SHAMOKIN - God's Chuckwagon Mobile Soup Kitchen, which is now in its third year of operation, has a new set of wheels, courtesy of a converted school bus.

The bus was dedicated Wednesday afternoon by the Rev. James Bowers, who, along with his wife, Janet, runs the soup kitchen. Bowers is the pastor of Ministry of the Water and Spirit.

Pastor Dave Butler, of Bethel Union Chapel in West Cameron Township, and Pastor Richard Earl, of Mountainside Assembly of God on Trevorton Road in Coal Township, also attended the dedication.

"I never thought I would thank God for a school bus," Butler said while starting the small dedication ceremony. Approximately 30 people gathered on folding chairs in the parking lot behind Rite-Aid Pharmacy, the soup kitchen's new location. They have moved from Independence Street to the parking lot now that the bus is up and running.

Earl shared words of praise for the Bowers and their rare level of dedication and to God for providing them with the school bus. Earl recalled when the Bowers first discussed their idea to feed the masses.

"I remember when Jim and Janet first talked about having a bus nearly 10 years ago and they never gave up," Earl said. "They trusted in the Lord and it has come to pass. Their goal is not personal; they are obeying God." Earl said.

"God has always been first and foremost in our lives," Jim Bowers said. "The bus does not belong to Janet. This is not my bus. This bus is God's bus. We pray that this is just the first bus that God's Chuckwagon has on the road.

"For eight years, Janet and I had a vision of a mobile soup kitchen," he added. "Two years ago, we started by serving 30 people soup from a Chevy Malibu. I feel it is awesome that churches collect money and do missions overseas, but I feel the need to look to our neighbors. You would be surprised how many of them are going without meals."

Now that they have a bus, God's Chuckwagon will be adding new days in different communities in addition to Shamokin and Mount Carmel next year. Bowers also said the bus now allows them to travel to local disaster sites to feed victims in need.

Bowers thanked the Eagles Club of Sunbury, Shepherd's Table at Our Lady of Hope Church in Coal Township, Janet and Ed Peck and Scott Binsack for helping get the bus on the road. He also thanked workers, volunteers and people who helped and donated to them over the past two years.

After the brief dedication ceremony, Bowers offered a prayer before they began serving a meal of goulash, vegetables, sandwiches and desserts.

God's Chuckwagon Mobile Soup Kitchen is in Mount Carmel from 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays and in Shamokin from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays. They serve more than 200 people each week, Bowers said.

In the winter months, they also distribute blankets, coats, hats and gloves to those in need.

The soup kitchen operates solely on donations. To donate or volunteer or make a monetary donation, call Bowers at 570-429-2107 or Lillian Reader at 570-648-5554.