Alcohol, drugs and women are some of the temptations truckers face, but many of them are godly men, a truck stop chaplain in Foristell said.
“They have maybe their own flavor of faith,” said Rich Seveska, author of “The Truck Stop,” a collection of 59 stories based on his experiences ministering to truckers near Chicago.
Now Seveska, an ordained Catholic deacon, volunteers as a chaplain for the TA truck stop in Foristell.
“These people are not expecting anyone to minister to them,” Seveska said. “In fact, some of them have been beaten up by our Christian brothers and sisters.”
The trucker lifestyle can be rowdy, Seveska said, adding that he has heard drivers referred to as “forgotten people.”
A big part of being a truck stop chaplain is just being there to talk to the drivers who spend so much time alone on the road, he said. Most people try to avoid truck drivers, even on the highway, Seveska noted.
Truckers usually cannot go to church on Sunday because that is the day they start traveling, he said. However, he said truckers who want to avoid going to church can use that as an excuse, too.
Seveska’s original plan was not to write a book but to just enter his notes into a computer. But once he started typing the notes, he had a book written two weeks later because he added dialogue. He created the character of Michael O’Toole, who is based on himself.
The stories in the book are based on real experiences but some details, such as names and places, have been changed.
Being a trucker is a “horrible, lonely business,” Seveska said, noting, “They’re in that truck eight to 12 hours a day.”
Then the truckers go into a restaurant to have a meal and then head back to the truck to sleep before driving the next day.
“They don’t get much interaction with people,” Seveska said, adding that a common question he asks them is how often they get home.
If they do get interaction with others it is usually from people asking the same questions such as, “What happened with you on the road today?” Seveska said.
So when there is a minister who is willing to spend time with them, “they’re kind of amazed.”
He does not try to “beat them up with a Bible” or push them into anything.
“You’re just asking about their lives and getting them to talk,” Seveska explained.
There have been times that he has encountered a husband and wife truck-driving team seeking help from God.
“Can you imagine you’re married to someone and you’re locked in this metal box 24/7?” Seveska asked. “How long is that going to last before you tear each other’s eyes out? It’s just human nature.”
Seveska had a day job developing computer training programs since his truck stop ministry was a volunteer service.
When he comes to the table to speak with the truckers he lets them know he is a chaplain, not a minister. Some of them can relate to a chaplain from the Army, he added.
Seveska does not tell them what to believe, which takes the pressure off.
“It’s very fulfilling when you get someone who doesn’t necessarily want anyone to minister to them to finally say, ‘Hey, sit down, chaplain, let’s talk.’ ”
The truck stop ministry got started after a deacon at his church in Illinois brought up the idea. The deacon had been contacted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said someone needed to minister to truckers.
Seveska stepped up.
“I thought it would be way different than what it actually is,” he said, adding that he did not know anything about trucks, truckers or truck stops.
But he flourished in the service and even helped start other truck stop ministries.
When he moved to the local area, he wanted to keep the ministry going in Foristell.
He recalls one trucker sitting at a counter eating who was reluctant to talk at first but then opened up about his marriage. The trucker said he called home and heard that his wife had moved out and took the car. On top of this stress, the trucker said he had driven 12 hours and had 10 hours longer to drive before he got home.
Seveska was worried that the guy was so exhausted that he would be in an accident going home. He suggested that the man call a pastor in his town to check on his wife. This was arranged, and the man was put at ease.
“You could see the agony drain from his face,” Seveska recalled.
The man decided to get some sleep and go home the next day, and Seveska said a big accident was probably averted.
The 223-page book can be purchased in paperback or electronic versions at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Tate Publishing and other outlets.