Midwesterner—one who loves country gospel, rides a horse he has trained to roll over and grin, and has, himself, a whinnying laugh—into a human incandescence. Sixty-four, 5′ 5″, and dressed like a cowboy, he increases in stature; his voice crescendos to cracking. “The devil’s learned to use us and abuse us, to beat the snot out of us,” he says, then uppercuts the air. “Amen, Chuck?” A man in the second row with a great, ZZ Top–like beard croaks amen. “The devil mopped the floor with me,” LeRette continues, and mimes a janitorial sweep. “But God—but God!—” he shrieks, pounding the lectern and leaping, “—had compassion on you and I.”
It’s a weeknight in December 2021, getting toward Christmas, and I’m sitting in the trailer of an 18-wheeler that’s been repurposed into LeRette’s chapel. It’s parked, permanently, at the Petro Travel Center, a truck stop off Interstate 39 in northern Illinois. All around it are acres of commercial trucks, stopped for the night and carrying every kind of cargo: cows, weed, pro-wrestling rings, grain, petroleum. One side of LeRette’s trailer reads “Transport for Christ”; beside it, a neon cross gleams in the dark. John 3:16 adorns the back end: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Next to the scripture are two godly hands cradling a truck.