I stepped inside and found a man gathering up his purchases. "Is that your van out there?" I asked. When he said it was I told him my situation. Yes, indeed, he would take the clothing to pass out to folks who could use it. I followed him to his van.
The man's name is Cal Rice and he and his wife Jackie are passionate about serving others. The Lord used this passion to bring them together six years ago. A widow, Jackie had no plans to re-marry unless she found someone with a common heart. And that was a heart of service, which she has demonstrated for year as she has raised her children, taken in folks with difficulties, or served in soup kitchens. Jackie met her match in Cal. Among other things, Cal started Shepherd's Heart Food Bank in Burlington and has been involved in Love INC, a network of Skagit County churches committed to meeting the needs of the community through sharing the resources, ministries, and talents of the people in their congregations. They were married a month-and-a-half after they met!
With hearts like theirs (and Rice for a last name), what could be more suitable then that they should begin Rice Bowl Ministries?
I spent some time with them at Project Homeless Connect, a day-long event working to end homelessness in Skagit County. They were one of dozens of agencies and ministries offering various services. Rice Bowl Ministries was a highly visible group, with its bus, van, two trucks and 24 volunteers!
|It was a busy day for them as they started out with more than twice the items
on these tables and racks.
Every week Rice Bowl Ministries parks the van in a various places and passes out clothes and bedding in the community. The van is carefully organized and includes not only pants, shirts, and jackets but also things like underwear, hats, belts, and winter coats. When the van returns to Cal and Jackie's home after an outing, it takes them a couple of hours to restock it and prepare it for the next run.
|A donated van with a canopy attached makes them an all-weather parking lot outreach
|There is a row of winter coats behind this row of lighter weight jackets
|Pants, organized by size
|Every inch of this van is efficiently organized to provide maximum space
for carrying clothing and other supplies
The Soroptomists of Anacortes helped get Rice Bowl Ministries up and running, but used clothing and supplies now come to them through people in the community. Cal picks up donations at various locations, or folks drop them off at their home. "I've only parked in the garage once in eight years," Jackie told me. "There's just no extra room in there for a car!"
Because Jackie is recovering from a back injury, she is grateful that others are taking more responsibility for the ministry. The day after Project Homeless Connect, a men's group was planning to take the van out for them for an event; it was the first time a group has helped them out in this way. They are praying for someone to take over the ministry at their house.
Even if that happens, it will not stop them from serving. As soon as they find a place to offer meals they want to get back to feeding the hungry. Through Operation Soup, which is awaiting a new location, they have served as many as 100 people a day. If you know of a place in the Mt Vernon area, please let them know.
In their beautiful, selfless way I watched Cal and Jackie interact with clients and volunteers, laughing with people, tracking down more shopping bags or offering a prayer for someone with a need, always sharing the love of Jesus. It is an honor to call them my brother and sister in Christ. I plan to spend more time with them and some of the incredible people they introduced me to. (Has Jackie's sister ever got a story! I'm looking forward to sharing it with you down the road!)
This encounter was clearly God-ordained. He used three bags of clothes to get me together with two of his very special servants and to introduce me to a lively, healthy network of his people actively sharing his love. If you feel a nudge to come alongside Rice Bowl Ministries in some way -- by donating clothes, bedding or furniture, or by helping distribute clothing, or if you know of a place to host a soup kitchen -- don't miss out on the opportunity. Let's also pray for them. As Cal and Jackie bless so many people, let's bless them too.
|Cal and Jackie Rice
* * * * *Yes You Can is a monthly post featuring people who see a need and do something about meeting it. Is there something you feel drawn to do but aren't sure you can? Let the stories here encourage you. By God's grace, Yes You Can!
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Update: I just received this note from Jackie:
Thanks Ginger and a big thanks to you. We have a lot of friends who help us with this ministry and I would like to give them all a big thanks. We could not do this by ourselves as we have gotten so big. I have ladies that come by when they can and help go through clothing and some of our board members are here all the time helping out. I don't want people to think we do it all by ourselves. And, thanks to the people who donate the clothing etc. Without them, we would not be here. Thank God for everything as it is His ministry that we have been blessed to run. And, thank you for your wonderful blog. I am looking forward to seeing who else you have chosen to write about.
God Bless you, Jackie
Rice Bowl Ministries