"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Clowns in prison

I have learned a few valuable lessons in life; don’t try to teach pigs to dance, don’t spit into the wind, don’t mess with any women’s missionary organizations, and…..don’t ever go into a men’s prison as a clown. Especially when you are wearing turquoise capri pants, red and white striped knee socks, a bright blue wig, and long blue glittery eyelashes

When I was in college and new in the ministry, I heard a sermon based upon St. Paul’s teaching that we should “become all things to all people so that by some means some might learn of Jesus.” At the time I was studying to enter the church recreation ministry which was in the days before Upward programs and almost no church gyms or ball fields around metro Atlanta. Our challenge as Christian recreation ministers was to come up with ways to meet the leisure time needs of people both within and outside the church. In the first church where I served, we put a huge emphasis on the community and providing programs for them whether or not they ever attended an “official” Sunday service. Our sole aim was to love the neighborhood and teach them that God loves them, too. And, it worked.

Well, at some point in this, I was asked to help with a worship service at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta. So, I threw my guitar in the back of the car, met several other guys at McDonalds and planned it all out. It was without a doubt one of the most meaningful times of my life. Meeting the inmates who wanted to come (and were brave enough to come), hearing them share of their lives and walk with God under these dire circumstances, seeing a small stained glass window in the chapel with prison bars behind, all showed me that this is what the church should be doing in today’s world.

Shifting forward a number of years, I underwent training into the world of official Christian Clown Ministry in Nashville where I learned all the techniques of make-up, illusions, costumes, and how to fit 28 of us into a tiny car. My thinking was it would help me in my quest to become “all things to all people” and provide many avenues for sharing God. It did. Our merry little Christian Clown troupe went to nursing homes, hospitals, children’s hospitals on Christmas Eve, and, yes, to several women’s prisons around the metro Atlanta area. We even traveled to St. Simons, New York City, and Washington D.C. to spread our little red balloons of God’s Love to people and hand out cups of water in Christ’s name.

Then, one day I remembered the days of my Federal Prison services and wondered how the men would react to a clown worship program. So, I contacted a local county prison and asked if we could do a program for the men. They agreed, however, none of our women clowns were allowed and that left me (capri pants and glittery eyelashes) and the other man clown…..a 75 year-old-cowboy clown who was always up for adventure without realizing what he was asking for. Without going into a lot of details in print, we were well received by the prisoners, but not for the reason we were there. There is a possibility that someone heard the story of God, but it might have been during my prayers to please get home safely with my blue eyelashes and clown virtue intact.

Where is all this leading? There are many opportunities around to be a witness and become “all things to all people.” Naturally, you can be a witness in your home, in your jobs and in your schools. But, more than that, be a witness by volunteering to work in a local ‘feed the hungry’ program, with your church children sports programs, with one of the county food and clothing banks, send prayer cards to those you know in special need, help out anywhere you are and wherever you go. Encourage someone you come across who needs a bit of help, call a senior adult in your neighborhood and see if you can pick up something at the store for them, anything. Do it in the name of Christ. Just go share your God wherever you can…..just be careful of the wigs and eyelashes you wear.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.


At 12:46 AM, Blogger Yoruba01 said...

And... God is a male? He... His... Him... Qué tontería.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Hepzibah The Watchman said...

Great post - thank you for sharing.

At 3:39 AM, Blogger Whistle Britches said...

75 year old Cowboy Clown made me chuckle..
Great story..


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