Steering truckers to Jesus

March 30, 1997


Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - If it weren't for the cross on top, a casual traveler on northbound Interstate 81 might mistake the bright red trailer as just another truck parked at the Travel Port Truck Stop at Exit 3.

It's a chapel, not a trailer and it's home to Highway Travelers for Jesus Trucking Ministry run by 57-year-old Chaplain Norman "Sonny" Guyer and Nancy, his wife of 40 years.

The couple ministers to truck drivers who roll up and down the interstate every year.

"Driving a truck is a lonely job," Guyer said, a driver for more than 25 years until 1980, when he quit to take up Jesus after a bout with alcoholism. " I was forced off the road because of an arthritic spine. I couldn't walk. Nancy had to dress me. I called upon the Lord. He saved me and healed me. I was born again on Father's Day."


He said he was ordained a non-denominational full gospel minister later that year.

Guyer spent the first six months of his evangelical career as a tent revivalist. Then he met Chaplain Jim Keys, founder of the Association of Christian Truckers, and he and Nancy went on the road for Keys' ministry. By then, six of their children were grown. Only Shad, the youngest, still lived at home. He went with them. "I home-schooled him," Nancy said.

"We traveled around the country in a 40-foot bus. It had a chapel in front and our living quarters in the back," Guyer said. "We'd go from truck stop to truck stop or anywhere we thought we were needed."

"There's a lot of loneliness out there on the road. Sometimes drivers are out for six weeks. They're hurting. Some have family problems back home. We're a source of comfort for them. We're not counselors. We just give the Word," he said.

"A lot of them say we're like their family," Nancy said. "You really have to care about truck drivers to be in this ministry. You got to love them. When they're hurting we're hurting. They have a hard time on the road."

When Guyer decided to start his own ministry about two years ago he bought an old, 42-foot refrigerator trailer. His son converted it into the chapel. It is paneled, has rows of pews and a lectern where Guyer preaches. He would like to have three more to park at truck stops. His son is working on the second trailer. It will be hauled to a truck stop in Tennessee later this year.

Guyer said many truckers are Christian. They come to the chapel for his regular Sunday morning and evening services.

"I think this is very essential," said A. J. Myer, a truck driver from Lancaster, Pa., who stopped by to pick up religious literature available in racks inside Guyer's chapel.

"Truckers don't spend much time anywhere else but on the road,'' Myer said. "They need a place like this."

Money to run the ministry and support the couple comes from a variety of sources, mostly donations and offerings by the dozens of truckers who visit the chapel each month. Nancy's weekly job as a domestic worker supplements the family income. And the Guyers have a guardian angel, of sorts.

Walter Bailes, a member of the Bailes Brothers who were once regulars on the Grand Ole Opry, sends the couple a check for $50 every month, Guyer said.

Bailes wrote "Dust on the Bible," a song which gained some popularity in country music, Guyer said. Bailes met the Guyers in Tennessee and liked what he saw in their ministry. "He's been sending us money every month for three years," Guyer said.

Today on Easter Sunday, Nancy will cook dinner for her own large family at the farmhouse the couple rents about three miles from the truck stop.

Also invited will be any drivers who stop at the truck stop and have no place to go. "I'm going to make a lot of meatloaf," she said.

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