Lending a Hand
Leap of faith
Former high school guidance counselor switches career paths to provide food to people in need.

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer

Since he was a boy, Rick Caywood says he always dreamed of one day driving a big rig.

About 15 years ago, Rick finally realized his dream after leaving his job as a high school guidance counselor, taking a leap of faith into the trucking world.

The OOIDA member started his organization, Rick Caywood Ministries in Crawford, TX, more than 16 years ago to support other Christian ministries and missionaries along the U.S.-Mexican border. For nearly two years, he kept his day job as a counselor and worked part time in the missionary. As the ministry grew, so did the demand on his time and his services.

“We started out our ministry with an Astro minivan and a 16-foot flatbed trailer,” Caywood said. “Then we added a Ford one-ton truck with a Powerstroke diesel engine. Then another group donated a spanking new Wells Cargo trailer,” he told Land Line.

He said the ministry soon realized they needed a “big truck,” as it was quickly growing, but at the time Rick didn’t have a CDL, or the funds to purchase one.

“All I knew about trucking at the time was that it would be really great to drive one,” he said.

Rick said the opportunity to buy a truck first came about after a supporter of RCM sold his business and made a sizable profit.

“This supporter of the ministry said, ‘Let’s go get you a truck. I have to give God his share back,’ ” Rick said. “I didn’t have any driving experience, couldn’t even get a truck dealership to talk to me, but soon enough I had insurance and found an old 1996 Volvo.”

One of the remaining pieces was to get his CDL.

“I called a friend of mine who was a missionary over in East Texas who had a five-speed Mack,” Rick said. “I asked him if he could teach me to drive and he was like, ‘I don’t know. Let’s see what you can do.’ ”

“I took the written test, and I passed it,” Rick remembers. “Then I went over there and drove around in that old Mack. Every time I popped a gear, my friend would get on to me.”

He credits Cathy Koncilia, in OOIDA’s permits and licensing department, as being a huge help when he was navigating the “phenomenal maze” of getting his own authority and necessary permits.

“She cut through all of the mystery and got it all done for me,” Rick said.

Through the years, generous supporters have helped Rick Caywood Ministries add a Kenworth T600, a 2000 Peterbilt Classic and, most recently, a brand-new 2011 Volvo. They now have four dry van trailers and two refrigerated trailers.

“In January of this year, I sent out an email on a Friday to a half-dozen of our supporters about the need for a new truck. By Monday, I had received a call from a guy asking me how much a new truck costs,” Rick said. “He and his wife paid for it because they are so excited about the project.”

The mission

Rick Caywood Ministries is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that hauls food supplies, mainly rice and beans, to mission outposts on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico. Besides Rick, RCM employs two other experienced trucking veterans, Darrell Lehde and Dennis Christian. He credits them with aiding in the ministry’s success.

He said all of the people he works with are “absolute heroes.” The missionaries he works with cross over into Mexico daily to deliver food, medical supplies and build homes.

“Their lives are in serious jeopardy every day that they are over there, but they have so much joy and peace,” Rick said. “I realize every day that one of my friends could come home a martyr.”

After the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Rick said the ministry partnered with Operation Ukraine to provide food relief to the victims.

“We helped them make the deal on the food and transported it to Columbus, MS,” Rick said. “Our partners at Operation Ukraine had experience shipping overseas and getting past some of the red-tape nonsense with customs.”

In 2010, RCM sent a container/truckload to Haiti once a month. In 2011, the ministry dropped back to a truckload every 45 days. Rick said the ministry is going to start shipping a load of rice or beans once a month again.

The ministry has also done missionary work in several countries in South America and Central America.

“Our credo is that we pick up the phone and say “yes first, then find out where we’re going.”

Rick said he doesn’t regret for a minute leaving his steady job behind to enter the less predictable world of trucking.

His leap of faith has allowed him to travel the world. He’s been to every continent on the globe, including Antarctica.

“As I get older, I get more opportunities to preach,” Rick said. “In fact, when I foul up driving the truck, I tell everybody that I am really a preacher. When I foul up preaching, I say I am really a truck driver.”

His advice for those wanting to follow their dreams, but fear the unknown, is simple.

“Don’t fear fear. None of us really have much time to waste,” he said. “Don’t waste your time; don’t be ordinary or mediocre. Be extraordinary.” LL