Bread On the Waters (BOW)
Cast your

Bread On The Waters

For you will find it
After many days

Ecclesiastes 11:1

The Story of
Bread On The Waters (BOW)

written by Kraig Josiah Rice

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          Here is the story of Bread On The Waters. I know more about this ministry because I am the founder of it. We have not launched any missionary bottles since 1982, but by the end of that year we had launched a total of 72,000. To God be the glory! Many bottle finders were blessed, and Graton Assembly of God Church, (later named: Country Assembly, now a renamedSpanish mission), in Northern California was blessed as testimony letters were read to the congregation. A barrel or two was set up in the rear of the church sanctuary so church folks could bring clothes and place them there. Then the clothes was boxed and shipped via sea mail to overseas poor believers. We also shipped Bibles and New Testaments, and other things. I believe everyone who helped in these activities felt good as they took an active personal part in missionary work.

          I first named my ministry the Maranatha Gospel Bottle Crusade in 1984. Then the name was changed to Maranatha Evangelism Ministries, Current Evangelism Ministries, and then to Bread On The Waters (BOW).

          Bread On The Waters (BOW) is a literature evangelism ministry. I have tried to get the Word of God into the harvest field so that souls can be converted to Jesus Christ. I have tried to distribute gospel tracts and religious literature in a variety of ways. Sometimes me and my friends would go house to house witnessing and handing out tracts. Sometimes we would mail gospel literature overseas to needy Christians. Sometimes we would give out bags of groceries to hungry folks here in the U.S.A. (and each bag would contain a gospel tract or two). Sometimes I would leave a gospel salvation booklet here or there in the hopes of helping a lost soul find their way to God. And sometimes I use the internet as a tool to help the lost find Christ, and to help encourage Christian believers. But many years ago we made and launched missionary bottles to help win others to Christ. Here is some information on those early activities:

Our First Missionary Bottles

          Some of this information comes from my personal testimony:
The Bible study aboard the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Randolph, proved to be quite successful. A total of six sailors in Supply Division were saved, including myself. The short cruise in February ended but there were many more cruises in the spring of 1967. On one such cruise we launched missionary bottles for the first time. Three out of the six sailors saved on the February cruise became exceptionally close to Chief Richards. There was Don, Steve, and myself. We where hungry to learn what he had to teach us about spiritual matters and to put into practice what we had learned. We were doers, not just listeners. One thing he taught us to do was missionary bottle evangelism. I had never heard of it before but I soon found out that it was fun and rewarding.

          But Satan wanted me to know he would resist me and destroy me if he could. Two days after I was saved I climbed into bed having just come from one of the evening Bible studies. Another sailor had been saved that night during the Bible study- he was the sixth one. As I lay in bed attempting to go to sleep my thoughts completely vanished from my mind like someone took a spiritual chalk board eraser and used it there. A second after my mind became absolutely clear, a laugh echoed across my mind- a horrible, hideous laugh I can only describe as coming from the pits of hell. I knew this was Satan tormenting me. After laughing at me, he left.

          To me, his laughing at me was not just for torment- it was the same as throwing down a challenge to me- a challenge for me to dare to live for and serve God in the face of the opposition and temptations he would throw at me. I accepted the challenge. I decided I would fight that dirty blackard with whatever weapons God gave me as long as I lived on this earth.

          On the other cruises of the Randolph that spring of 1967, Chief Richards started leading fellowship studies nearly every night while at sea. Never again were there souls saved like in February, but there were times of learning and fellowship. These studies consisted of prayer time, Bible reading, fellowship, and sharing testimonies. I enjoyed these group activities because they helped me grow in spiritual maturity and in the knowledge of the Lord.

          About one week after I was converted to Christ several of us from the Bible study group were discussing a shocking incident. We had just read about it in the newspaper. The article stated that a night club owner had just allowed some women to dance naked before a live audience in his establishment. I made the remark to the rest of the group,
"Someone ought to write him a letter of protest."
No sooner had the words left my mouth when God spoke to my mind by placing a thought there which I did not think. God said to me,
"Write a letter."
It was the first time God had ever spoken to me and I knew He was testing my obedience, so I wrote a letter of protest to the owner of the night club, had everyone in the Bible study group sign it, and mailed it off. I never received any response in return and do not know if the letter ever accomplished any good or not.

          One night after fellowship studies were over those of us closest to Chief Richards remained to visit with him. At the time the Randolph was at sea in the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes, there were as many as ten people at these studies. He taught us additional truths and that one night he was teaching us the importance of prayer. During the topic of this conversation he kept glancing at a large stack of salvation tracts he had on top of his desk. It was as if God was speaking to him while he was talking. Finally, he interrupted himself, and said,
"I have an idea. Let's take these salvation tracts, place them in bottles, and toss them overboard here in the Atlantic Ocean, far from shore, and see where they go. Someone will find them and maybe get saved. At least they will receive the salvation message."

"Why do you think someone will get saved by reading a tract found in a bottle?", I asked him. He opened his Bible and showed me a passage in
Isaiah 55:11:
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

          "You see, Kraig, God always works through His Word. God's Word always accomplishes something, no matter if it is printed on a tract or in a gospel booklet or in a Sunday School quarterly, because it is God the Holy Spirit's job to apply the Word of God to a person's heart. As the Holy Spirit brings a person under conviction for his sins, that person can repent and Jesus can come into that person's heart and be saved," he answered, then continued, "God's Word is not limited as God is not limited. A bottle is just a means of transporting the Word of God to a person. Then it is up to God the Holy Spirit to do His work in that person's heart after the Word of God has been read."

          "Okay, let's do it, I am willing to give it a try," I responded. Steve asked, "How are we going to know who finds them and where they went?" The Chief showed us the back of one of the salvation tracts and answered, "See, each tract is stamped with the address of my church in Norfolk, Virginia, and whoever finds the bottle can write to us and give us the information."

          "Yeah! I know where I can get some bottles!", Don piped up. "How many bottles do we need?", I asked. "I have one hundred tracts here and if we put in one per bottle we will need one hundred bottles," the Chief answered and smiled.

          Everyone there agreed to help find bottles and bring them the next night. The next night there was an unusual assortment of bottles of all shapes and sizes. There were short and wide olive jars, one gallon mayonnaise jugs, an after shave lotion bottle, some ketchup bottles, and some coffee creamer jars. This project was the talk of the fellowship study that night. Everyone was excited and anticipated a lot of fun. After short devotions the bottles were taken to the deep sinks to be washed, then turned upside down to dry on top of the compartment's heater grill. Once dry each bottle was quickly "stuffed" with a tract. It was very deeply fulfilling work to me to be doing this kind of ministry. We had 35 missionary bottles ready to launch, so we loaded them into paper bags and cardboard boxes. The Chief suggested we pray over them before launching them. He lead in prayer, "Our Heavenly Father, we now commit these bottles into your care and ask for your direction upon each one of them. You said your word would not return unto you void so I ask you now to save souls by this method. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen."

          In they went that night, bottle after bottle. We threw them from the deck of the aircraft carrier into the water approximately seventy feet below. The bottles floated away as the carrier sped through the water. Each looked so beautiful in the moonlight as it floated on a calm ocean beginning its voyage. It was exciting to think of an American warship being used for spiritual warfare purposes and it was so exciting to imagine where those bottles could land. There would be no "iron, bamboo, or Islamic curtain" to stop them. The Word of God in a bottle guided by God's hands could penetrate through the defenses of the strongest and most heavily fortified enemy country in the world to bring the message of deliverance from sin to an enslaved people. Such "attack containers," as missionary bottles are, have the power and capacity with God's help to destroy more of the stronghold of Satan than rockets and bombs. Rockets and bombs kill the body but it takes the Spirit of God working through His Word to kill the root of sin in the human heart and change a person's philosophy of life and turn his thinking around. Christ is the Word and He gives power over sin. Someone once said that if the United States spent the amount of money it uses for military purposes to send missionaries abroad, our people would never have to fight another war.

          Chief Richards had remained below decks while Steve, Don, and myself had launched the missionary bottles. We reported to him that everything had gone fine and the fact that we had fun doing it. Manufacturing and launching the few missionary bottles only whetted our appetite to make and launch more. By the time the cruise was over a hundred missionary bottles had been launched in international waters in the Atlantic Ocean. We decided the next time the Randolph went to sea we would launch more.

          The problem had been getting the bottles. On an aircraft carrier at sea, bottles are not that plenteous. But we had an advantage being supply personnel because we could save the empty bottles that contained food items. I came up with an idea and received permission from my boss, Chief Richards, to implement it. Once a week I had coffee issue where I gave to every division on the ship its allotment of coffee, sugar, and powdered coffee creamer. The coffee creamer jars were brown in color with white plastic lids, so I assumed any tracts placed within would be shielded from the hot harmful rays of the sun that might tend to fade them and the plastic lids would be impervious to salt water corrosion in case the bottle floated for an extended period of time. Every division always wanted more powdered coffee creamer, so I decided to take advantage of this situation. I communicated with each person responsible for drawing each division's coffee allotment. I told that person I would give one extra full jar of powdered coffee creamer for every five empty jars returned to me. It took several weeks for this to "catch on" but soon, empty bottles were being brought back to me by the boxfuls. These bottles didn't require washing and they were easily stored in my warehouse. Plenty of salvation tracts were taken along when the Randolph went to sea that could be placed in the bottles I had in storage. Hundreds of missionary bottles were made and launched in the period of several months.

          In regard to immediate results with respect to the first launches, two replies came in from missionary bottle finders. One finder wrote us from the Island of Bermuda in the Caribbean Sea informing us he had found our bottle. The other reply came from a finder on the east coast of Florida. These letters did not contain salvation testimonies nor give us enough information to draw conclusions about the currents but they did give us encouragement. These letters were addressed to Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Norfolk, Virginia, the address stamped on the back of the gospel tracts placed inside the bottles. We knew for sure the missionary bottles were being found.

          As the fellowship study group continued with this type of outreach God was rooting this new type of ministry in my heart and mind. I was convinced that this type of ministry in a large way could be effective and that thousands of people around the world, some in isolated, remote coastal places, could receive the gospel witness this way. I was also convinced that once a contact had been made by mail from a bottle finder in a foreign land, a flow of Bibles and gospel material could be sent to that person for free distribution to the people in his locality. Many people in one area could be evangelized that way through the influence of one missionary bottle.

          God owns the harvest field and He directs his laborers to the part of the field where He wants them to work. He also tells His laborers what methods they are to use in reaping the fields. In my case God was leading me to use the missionary bottle evangelism way to reach island and coastland peoples for Him. He loves them, He died for them, He wants them to have His gospel, and He wants to make them part of his family.

MY EARLY MINISTRY BEGINNINGS

          I separated from the Navy that July, 1967, with an honorable discharge and the National Defense Service Medal and, later, the Cold War Medal. I returned to California from Virginia, and attended Bethany Bible College (now called Bethany University of the Assemblies of God) in September. I attended there for 3 1/2 years and earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Bible and a minor in Social Science in 1972. At this time I was still floating missionary bottles but not in large quantities nor with any significant results. I decided to make a living in the secular field rather than in the conventional ministry field.

          In Cloverdale, Calif. I went to church regularly but the pastor did not like my missionary bottle evangelism work and told me that I was wasting my time and that it would not work; it was not conventional. Needless to say I felt I had a closed door there and I left.

          Shortly thereafter, I happened to be in the Graton, Calif. area and decided to pay Rev. Lenard Griffis a social call. He was presently pastoring the Graton Assembly of God Church. I had met him through his daughter, Minnie, who I went to Bible College with. We had a pleasant visit and during our conversation I happened to mention to him the latest happenings and needs in regards to my ministry. One need I had was to stamp a church address on the literature that went inside the missionary bottles because I did not have a permanent address. He looked at me and then volunteered the use of his church address for the literature and also volunteered the use of his church's rubber stamp to stamp the literature with. I was surprised that God was opening doors in this church and answering my prayers very quickly. I was delighted. Pastor Griffis, in this instance, told me that he believed that God was controlling all circumstances. He also told me that his congregation had been praying for helpers and so I started attending there on a regular basis.

          At that time I desperately needed three things from God if my ministry was to survive to bring forth fruit. My ministry was like a tiny little baby tree (seedling) that had just been transplanted and it needed a lot of spiritual care, love, and nurturing until the roots could get deep so it could survive on its own with a minimum of care. I looked to God for the three miracles my ministry needed:
1) I needed a supportive pastor who had a burden for souls and a large missionary vision who could encourage me and "boost" my ministry,
2) I needed an involved church congregation who loved missionary bottle evangelism work and one that would help me, and
3) I needed someone with a large boat to take out the missionary bottles far to sea for launching.

          In the fall of 1977, I first started attending Graton Assembly of God Church, Rev. Griffis was a tremendous person with a lot of love and a man with a tremendous missionary vision. He was supportive to my ministry, encouraged me, and "boosted" my ministry as much as he could. He was a "God-send." I attended there five years and helped out in many ways.

          One time I asked Pastor Griffis why he liked the concept of using missionary bottles while other religious leaders were more indifferent to the idea. He replied, "One time I attended a meeting where there was a large delegation of ministers. It was at this time that God gave me a vision. In my vision there was a river that flowed for quite some distance before it dropped over a waterfall into a deep canyon below. In the river were people, lots of people. But these people were in trouble and they knew it because they were crying out for help. Most were in the process of drowning and all those in the river knew they would be swept over the waterfall and then plunge to destruction unless someone helped them. On both banks of the river were ministers, evangelists, pastors, and religious leaders who had the power and the means available to them to help the people get out of the river and pull them to safety. But they did nothing but argue with each other over what method was best suited to save the doomed people in the river. One argued they ought to use a rope, another a raft, and another a long pole. All the while they argued, people crying out for help were plunging to destruction over the waterfall into the abyss below. So, you see, Kraig, it does not matter what method one uses to get people saved as long as he just does something to save them. That is what the Lord was telling me through the vision. The missionary bottle method is one way to get people saved, and I will help you as much as I can."

          In a five year period of time 42,000 missionary bottles floated with that church address. Each carried the name of Current Evangelism Ministries, our ministry name at that time.

          Pastor Griffis used to go to the Pacific Ocean with his fish net and bring back buckets full of surf fish, clean and cook them, and serve them with love to his church congregation whenever he decided to have a "fish fry." These were great times of fellowship. Everyone loved them. My wife and children and myself drove 40 miles each Sunday south from Cloverdale to worship with the folks in that congregation.


          One Sunday Pastor Griffis said to me, 'There is a lady in my congregation I want you to meet. Her husband has a commercial fishing boat and maybe he would be willing to take some of your missionary bottles out to sea in the ocean." Then he introduced me to Marie Cowdrey, a very attractive silver haired lady. "Come to our house this afternoon, have some dinner with us, and meet my husband, Charles" she suggested.

          I drove over to the Cowdrey residence after church and Marie introduced her husband to me. His name was Charles "Buster" Cowdrey. In age he was in his late 60's and he had a crippled arm he later had amputated, but he was of a stout build and would get red in the face quite easily. "Sit down and have some vittles with us. Ain't nothing fancy, then we will talk about what is on your mind," he said. The lunch was delicious and the hospitality was friendly. I told him about missionary bottle evangelism and the need for a boat. It made me happy when he volunteered the use of his boat but I was concerned as he agonized and told me that he was not right with the Lord. I was friendly to him, not judgmental, and he was also very cordial back to me. Actually, we got along quite well.

          I put him in a real dilemma with my proposal because in order to take out on his boat God's missionary bottles he was faced with the intense conflict of how to work for God if he was not right with God. He agonized for some time with the Lord dealing with him. Then he repented of his sins at home and then telephoned Rev. Griffis to come to his house. The pastor prayed for him as he claimed his salvation and Buster started attending church with his wife. We became good friends and Buster decided to take the first large boat load of missionary bottles out to sea and gave me one year's advance notice to make many thousands for the launch.


          One problem I faced was where to get the thousands of glass bottles I needed. A friend of mine decided he was going to walk alongside of the highways and pick up aluminum cans to sell. He was also going to do it for medical exercise because he had been hurt working in a lumber mill in Cloverdale. I talked him into picking up glass bottles at the same time and I would pay him one cent each. Then one day he found 7,000 bottles in one spot alongside the highway partially covered with dirt. It seems that a few years before that time that a truck had over turned there carrying a cargo of empty glass 7-up bottles while on it's way to the soda pop factory. These were just perfect for our use. We took them all. What a miracle!
(note: each time we prayed God gave us glass bottles- He gave us soda pop bottles rather than beer bottles. However, it took me awhile to learn this lesson. At the time all of this was experimental to me).

          I also built a large van trailer that took me nine months part time to build at a cost of one thousand dollars. This would house and transport the missionary bottles to Buster's boat, a distance of about 75 miles.

          One year later, church volunteers loaded 12,297 missionary bottles aboard Buster's boat, the Albatross, that was 60 feet long. These were launched into the Japanese Current of the Pacific Ocean 100 miles at sea on October 5, 1978. So, Campaign One as I called it was launched and it would take about 1 1/2 years before we received our first letter of reply.

          I was just so happy to see God working one miracle after another in my ministry.

          As the letters came in to the church from overseas bottles finders- these were read to the congregation. There were testimonies of conversions to Christ and requests for help. Many believers wanted Bibles and some wanted clothes. The people in the congregation had a lot of love, God the Holy Spirit anointed Pastor Griffis a considerable number of times as he was preaching, and many gifts of the Spirit were in operation in the worship services. Many in the congregation took the needs of over seas believers to heart and brought to church Bibles and good, used clothes. These were boxed and mailed and then the thank you letters were read. God was indeed doing a mighty work.

          Then I realized that God had given me the three things I needed for my ministry so it could survive and bring forth fruit. It was on its way now and missionary bottle evangelism was proven to be effective and we had the proof it would work. It took a lot of faith and hard work and inter-cooperation between a lot of people but the fruit was coming forth. God had given me a supportive pastor with a burden for lost souls and a large missionary vision. He had given me an involved church congregation who loved missionary bottle evangelism (who had a large burden for missions anyway), and He had given me someone with a large boat who floated the missionary bottles far at sea. His name be praised!

          The testimonies from this launch of Campaign One are recorded in an article entitled "Current Miracles."

          Then God worked another miracle in relation to missionary bottle evangelism follow-up. One Sunday morning Rev. Joseph Gerhart came as a guest speaker to the church. He was an important person in the Assemblies of God denomination and had been the local district superintendent when I attended Bethany Bible College. But when he spoke at the church he was an enlistment counselor with ICI (International Correspondence Institute, now renamed Global University). As he spoke I realized the great importance of what these Bible correspondence courses could mean to many overseas believers in the way of follow up in getting them grounded in the word of God. Also, these free to the public courses sent out by Assemblies of God missionaries could be used for evangelism purposes.

          I talked to him after the service and he was delighted to help me. I invented what I call the "ICI Sign Up Campaign" so that thousands of overseas people could receive the Word of God this way. It worked this way: a person would find a missionary bottle and then write me. I would promise to send him a free Bible in exchange for a name and address list of 100 people who lived in his village (or area). I would then send this name and address list to the ICI missionary in the respective country who would then send out the courses to each name on the list and I would then send the bottle finder a free Bible. If the ICI student (potentially each name on the list) took all of the courses offered and had a good academic record then he could eventually become an Assemblies of God national minister. This would be especially valuable on some of the smaller Pacific Islands (or anywhere in the world) where the people had no gospel radio or missionary-in-residence. A God-called person could evangelize all of the people on his island and on the small surrounding islands. I really appreciate God for His help to me in helping me make these connections in His body so others could be blessed with His Word.

          In 1985, I suspended all of the floating of any new missionary bottles due to persecution circumstances. As well, an extended duration trial (a Job's trial) began to overtake me so my family and I relocated in 1984 from Cloverdale to Lodi, Calif., and Rev. Griffis retired from the full time ministry in 1984 and moved to Bonanza, Oregon.

  • Some letters from missionary bottle finders

  • The persecution against me and my ministry and why I had to quit floating missionary bottles


    Click on the bottle to go to the main missionary bottle ministries index page


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