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On the Open Road with God
Jake Froese—also known as Preacher Man—challenges trucker stereotypes.

At a truck stop in Calgary, Froese looked back over his life, a journey taking him from the pastorate, through depression and nervous breakdown, to a rediscovered purpose behind the wheel of a truck.

Jake "Preacher Man" Froese, a member of Trinity Mennonite Church in Calgary, has been a long-haul trucker for the past decade, during which time he has ministered to other transport drivers along North America's highways. He is pictured in his 2006 Freightliner Columbia cab complete with a 500-horsepower engine and 13-speed transmission.

As a pastor in various Alberta Mennonite churches for 16 years, Froese pressured himself to succeed. "I needed to be really good at [work], but along came situations that weren't going to show immediate results. These heightened my anxiety."

Along with the demands of leadership, further education and hospital crisis work served to heighten expectations he had of himself. This "led to losing my energy, it put more pressure on me."

In 1995, when his job as an interim conference minister ended, Froese had also reached the end of his endurance.

"I was burnt out and had a nervous breakdown. My body just quit."

After two months on disability, Froese couldn't handle sitting at home. "Nothing but trucks came into my mind … Either I was going to get in front and be killed by one, or I was going to drive it. I just knew I needed that open road."

He had gotten a chauffeur's licence at age 18, so he knew what the driving life could offer. Yanke, a company based in Saskatoon, took him on.

"The first five years or so was therapy," he said. "I wasn't interested in a ministry. I just needed to get away from people. In the last five years, I've been reflecting more and thinking about ministry".

Other truckers began calling him 'Preacher Man,' and initiating discussions about faith.

"Guys would ask, 'You're a preacher?' I didn't hide my story, and you wouldn't believe the conversations I would have. If they want to call me Preacher Man, I need to honour that. It may be their only connection to God. People are looking for models, someone or something to believe in. It's part of the universal spiritual search."

Although the road is long, Froese is thankful to still be on it. He spoke highly of the support he receives from family, the church and the Yanke company. But it is clear that, through it all, his unshakeable companion has been his Lord.

"God didn't abandon me," he said.

Donita Wiebe-Neufeld is a staff correspondent for Canadian Mennonite.

Originally published in Canadian Mennonite, February 12, 2007.




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