The life of a long-haul driver is not only solitary; it can be filled with a slew of negative influences. Some truckers avoid them, while others dive in headfirst. Jim Doan has seen it all—drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, gambling—and loneliness on the road created the perfect space for temptation. Before he knew it, Doan found himself in bondage to the lifestyle for several decades. “You can get yourself as close to the devil as you want in the truck,” Doan said. He willfully walked a path of darkness, thinking God could never forgive him.
That all changed the day a couple of Doan’s friends invited him to a men’s retreat weekend through Encounter Ministry, based in his hometown of Lebanon, Missouri. His wife Darlene had given her life to Christ a few years before, and she encouraged Doan to attend. Hundreds of men from all walks of life gathered at a campground for three days of intense personal introspection. At the climax of the event, men were welcomed forward to kneel at a large cross. At first he resisted—There’s no way I’m going up in front of all these men, he thought. But God was at work in Doan’s heart. He gave in, walked to the cross, and repented of his sin. Doan found the forgiveness he thought was too far out of reach.
Doan’s CB radio handle used to be “Grumpy.” It fit him to a T, he said. But that’s gone now, along with the CB. Instead he listens to Dr. Stanley each day on his satellite radio, and if he misses a message due to a delivery, he can pull it up on the In Touch app. “Dr. Stanley has been a rock in my spiritual life,” Doan said. He credits the messages for encouraging him on the long drives, and for fostering the ongoing discipleship of these past four years.
Between trips, Doan volunteers with Encounter Ministry, helping other men find the freedom he has experienced. And his wife assists in organizing women’s weekend retreats. Now, when Doan is back on the road, he sees his life differently. Instead of “getting close to the devil,” he’s become a traveling evangelist who also happens to make cross-country deliveries. A sense of purpose has replaced the loneliness. Energized by Dr. Stanley’s messages, Doan shares Jesus with anyone who will listen. He has the website for Encounter on the side of his rig and a cross on the front grill—a reminder of God’s power to save and transform.
Photograph by Joseph E. Miller