RICHFIELD - Apostles. Prophets. Evangelists. Pastors. Teachers.
Photo courtesy of Jillybean Enterprises
Jill ‘Jillybean’ Bryan poses with Ally the Alligator. Bryan will teach several workshops during a Creative Arts Day in Richfield.
Pennsylvania Creative Arts Ministry Day will be held at 9 a.m. March 10 at the Richfield Mennonite Church featuring workshops throughout the day on puppet ministry, script writing, ventriloquism, black lighting, balloons and more. There will be a free public performance beginning at 6:30 p.m.
This is the third such event hosted by the Creative Arts Team of Juniata Mennonite School. This year's headliner, Jill "Jillybean" Bryan brings her five-fold ministry to the event to show the importance of dramatic arts - such as puppetry - and how to be a voice of comfort no matter what role you play.
Bryan refers to her non-profit organization, Jillybean Enterprises, with the scripture in Ephesians 4:11 that states, "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers," which is known as the "five-fold" scripture describing the various "callings."
Voice in evangelism
Bryan, who resides in Wyoming, ministers with puppets such as "Ally the Alligator" all over the world, and her audience is not always inside a church. One of the courses she will be teaching March 10 is "Ministering in Other Cultures," which teaches how to reach people in other cultures - even biker gangs.
"It's not (just) about kids," Bryan said of her ministry. "I can speak to people of all ages."
Bryan has a passion for children's ministry, but stressed reaching children often results in adults on the sidelines listening in.
Although she had been in ministry for 15 years, Bryan had not taken part in puppet ministry specifically until later in her career. As a child she "played with oven mitts," to make puppets. But she left the mitts behind as she grew up.
After years of poor decisions, enduring physical abuse at the hand of her ex-husband and inflicting substance abuse upon herself, she turned to Christ at age 27 and then turned to ministry.
As she ministered in chaplaincy positions and shared her testimony for a decade and a half, she came upon a group known as "Fellowship of Christian Magicians."
"I was just in awe," she said.
The days of enthusiasm as a child when she held the oven mitts and pretended to be "Beanie and Cecil" returned. This was her new calling.
It was not long until puppets travelled with her on her ministry trips. She first gave a voice to a character named "Jillybean" while helping at a Christian children's camp. The voice was a ploy to get campers to go to sleep. When Bryan shared "Jillybean" stories, the campers promised to go to sleep when she finished.
"Jillybean" has performed on the streets of other countries as an interpreter stood with her.
Bryan will share that enthusiasm in the "Ventriloquism" class and the "Variety Arts 101" class she will lead at the Richfield Mennonite Church.
Pastoring and timing
Prior to becoming a puppeteer and ventriloquist, Bryan became a chaplain with Billy Graham Rapid Response and other organizations, something she is still actively doing.
"Chaplaincy is a ministry of presence," she said. After receiving proper ministry training through American Association of Christian Counseling, Bryan began travelling throughout the country and to other parts of the world to respond when disaster strikes.
"When there's a disaster, I counsel families and children," pointing out that "99 percent of people who go through a disaster won't recover quickly."
And when the time is appropriate, "Jillybean," and/or a puppet shares in that moment and talks to children.
"When you've gone through a fire, you're devastated. A chaplain will be there be the brain for you when you are on the emotional rollercoaster."
Her creative arts ministering comes in to play even during the most sensitive times. "I'm an atmosphere changer," she says. Bryan has the ability to walk into a situation and help those who have experienced catastrophic circumstances to see hope.
The Wyoming woman understands deep emotional pain. Her testimony on her website is openly honest. Bryan was raped by a pastor at age 12. She was beaten "beyond recognition" by her husband at age 19. She lived a life of drug abuse and cried inside many jail cells. And most recently she survived stage three cancer.
As she speaks of each endeavor, she says, "God didn't walk away from me."
Teaching and building the church
Jillybean Enterprises aims to not only reach the world for Christ, but to also help train believers to do the same. Another course Bryan will lead on March 10 is "Finding Your Talent." The course is designed to help believers step out of their comfort zone for the sake of the call whatever that may be.
"I pray everyone 'gets it' (on March 10). It's time to step out of that comfort zone. I believe Jesus is coming soon. The Gospel is clear."
"Jillybean" said she hopes people see her puppets and her ministry for what it truly is designed to be.
"There is a difference between entertainment and ministry."
More information about Jill Bryan: www.jillybean.org