Reaching Out for Christ at the 76th Street Truck Stop

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Chad Roedema did not grow up in the church, and he’s never driven a big rig. Yet through God’s grace, today he is the lead chaplain in Grand Rapids, Mich., for Transport for Christ International, an organization that reaches out to the trucking community in Canada, the U.S., and several other countries.

Roedema said, “The things [some] truck drivers struggle with, God has freed me from. So I can say I’ve been there and I know the things, like porn and booze, that they’ve been going through.”

Roedema’s childhood was rough. “I grew up in a divorced home with no supervision,” he said. “By the time I was 11 years old I was into drugs and into sex.” As a young man, Roedema said he was about to hang himself when he heard a voice saying, “Chad, don’t do that.”

Roedema’s uncle led him to church, but Roedema later fell back into drinking and drugs—until one Sunday, he recommitted his life to Christ.

While job-searching, Roedema visited Transport for Christ as a volunteer. All the chaplains were about to meet in Muskegon, Mich., for a retreat, and they asked Roedema to accompany them. At the retreat, a chaplain from Africa approached him and said he’d been praying for someone for six years. The chaplain said that as soon as Roedema started talking, the Lord showed him that Roedema was the one he’d been praying for.

Roedema signed up to become a chaplain, and since then, he has been helping truckers. On a typical day, the chapel at the 76th Street Truck Stop in Byron Center, Mich., opens at 7 a.m., and Roedema sits and waits for truck drivers to come in. He estimated that there are probably 90 visitors a month, on average. If a driver comes in, Roedema witnesses to him. He likened his chapel experiences to the movie character Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. “You never know what you’re going to get,” Roedema said.

He told of a man who showed up and offered two team drivers money to get a ride to Texas. Suspicious, Roedema called the police, who found a warrant for the man and arrested him. Roedema then was left with the other two men. He asked them, “‘If you get into an accident tonight, are you ready to meet Jesus?’” Roedema said, “One said he’d been a believer for 30 years, but the other accepted Christ for the first time that night.”

Roedema said that 11 truckers accepted Christ in 2014, and six so far in 2015. “God’s not calling me to be successful,” he said, “but to turn the open sign around and turn the light on. He’s going to do the rest.”

About the Author

Rachel Baarda is a freelance writer.