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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / On March 1, 2020, James Hodge stands beside his tractor-trailer painted with scenes from the Bible. He is hoping to combine his decades of experience as a driver with his faith to launch a full-time trucking ministry.

James Hodge spent nearly a decade trying to understand the call he felt God gave him. Around 2005, God told him to bring people to the faith, but offered no other instructions, Hodge said.

In those years, Hodge was struggling to overcome years of addiction. He tried and relapsed. Any money he could find he spent on pills or methamphetamine, he said. He would often fall asleep smoking a cigarette or stay up late reading, his Bible in one hand and a crack pipe in the other.

"Satan just drug me through the mud, the dirt, the gravel, wherever he wanted to drag me, down to where the police don't even go," Hodge said.

Then, in September 2016, Hodge entered Canaan Baptist Church and began to change his life. By the grace of God, he has been clean for nearly four years, the 57-year-old said.

With his transformation, Hodge began looking for ways to bring others into the church. He turned to one of the most visible but unnoticed industries in the country, the industry he and his family have known for decades: Trucking.

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Trucking ministry

Last year, with the financial support of his friend Brad Tims, Hodge bought a 48-foot trailer and had it airbrushed with depictions of Bible stories. The sprawling scene on the driver's side includes Adam and Eve in the garden, Samson tearing down the temple, Jesus walking on water and the crucifixion. On the passenger side, Hodge pays respects to branches of the American military with their various seals.

Hodge and his wife Cynthia lead Trucking for the Word of God, an effort the Chattanooga couple hopes will be a cross-country ministry. With the former race car trailer hitched to their 1985 Peterbilt truck, the couple won first place in their class at the Great American Truck Show in Dallas last year.

Mary Lovell, who runs Deadicated Airbrush, created the artistry on the trailer. Hodge reached out to her about doing the work at a difficult time in her life, she said.

"Jimmy called me up and I thought he was joking about painting a semi-trailer," Lovell said.

The project, the largest Lovell has ever completed, was just what she needed, she said. In total, the project took five months to complete. She sanded the trailer by hand, which took nearly two weeks, then stood on a ladder or scaffolding to draw all the images with a pencil. There were constant challenges, Lovell said.

"Drawing stuff to scale that size, figuring out how to make sure everything was prepped correctly, painted correctly without dust and dirt and everything, there were tons of challenges," she said. "I could probably make a notebook full."

Hodge still hauls Volkswagen parts for Tranco Logistics. However, he hopes that with enough support from local churches and business, he can make his ministry a full-time job, he said. He will take his truck to Louisville at the end of the month for the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Going full time into ministry is a big risk, Hodge said. He plans to remodel the inside of the trailer to be livable, then live out of it with his wife as they travel the country. Hodge will be working for the Lord, he said.

"He's prepared me for this," Hodge said. "This is a huge responsibility."

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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