Transport for Christ holds its last service
After a dedication service on May 2, 1992, the Transport for Christ tractor-trailer was driven to its home off Exit 4 in Hudson. At its first service the next morning, the house was full.
Nearly 27 years later, the chapel, in a new trailer but with the same mission, was full once again for its final service.
"I almost thought we were going to have to hold it outside," said chaplain Tim Sackett.
On a Monday morning Sackett sits in the nearly empty chapel, the wall bare of the many pictures it once held and his office packed up into boxes. The tractor-trailer was set to be taken away that day.
Sackett and friends had joked that if they rallied a big enough crowd, they could hold the trailer in place. But Sackett said they only way the chapel would have stayed open was if truckers needed it.
"The saddest thing is the only thing that could have kept this place from leaving is if truckers needed to come in here," he said.
Transport for Christ headquarters made the decision to close the chapel due to a decrease in attendance and walk-ins. The Hudson chapel is one of five closing.
Sackett has served as the chaplain for the chapel since the beginning.
He started as a truck driver in 1986.
On the road Sackett was inspired by Christian radio stations.
"That became such a primary focus for me," he said.
Those were before the days of satellite radio, so he would request schedule booklets from stations and spend a few moments presetting his stations before heading out on the road.
"It was like being in church or Sunday school every day," Sackett said.
He learned about Transport for Christ four years after he first started driving. At that time the chapels were mainly in the northeastern part of the country. At a chapel in Ohio, a man told Sackett of a group in Minnesota working to bring a chapel to that area. Sackett connected with the group in 1991, and told them he'd do what he could to support them.
By August, they told him he was going to lead the chapel.
Sackett began the training process with Transport for Christ, receiving hands-on experience at a training chapel and then attending classroom training at headquarters.
Prior to that, he had not worked in ministry.
"I didn't have any experience, but I really thought I was primed and ready for it," he said.
He was also single and debt-free, something the group said were the two biggest assets.
The first unit of what would become the Hudson Transport for Christ was built in Brooklyn Park. The group originally wanted to set it up in Rogers, Minnesota. The owner of that truck stop suggested they talk to his brother, who owned the stop off Exit 4 in Hudson.
The location worked just fine for Sackett.
Services were held regularly, and Sackett was also available for one-on-one counseling. That often meant dealing with issues he initially didn't have experience with, like marriage problems. Sackett said he learned early on the importance of just listening.
"If you let people talk to you enough without giving them ideas, they talk themselves into their own solution," he said.
He learned in training to listen to someone for 45 minutes without saying a word. That can be strange for many truck drivers, Sackett said, who are used to either being on the road with no one to talk to or being in rooms with other drivers talking over each other.
Sackett trained 42 chaplains in the chapel's time, some as staff but most as volunteers.
Some of his responsibilities, he was trained for, and some he wasn't.
"There's a reason why there's a Holy Spirit giving you what you need when you need it," Sackett said.
The impact of the chapel in its time extended beyond truck drivers. Sackett worked to develop connections within the community with various organizations such as the Salvation Army.
"I did become a valuable asset to the community," he said.
His location at the truck stop meant he was often a resource for homeless people.
"When they're stranded and stuck then they end up in the chapel," Sackett said.
In his experience Sackett said the homeless population was split pretty evenly between local people and those passing through the area.
Providing help can be difficult with limited resources in the area and police and officials having to work with what Sackett said can be an inefficient system.
After 27 years at the Transport for Christ chapel Sackett said he measures its impact by the people it helped.
"First and foremost, if the people that were saved here are still living a life for Jesus, then I can't say that I would have done anything more or less to make that happen," he said.
Sackett said for him it's about what God has done through the ministry.
"The loneliest and desperate people probably aren't lonely and desperate anymore," he said.
Facing the closing Sackett said he sometimes feels the need to apologize, but he remembers the chapel worked for 27 years.
"Most people call that a career," he said.
Sackett was offered the chance to transfer to another Transport for Christ chapel, but decided to stay in Hudson.
"This is my home," he said.
Sackett will host one final Easter service at the Truckstops of America, but then he is going to take a break for awhile.
He will continue to work with the community organizations with which he built relationships. He said there is still a lot of unfinished business here.
"I still think I'm going to be looking out for the community in that sense," he said.
Sackett will continue to drive with Safeway Bus Company. Other job opportunities have come up, and he's considering his options. He's open to different fields outside of ministry, but Sackett said he'll always be a minister, listening to people's stories.
"I don't think that will ever go away," Sackett said.
One thing he knows for sure, he'll be using his time well.
"The future is I'm going to be having lunch with my wife every day," he said.