Our First Missionary Bottles

written by Kraig Josiah Rice

The Bible study aboard the 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 wasn't 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.

BREAD ON THE WATERS (BOW): Our web address is www.breadonthewaters.com


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