Friday, May 13, 2011

This is Ministry, People.

This is Ministry, people. It's not about money, not about power, not about prestige or tithe amounts or pleasing elder boards or fickle congregation members... check this out:

From the Tuskegee newspaper:

'Voice in the wilderness'

Former trucker operating chapel at Torch Restaurant

Managing Editor
Updated Dec 10, 2009 - 06:18:26 EST
Bill Maddox stands in front of the $6,000 trailer he's converted into a chapel at the Torch Restaurant on Interstate 85. Maddox has been at the site since July and intends to stay as long as he feels led to do so. Photo by Jeff Thompson

For an hour Bill Maddox sat in a chair on the side of his church opposite the front door, often resituating his red Hormel Foods hat to reveal a full head of gray hair connecting to a thick, kempt beard of the same color. It may have been a nervous motion, but he didn’t appear nervous.

Former trucker operating chapel at Torch Restaurant

He jumped from point to point in conversation, ending every sentence with a conjunction to open the door for the next story. He said he wasn’t a preacher, but his sermon said otherwise. In one hour, Maddox shed tears four times while sitting in that chair.

“Yeah, my exterior is rough,” he said. “People say I look more like a truck driver. Well, I am a truck driver. I’m still not meek and mild like most ministers, but the people I deal with aren’t meek and mild either.”

Maddox’s trailer in the parking lot of the Torch Restaurant on I-85 is not only where he sleeps, it’s been converted into the New Beginnings Truck Stop Chapel. The church has been there since July and, according to Maddox, has seen 19 people accept Christianity – most of them members of an elite American breed.

To Maddox, truckers are cowboys and the open road is the trail of lore. Instead of moving cattle, though, these new frontiersmen are moving cargo. And sometimes it gets lonely sleeping under the stars.

“It takes a special breed,” Maddox said, reliving his past. “Got some rough and tumbles out there, but there’s an independent spirit that flows all throughout trucking.”
After 39 years as a truck driver, Maddox said his life changed in one moment. In 1999 he gave his life to Christ sitting in the cab of a truck in Kentucky. He started his ministry soon after in nursing homes and eventually came back to Alabama to hand-deliver Christianity to those in the profession he left behind.

Maddox’ first attempt at a chapel was in his hometown of Selma where a center donated a room but, around the time he got the chapel ready, the truck stop closed, he said. He began searching for a new site when the Torch offered him a spot and a job at $100 per week.

“We spent $6,000 on this trailer and power runs about $125 per month, Maddox said. “There’s not much more I have to budget for beyond that so I don’t preach much about tithing.”

In the chapel, two rows of folding chairs line the walls. On one side, Maddox shares his living quarters with a cat named J.D. A podium and sound system cramp the opposite end. Bible study at the church is held 6:30 on Wednesday nights, and services are held all day Sundays. The chapel is open seven days a week, 24-hours a day, “but I have to sleep sometime,” Maddox said.

The church has accumulated 10 to 15 members since July, but Maddox said the chapel doesn’t see more than five at a time.

“For seven weeks not a soul came in here,” Maddox said. “I question myself when things get to looking the bleakest and he sends somebody. Sometimes God’s going to have you in places you don’t understand, like me. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here. I feel the Lord led me up here but it ain’t easy sometimes. The Bible says God will provide your needs, not your wants.”

On Thanksgiving though, 43 people visited the Truck Stop Chapel for free hot dogs during the church’s Feeding Folks for Jesus event. Maddox and his congregation spent the day over a grill with an Elvis impersonator, gospel musicians and hungry truck drivers who may or may not have known the Torch was closed when they pulled in.

For Maddox, anyone who stops by gives him the opportunity to fulfill his purpose, “talking to folks about Jesus,” as he puts it. And though his ministry is aimed at truckers, he said he feels his mission is the same as one of the Bible’s “rough and tumbles.”

“If I went into a big fancy church I probably wouldn’t be accepted so much. John the Baptist voiced the Word in the wilderness. Everybody serves the Lord in the capacity they’re led to do it.”

So for now, Maddox will be serving in a trailer next to the torch until he feels led elsewhere. And until that day he’ll continue to offer an ear to anyone who wants to gripe about the cost of fuel or a sermon if they’d rather listen.

“At the end of December, I will have given this six months,” he said. “If I figured its success on dollars and cents I’d be losing, but if I figure on souls, God’s winning. So until God tells me to pack up and go, this is my location.”

Bill Maddox stands in front of the trailer he's converted into a chapel at the Torch Restaurant on Interstate 85. Maddox has been at the site since July and intends to stay as long as he feels led to do so. 
Photo by Jeff Thompson

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  1. I love this! True ministry outreach at it's best!

  2. no kidding, right? Just take what you have- so what if we dont make money off of it... this is just for Jesus and others at it's most core, basic level- it's really encouraging too!