They Found Religion, Decent Burgers, and Lasting Friendships at a North Jersey Truck Stop

Somewhere in a random, run-of-the-mill truck stop full of things truckers need — like CB radios and corned beef hash — and stuff no one needs — like dragon sculptures and New Jersey-themed shot glasses — a local truck driver found something he wasn’t looking for: God. Mike Eurich was so sure that a higher power touched him at the TA Travel Center in Columbia, New Jersey, that he asked to be baptized there. In a restaurant where truckers often eat alone, Sherry Blackman, official chaplain of the TA Travel Center, heads a Bible study. People fill the space with laughter, some gentle ribbing, and a steady stream of tears. They analyze the menu before they get to the New Testament. Blackman said strangers pull into the truck stop with doubt and disbelief, some carry grief over the loss of loved ones, and others haul around a sense of loneliness from life on the open road. Blackman, a 69-year-old mother of three explained that truckers often go days without interacting with anyone. “We break down walls here,” she said. Religion on the open road isn’t unusual in America. The Buckhorn truck stop in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, has a tiny, trailer-like chapel — High Way Ministries — in the parking lot. Truck Stop Ministries, a Georgia-based nonprofit founded by a trucker-turned-reverend, operates about 65 chapels across the country. They offer Bible studies, but also welcoming therapy. Truckers look forward to some time spent with fellow travelers and people who care about them and are truck stop ministries across the nation are there to help them get through the problems of life.