With no home and no car, Amy Rickel was feeling helpless. She decided to reach out to a friend to ask for prayers but soon realized she’d made a mistake. She never could have predicted that her error would change everything.
Amy Rickel is from Wisconsin. She has three children, who were aged four, six and eight in 2016. It was in that year that Rickel – and her kids – found themselves in an extremely difficult situation.
You see, the mom had moved to the city of Green Bay because she wanted to be nearer to the dad of her kids. However, it wasn’t long before everything fell apart.
After relocating, she lost her job. So, she found herself raising her children as a single mom. Eventually, Rickel and her daughter and two sons had nowhere to live.
The family stayed in a hotel for a while, but Rickel didn’t have the funds to remain there. Then, things got even worse: the mother’s car broke down. She had no money and nowhere left to turn.
That’s when Rickel decided to get in touch with a friend. She wrote a Facebook message to someone she knew and asked them to pray for her. However, after pressing send, she realized she’d accidentally contacted a stranger.
In fact, the message had gone to a man named Brian Van Boxtel, instead of to a similarly-named friend of Rickel. The pair didn’t know each other at all, so Rickel sent a follow-up note to apologize for her mistake. However, Van Boxtel wouldn’t let her end their discussion quite so soon.
What’s more, the stranger felt that fate had led him to receive the message from Rickel, and so he replied. “He was like, ‘Nope! God puts us in people’s lives for a reason,’” Rickel told WPXI News in December 2016. Van Boxtel said he was compelled to help out after considering the question: “What would Jesus do?”
The good Samaritan responded to Rickel just as the mom had reached her wit’s end. She told WPXI News she was “bawling and praying and that’s when Brian messaged me.” He told her that he’d pay the bill at her hotel and suggested she start a GoFundMe page to raise money for herself and her children.
Kathy Schumann saw Rickel’s story and also wanted to do her part. So, she lent the mom her minivan and also gave her a place to stay. “She really tugged at our heart strings,” Schumann explained to WPXI News. “And we just felt like this holiday season we couldn’t let the kids be out in the cold… we cleared out a room and brought them home.”
Chad Morack was another person who was inspired to help Rickel and her family. He arranged for her to meet with a medical recruitment agency in Appleton after learning that she was a licensed nurse. “Amy will attest there was a lot of work and a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on to really make this happen and to make it happen quickly,” he told the news channel.
TotalMed senior recruiter Alexandria Witkowski met with Rickel. She could see that the homeless mom had a strong résumé. And when she heard what she’d been through, she wanted to do everything she could to help Rickel turn her life around.
“I couldn’t help but continue working really hard to get her references and résumé over to our clients so we could get her a full-time position,” Witkowski said. Her dedication paid off and she got Rickel an interview for a nursing job. Moreover, the mother was hired to start work the following month.
Although Rickel had fallen on desperate times, strangers banded together to come to her aide. And, within just nine days, they’d helped her to obtain a car, a place to stay and a new job. All of this took place just before Christmas.
Rickel admitted that she was “pretty amazed” by the kindness of Van Boxtel, Schumann and Morack. “I still kind of find it unbelievable,” she said. In fact, the foursome still keep in contact today and even celebrated the festive holidays together in 2016.
Today, Rickel is working as a licensed practical nurse at Oshkosh Correctional Institution. As well as regularly sharing smiling snapshots of her three children, she has become good friends with the people who helped her when she needed it most.
“It’s all because of you, Brian Van Boxtel,” Rickel wrote on her Facebook page. “Still having a hard time swallowing my pride but you, sir, have renewed my faith in so many things, but most importantly God’s amazing way of sending an angel when you most need it! You are amazing!” Her story was shared around the world and nearly $5,000 was pledged via GoFundMe for her family. Commenters also posted messages of support.
“I just want to say good luck to you as a single mom myself with three boys… I know how hard it is and can be,” wrote Tiffany Wellman. “I hope you and your kids get everything you deserve. Meanwhile, Melissa Dower added, “Hi Amy, I read your story in Australia, and just wanted to let you know that your children are blessed to have a mother like you. Take care and never be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help.”
It’s likely Rickel will always be grateful for what Van Boxtel did for her – someone he’d never even met. But he insists he didn’t think twice before lending a hand. “I know that God had me in the right place at the right time and so I listened to my heart,” he told WPXI News.
The mom-of-three had hit a low point and felt she had nowhere to turn. But she received hope when she needed it most – and within a matter of days her life had changed for ever. Rickel told WPXI News, “It’s totally restored my faith in more than just humanity, my faith in God.”