Story by Sara Tirrito
Stranded and low on cash after icy conditions left his group unable to fly home from a 1996 weekend trip to Big Bend National Park, Rick Caywood was in a prime position to be confronted with his fourth major career change. He just didn’t know it yet.
Desperate for a place to stay with his group until the storm moved on, Caywood and a friend began scouting out local churches for assistance. One church finally directed to Big Bend Baptist Church, where they were welcomed to stay in the dormitory until the storm passed. But in speaking with the church’s pastor about some of Big Bend Baptist’s missionary projects, Caywood felt drawn to help the church as well.
“It was a spiritual moment, it’s the best I can describe it,” Caywood said. “I didn’t have the faith to say ‘Yeah, we’re gonna help you,’ but I had the faith to at least say ‘We’re gonna try.’”
After returning to central Texas, where he was a counselor at Gatesville High School, Caywood began making calls to try to help gather the materials the church needed for the construction of three houses in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.
He collected donated materials in excess, the housing project was a success and Caywood became hooked on missions work.
“That first project, it was so much fun I must have prayed to God that there would be some way that I could do that all the time,” Caywood said, “and sometimes you think He didn’t hear your prayers, but He certainly heard this.”
For about two-and-a-half years, Caywood did mission work part-time, and then left his counselor position at Gatesville High School to work in ministry full-time. His organization, Rick Caywood Ministries, is dedicated to supporting and assisting other ministries and missionaries. The organization is now 15 years old.
Though this wasn’t his first career shift, Caywood said that his previous careers and experiences had primed him for his new work.
“The things that I do in ministry, I see everyday the advantages of having been in business and having been in education and having been in counseling. It seems like God waited until I had enough training in those other things to put me into this,” Caywood said. “He doesn’t waste anything. He’ll take everything that you are and everything that you have and turn that into the most productive work that you can do, I think, for the kingdom.”
Though the RCM staff is small, its impact is substantial. Working alongside Caywood are Darrell Lehee, who serves as a part-time truck driver, and Caywood’s children, Kim Landis and Travis Caywood, who also work for RCM part-time. The organization, which Caywood describes as having “one foot in the church, and one foot in the mission world,” helps other ministries and missionaries with their needs– especially transporting products from donors to ministry and missionary workers.
RCM raises money year-round through its newsletter, which helps to bring in donations from individuals, churches, foundations, friends and relatives. Still, the organization does at times have to ask the ministries it serves to help with the cost of fuel and other such expenses. With ever changing and often growing fuel prices, RCM’s fuel bills have at times exceeded $1,000 for two days of traveling.
The organization’s equipment also has also been provided for through donations. Currently, RCM has two full size tractors, six 53-foot trailers (two of which are refrigerated), a forklift, and a staff car and pick-up truck that are used for local projects. A 20-foot covered trailer is also being ordered to use on local projects.
Additionally, two facilities in Waco have been donated to RCM—a warehouse, donated by the Meyer Family Foundation, and a truck parking facility, donated by Moon Mechanical Services.
Caywood said he spends about one-third of the year on the road, and has now been to approximately 35 countries.
“You know you say ‘Yes, Lord’ and you end up doing things that you never thought was possible, you end up going places you never thought was possible,” Caywood said. “When I first started, I had been to Canada and Mexico, but since I started chasing Jesus around the globe I think my country count’s up to around 35. I’ve been to every single continent on the globe including Antarctica.”
The various trips and projects don’t leave much time for rest. The time commitment is 25/8/366, Caywood says, because there is constantly something to be done. Fitting in all he can is a feat of prioritization—Caywood has lists on his notepad and iPhone, and calendars both paper and electronic that help him keep the organization’s schedule in check.
RCM delivers a total of 20-30 million servings of food per year to ministries worldwide, but, Caywood says even that is not the best part of the job.
“That’s pretty significant,” Caywood said, “but the big joy is the fact that we know we can step alongside the creator of the universe and partner with Him in projects that he thinks is important.”
Each day, Caywood’s main goal is to have done something “that put a big ol’ grin on Jesus’ face.” He believes that God put the ministry in his life not so that he could complete it, but so that the ministry could complete him.
“God spoke the existence of this universe into existence with the words of His mouth, and He could do any of the things that we do in ministry Himself,” Caywood said, “but it’s the opportunity to experience. It’s the opportunity to experience God and experience the association with Him– nothing like it in the universe.”
For several years now, Caywood has been working with Louie Davenport, a board member of a California-based Christian organization called Power Ministry. When Davenport needs products transported but is unable to make the trip, Caywood often fills in.
Davenport said he has come to know Caywood as a strong Christian with an outgoing personality.
“He’ll leave on a trip not having enough money to complete the trip, but just on faith,” Davenport said. “I don’t know anybody else that does that.”
Glen Wiede, founder and president of Steadfast Ministries, said God has led Caywood to help his organization financially.
Wiede said he believes Caywood is a spiritual man and that he is driven by a passion for his work.
“When I’m around Rick, the subject of the Lord, the Bible, the word of God, something that he’s read, will always come up,” Wiede said. “He’s always saying things to inspire me to be spirit-led of the Lord and to be steadfast in the Lord’s work.”
In Caywood’s opinion, however, it is the missionaries he serves who have the greatest passion.
“You talk about the passion of a person’s heart, I’ve never seen people that have the depth of passion like missionaries do and the love for their work that missionaries do,” Caywood said. “To me, they’re the real heroes of the universe.”
Despite his humility, Caywood’s passion for the work that God placed in front of him back in 1996 is apparent.
“I think people are too hesitant to really let themselves go in serving God. I think most people really are hesitant, they hold back, but what a phenomenal life it is when you just remove any of the obstacles that you have between you and God and you just hit the road with all you got. What a phenomenal adventure serving God is,” Caywood said. “He’s a much better employment counselor than anybody else around; he could get you hooked up with a phenomenal job.”