one time, there are one-and-a-half million trucks on the road in the U.S.”
Advocaat says the organizations’ biggest challenge is finding volunteers who are willing to keep shelves at the truck stops stocked with Bibles. He says churches could step in and provide assistance in that area.
Jim Van Farowe, a retired trucker and member of Georgetown Christian Reformed Church in Jenison, Mich., said the outreach isn’t about getting truckers to attend a specific church but to have them come to know the Lord.
“We will not be growing your (local) church, but we’re growing the kingdom,” said Van Farowe, who recently delivered several thousand Bibles in the Greensboro (N.C.) area.