“I’ll catch ya on the flip flop!”
At Vinny Fabiano’s church, you’re as likely to hear those words as “Praise the Lord!” or “Hallelujah!”—and that’s exactly how he wants it to be, and why he holds services in the TV viewing room of a local truck stop. (The salutation, by the way, means, “I’ll see you on the return trip!”)
The senior pastor of The Light House (Windsor Foursquare Church) in Manchester, Conn., and his wife, Donna, have been married for nearly 30 years. They started their current outreach to truckers in early 2007.
Vinny is a pastor in Manchester as well as an official chaplain associate with Foursquare Chaplains International. He and his wife drive more than 100 miles round trip to Branford, Conn., each week, to hold Sunday morning services at the Branford truck stop. Attendance varies from 5 to 25; it all depends on who happens to drop in to the truck stop on any given weekend.
So what motivated Vinny to reach out to big rig drivers? It’s all in the family.
“My dad was a truck driver and was never home,” he told Foursquare.org. “When I started driving, I saw what it could do to a person who was not around their family or where they went to church, if they even went to one. That’s why I believe God has called me into this ministry … to be an encouragement to them to get through another week, and to let them know we are praying for them.”
The work is challenging, Vinny says, because of its uniqueness. Most of the Christian drivers who stop by are passing through; they are members of their own churches back home. Another obstacle can be trying to get help with the ministry, because some people don’t think you can do church in a truck stop TV room.
But none of this hampers Vinny’s zeal. He is quick to point out that Jesus said where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in the midst of them (see Matt. 18:20).
“I believe God waits in the TV room every week for His people to show up on any given Sunday,” he asserts. “We are there to give them a ‘drink of water,’ to help them through the week. These men and women give up a lot to do their job, and they don’t have to come out to a service but they do, because they want to hear the Word of God. Sometimes, as a pastor, you could get caught up on numbers; but if He only sends you one soul to minister to, you should feel blessed.”
One at a time, many lives are indeed being touched. Word spreads quickly in the trucking community, and Vinny’s church is known by drivers from many states.
One driver who was on a dedicated run every week to Massachusetts ended up in the hospital for heart surgery, which the church discovered through another driver. They kept in contact with him until he was able to go back to work.
After his recovery, he dropped by the truck stop to tell everyone about what the Lord had done for him, how his marriage was being repaired, and how everywhere he traveled he told people about how the Lord had used the church to help him and his wife in their time of need.
Vinny notes that the Travel Centers of America have been especially open to hosting his chapel services.
“This ministry could be 7 days a week, 24 hours a day,” he says. “There is always someone new to talk with, to pray with or to cry with.”
The Fabianos would love to see the passion for this kind of ministry spread around the globe.
“Wherever there are trucks, there is a need,” Vinny affirms. “This ministry has not always been easy, but it is well worth it, if someone would like to step out and see what the Lord can do!”
This is Part 2 of a 4-part feature:
- “Whatever It Takes” Part 1: Skate Church
- “Whatever It Takes” Part 3: Caring for Native Americans and Mormons
- “Whatever It Takes” Part 4: Hip-Hop and Biker Cultures
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles.