Kids made a mad dash to God’s Smile Factory ice cream truck to grab favorites during the last dog days of summer before the school year began on Monday in downtown Elkin.
A local parent, who did not want to be named, treated 23 kids to God’s Smile Factory ice cream last week.
“I got to treat 23 kids to ice cream on a hot summer day, I also knew that I would be helping Chris with mission work,” said a local parent.
Owner of the God’s Smile Factory and minister of 17 years, Chris Richardson, started the ice cream truck business roughly four years ago.
Before, he used to drive a tractor-trailer until a friend approached him with the idea.
When the friend, who owned his own ice cream truck business, asked if Richardson would be interested in driving one, at first Richardson said, “No.”
Later, Richardson told him, “Let me pray about this.”
Richardson said he prayed aloud the words, “God tell me about this ice cream truck.”
He said he believes he heard a reply from God in the words, “Chris do not miss this ministry opportunity I’m giving you.”
He said when he called his friend and told him he believed it to be a ministry opportunity, his friend said, “Good, come get the truck.”
From there he said he kept an open mind, but told the Lord to “build it the way you want it.”
Now he is “asking the Lord to bring people alongside of me for a fleet of trucks.”
The truck was originally a plain van with some ice cream stickers. He and wife Debbie stocked the truck with ice cream after getting advice from friends, and embellished it with new ice cream stickers.
One of the stickers is entitled, “back to memories.” Richardson said there is a reason for that sticker and for the many other facets of the ice creams, one of a kind flavors. Each meet the need of any individual, no matter how old or young, or what neighborhood they live in. “With God, we are all individually made,” said Richardson, “like the ice cream and stickers.”
Richardson recalled while at a North Wilkesboro car dealership, a “giant of a man” came out to the truck with tears rolling down his face. The man told Richardson, “Brother, you do not know what you have done.”
The man explained the ice cream truck brought back such incredible memories for him and had taken him back to his childhood.
Richardson said God started giving him messages about the ice cream truck as a tool. It fits into every level of society, and is a common-ground place, he said.
The name God’s Smile Factory came originally after he watched children’s and adults’ reactions when they heard the truck music and would smile.
Richardson thought, “This is the Smile Factory,” he said.
Now, everywhere the truck goes, Richardson said it is because God has given him the particular route. In a tough world, it helps take people back to a happy time and provides happy music, he said.
“The big thing that I have picked up from this is the emphasis that God puts on relationships. It is like me being a mobile pastor really.”
He said in just a few minutes, he often finds out when someone comes what is going on in their life.
Adults have told him often, he said, “You don’t know how much I needed you today.’
“It gives me opportunity. I joke about it, I become the ice cream bartender.”
“Everybody likes ice cream,” said Richardson.
Richardson also does tent revivals and has a tent that seats 500 people.
The tent is going to Israel in 2015, said Richardson, where he will set up in 23 villages to do ministry.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.