In August of 1992, a couple prayed asking the Lord to direct their future. With only a promise from the Lord and $125.00 in their bank account, Rev. Don & Suzanne Harrison stepped out and asked the Lord to give them a fresh vision of ministry.
After a period of counsel from their Pastor and close friends, it was evident that the Lord would be using them to pioneer a new Canadian truck stop ministry. Very quickly the Lord put together a group of men with a united vision to reach the lives of men and women in the trucking industry.
It was decided than an information letter would be sent out to their supporters. This letter explained in detail direction, immediate goals and a financial need that would be necessary to begin ministry.
Don Harrison met with the 5th Wheel Truck Stop Corporation and shared with them the direction and goals. Ultimately permission to place a chapel at their Milton truck stop was granted. The 5th Wheel Corporation said they would appreciate regular reports on the operation of the chapel.
In late August 1992, a large donation of $5,000.00 was received from an anonymous donor. The Lord had provided the necessary funding to establish a new ministry.
The weeks to come would see a forming of a Board of Directors and establishing an office in the Harrison’s home. Legal counsel was sought to process government documents necessary for Incorporation, tax number and a name. Within weeks we received permission to use the name Open Road Chapels. The months that followed we received our incorporation and non for profit tax number.
In September of 92 the first chapel for Open Road Chapels was placed in operation at the Milton 5th Wheel Truck Stop. The very first day of operation a driver gave his life to Christ. We are now operating within the building. Throughout the years many have come to know the Lord and many have been encouraged in their faith.
In January 1993, a request was received from the franchisee of the Cornwall 5th Wheel Truck Stop for a chapel. For the next 2 years various trips were made to Cornwall in anticipation of a chapel being placed at this location. Funding was received for this project, a used trailer was purchased and renovations began. In January 95, the chapel doors were opened. In the first month of operation, during a very bad snow storm a driver came to the chapel and gave his life to Christ. Since then many have come to a personal relationship with the Lord. Several truck stop staff have been married, officiated by Open Road Chapels staff. This chapel was open from 1993 – 2014.
Three years later, in 1998, a request for a chapel was received from the management of the Bowmanville 5th Wheel Truck Stop. Ministry began by using a corner in the driver’s room. This was very successful on a short term basis. As the driver usage increased a permanent chapel was required.
In the fall of 1999, a permanent chapel was placed at Bowmanville Truck Stop. Volunteer and full-time chaplains had the use of a chapel but the chapel was located some distance from the truck stop building. The next year the chapel was placed in its existing location and remains there today with a full-time chaplain. Countless number of drivers have found Christ and are enjoying the Kingdom of God. Many have found the chapel in their time of refuge and have returned and thanked the Open Road Chapels staff and or the truck stop management.
In 2001, a request for a chapel was received from the manager of the Dorchester 5th Wheel Truck Stop. Ministry began 1 evening per week for the first year. Once again using a small corner of the driver’s room was very effective and easy access for drivers. As driver usage increased a facility for a chapel was necessary. A room close to the driver’s room became available and was very quickly equipped for a chapel. Ministry here continued until the 5th. Wheel building was torn down.
In 2003, a high profile location for ministry headquarters and administration centre was acquired. This facility provides a meeting area for Board meetings, staff training and annual events. It has the space to provide all aspects of ministry, large offices, and area for printing all Open Road Chapels literature and mail processing. Parking is adequate for visitors and there is plenty of parking for the Mobile Chapel and a spot for repair work done on a chapel. This high profile location is easy access for supporters, motoring public and drivers traveling highway north and south bound.
In 2004 the first mobile Chapel for Open Road Chapels was put into operation. A large mission Church in Toronto provided the funding for the 38′ trailer which we converted into a chapel. A business man contributed funding for the acquisition of a new truck to haul the chapel. In the first 4 years of operation the chapel was responsible for developing ministry in Quebec, responding to invitations to numerous truck and trade shows. It very quickly developed ministry at small truck stops that could not support a permanent chapel. It made a trip to Alberta and was responsible for a future ministry development in Calgary. The mobile chapel has become a traveling advertising for Open Road Chapels. Many have come to know the Lord and many have found refuge in traveling the roads of North America.
In 2007 the Lord began the process of developing a permanent ministry in Quebec. Since 2004 the Mobile Chapel has made regular visits to a truck stop in Drummondville, Quebec. A couple from Farnham, Quebec caught the vision and began to share the vision of Open Road Chapels. Permission was given to place a chapel at Drummondville and ministry began. A temporary chapel was placed on site until a permanent chapel was acquired. In 2009, our couple from Farnham had to step down due to circumstances and the Mobile Chapel was removed from the truck stop. In January 2010, the Lord provided a full time French chaplain who started raising his support and working on the Cornwall chapel on a part time basis.
In 2008 the 2nd Mobile Chapel was placed in operation after 2 years of planning and financial preparation. After evaluating the ministry of the 1st Mobile Chapel, which was 23 years old, it was decided that another unit should be put into operation. This began by ordering a new trailer built specifically for a chapel. This trailer has living quarters, complete with a shower and the chapel area has a ramp style back door which is an open invitation to everyone. A 2008 Ford truck was acquired to pull the chapel to the many events on its schedule. A generous trucking company provided funding for the largest portion of the project. In June 2008 the new chapel made its first trip to a truck show near Belleville, Ontario. During the first day of the show, a lost soul gave his life to Christ and countless others heard a clear presentation of the gospel. The mobile chapel has been very busy with visiting truck stops, truck and trade shows and many Churches. To God be the Glory!
During this period of time the Board of Directors had been encouraging the Executive Director to begin the process of dialoguing with Pilot Flying J Travel Centers for new locations beginning in Lancaster, Ontario and moving across Canada.
In December of 2009 the 5th Wheel Truck Stop in Grimsby, Ontario contacted us about the availability of opening a chapel at their location. With the current economic situation it was decided this was a possibility with a target date for opening April 2010. Don Harrison had a meeting with the 5th Wheel management explaining that the chapel would be opened with a limited scheduled until chaplains were trained and ready to serve. The 5th Wheel Truck Stop owners and upper management are very pleased with the service provided while operating with limited chaplains.
April 2010, the Grimsby chapel opened as scheduled. The budget for opening and cost incurred was provided in full by a local foundation. During the early months a driver had given his life to Christ and others have been touched spiritually. To date the chapel functions very well in its new location in the lower level of the truck stop. The Lord has 2 chaplains who are familiar with the community serving at this location.
In 2011 Open Road Chapels continued to dialogue with Pilot Flying J Travel Center’s head office in Knoxville, Tennessee with regular correspondence through letters and phone calls. The conversation continued to be very positive but permission to move forward was not yet granted.
In April 2012, Open Road Chapels received permission to visit Pilot Flying J Travel Center’s across western Canada with our Mobile Chapel. In the spring and summer of 2012 the Mobile Chapel made a historic trip beginning at the Pilot Flying J, Montreal, Quebec moving west to Winnipeg, Manitoba; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. The Mobile Chapel left Calgary just ahead of an early snow fall that left 20 centimeters of snow behind! A complete report on the success of the trip was filed with Pilot Flying J head office in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Open Road Chapels now had 2 ministry venues the 5th Wheel Truck Stop locations across Ontario and servicing Pilot Flying J Travel Centers across Canada. There was a spirit of thankfulness from everyone involved in Open Road Chapels for the open door of ministry at 5th Wheel Truck Stops and Pilot Flying J.
In early 2013 the Board of Directors of Open Road Chapels voted unanimously to put together a long term plan for ministry growth across Canada. The mobile chapel would be used for preparing locations for permanent chapels (to be known as The Meeting Place) collecting names of potential workers and interested Church’s.
The spring of 2013 the mobile chapel began greater depth of ministry by visiting Pilot Flying J Lancaster, Napanee, Mississauga, London and Kapuskasing locations in Ontario. Late summer, the western trip began at Winnipeg, Manitoba and finishing at Calgary, Alberta. The trip was once again very successful with 12 men giving their lives to Christ.
From the information gathered, target locations for placing chapels would begin at Lancaster, Ontario Calgary, Alberta and Napanee, Ontario. Full details were submitted to Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. Expecting permission to move forward the proposal was declined.
The Board of Directors sought direction from the Lord and decided to continue ministry and submit the proposal at a later date. It was agreed that planning for ministry growth across Canada would continue.
Spring 2014 the mobile chapel began ministry at Pilot Flying J Pickering, Napanee, Fort Erie and London, Ontario locations. Results were excellent and more names were added for potential chaplains.
Once again the western trip began visiting the regular locations. The trip in Alberta changed, after a short visit in Edmonton the mobile chapel visited Pilot Flying J at Red Deer. A smaller location but provided to be very successful with 2 men giving their lives to Christ. The visit to Calgary, Alberta was once again very successful. The Lord provided a candidate for a Western Canada Representative and another man indicated an interest in full-time ministry along with several volunteers
Reviewing other locations in Alberta it was decided that short visits to Nanton and Brooks, Alberta would be very beneficial. The mobile chapel was well received at these locations where it will return in 2015.
Travelling east the mobile chapel stopped briefly at Pilot Flying J in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where the manager was delighted to see us. He asked if we would return next year for an extended visit. The 7 week journey across western Canada proved to be very successful and visiting smaller locations proved to be beneficial.
Executive Director, Don Harrison, filed his year end report with Pilot Flying J head quarters and included a 10 year plan for placing permanent chapels at strategic locations across Canada. This plan included the use of new 20′ x 8′ trailers requiring little space and energy efficient heating and air conditioning. Concluding the report there was a request to meet with Pilot Flying J Administrative to discuss future plans.
On November 21, 2014 a team from Open Road Chapels, Terry Wills (vice chair), Don and Suzanne Harrison traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee to meet with Pilot Flying J Administrative team. The results were most encouraging as the Pilot Flying J administrative team accepted the 10 year plan of Open Road Chapels. Acceptance of this plan entrusted Open Road Chapels to provide their services to all Pilot Flying J Travel Centre Corporation locations in Canada.
Acting on a Board motion the purchase and pick up of the 1st new trailer was completed on December 15, 2014. This unit is in full operation at Pilot Flying J Lancaster, Ontario. The 2nd trailer was placed at Pilot Flying J, 40th St. SE Calgary, Alberta in August of 2015. The Pilot Flying J in Napanee, Ontario now has a brand new chapel at their location as of March, 2016. “Pilot Flying J” Headingley, Manitoba was set up permanently in April 2017.
Continuing the growth strategy steps are in motion at the Open Road Chapels Administrative office in Orillia, Ontario. This includes strengthening support staff, leadership team and aggressive resource development plan.
As history continues with Open Road Chapels, it does so with a grateful heart for everything the Lord has done.