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 (presently named Country 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, (presently named Country 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 incorporated 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.
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.
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 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 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). 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.
After 1982, I suspended all of the floating of any new missionary bottles due to circumstances. An extended duration trial began to overtake me, my family and I move to Lodi, Calif. in 1984, and Rev. Griffis retired from the full time ministry in 1984 and moved to Bonanza, Oregon.
What BOW Is Currently Doing For The Lord
Thereafter, since I had to work a full time job driving big-rig trucks to support my wife and three children, the ministry graduated into a kind of one family ministry that we coordinated from our little cottage in Lodi, Calif. and that is basically the way it has remained since that time. However, we have developed a win-win situation in our ministry where all concerned are happy. We presently mail ICI invitations to overseas folks hungry for God's Word and reward each of them with a free Bible (free to them but not to us) for sending me an ICI name and address list. We do not mail clothes and Bibles so much anymore because the cost of postage is so high. We find it easier to send a check to the American Bible Society for a certificate of credit to the overseas contact (most of them are pastors of indiginous churches). The ABS then forwards that amount of money to the Bible Society of the respective country and then the overseas contact person can order Bibles and New Testaments in his local language dialect direct from his country's own Bible Society.
For an example: let's say Pastor X lives in the Philippines and has earned a free Bible (we usually send him enough credit money for several Bibles). We send a Certificate of Credit in Rev. X's name along with a check to the ABS. The ABS forwards this amount of money to the Philippine Bible Society. The PBS contacts Rev. X and informs him that he has so many pesos of credit with them. Rev. X then requests a free catalog from the PBS for the current supplies on hand as well as for the up-to-date prices which the PBS soon sends to him. Rev. X then places his order with the PBS and gets his Bibles, New Testaments, Church song books, magazines, tracts, etc. then in his own language dialect.
He is happy and praising God. We are happy here because we did not have to pay for postage to the Philippines so that Pastor X could receive the same thing. The ABS is usually happy because they usually receive a love offering from us for their help. The PBS is happy because they make a small profit on what they sold to Rev. X and this is good advertising for them as they also exist on free will contributions from the churches in the Philippines. The Assemblies of God (ICI) are happy because they are getting their literature into the hands of spiritually starved people (who the free correspondence courses go to) so their missionary work is efficient and effective. The people who receive the courses are happy because the literature to them is free and because they get introduced to Jesus Christ and many of them get converted. As well, many of them who are weak in the faith have their faith strengthened thru these courses. The angels of God are happy and rejoicing everytime a person accepts Jesus Christ into his or her heart, and, of course, the Lord is happy because a person has accepted Him and will now love and worship Him in spirit and in truth. So, you see, this is why I call this new phase of the ministry a win-win situation for everyone.
And, of course, you know that blessings come to you when you are "other centered" rather than "self centered."
Have you done anything for others recently?
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