Who’s that preacher?
‘Gospeler’ uses creativity, great memory to broaden stock of roles
By Bill Boyd
(part of an ongoing series Bill Boyd’s Georgia)
Reporter's errors are corrected in brackets [ ].
He’s a man of many faces. He can be the apostle Paul, old and withered, reciting teachings from 2,000 years ago. He can be Abraham Lincoln and give an impassioned rendition of the Gettysburg Address. He can be the mythical scoundrel Ebenezer Scrooge and make you rejoice that there is a Christmas. Or he can take the stump as John [Charles] Wesley and preach a stirring sermon to the pilgrims.
But regardless of the many faces, this man has but one goal in life – to preach the Gospel, to spread goodness, to gladden the heart. To do that, he uses extensive makeup, a truckload of costumes and a sharp mind that can memorize an entire chapter of the Bible. He’s a penny pincher who travels thousands of miles without any promise of pay, spends only about $10 per month on groceries and doesn’t really want to live any other way.
calls himself “The Gospeler,” but his name is
has this most unusual man managed to do so much with so little for so
long? Let me tell you his story. He was
born and grew up in
“My father was a very frugal man, and I learned from him,” he says. “Prosperity is being where God wants you to be and doing what he wants you to do. So I’m really very prosperous.”
preached anywhere and everywhere I could,” he recalled. At first, he was a street preacher, often
seen and heard in
He went all out and memorized the entire book of Romans [only a few chapters before hitting a roadblock]. By the mid-1980s, he was holding down his full-time job, preaching on the streets and spending countless hours “closeted in prayer,” he said.
Gospeler found his niche when he combined Ephesians
with dozens of other [Pauline] Scripture to form a drama about the apostle Paul’s imprisonment in a Roman jail. He presented it for the first time on June 15
, 1988, at
that trilogy, he took his ministry to places as far away as
1994, he expanded his repertoire of dramas to include the story of the prophet
Isaiah, and the following year he added others.
Now his dramas number 16  and include King David, St. Nicholas,
Abraham Lincoln, Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Ludwig van Beethoven and old
Scrooge. This fall, he will add another
about Adm. William Penn, the founder of
The dramas run from 25 minutes to 80 minutes, and he performs 20 to 25 per year. He recently staged his 300th performance, and he’s proud of the fact that he’s never canceled a single drama.
came close. In 1990, he sustained
third-degree burns while fighting a [containing a brush] fire at his father’s
house. But he got bandaged up and made a
scheduled appearance at the
He laughed as he recalled the tragedy and said, “You know, that was one of my best performances. It’s unreal how the devil works against you. But there are always obstacles, and we just have to overcome them.”
Among the many lessons his ministry has taught him is how to put on make-up. The most complicated of those tasks is the “aging process” needed to portray the apostle Paul. It takes about 45 minutes to prepare for that role.
Speaking of aging, Dwain Penn will turn 48 tomorrow, and he’s never been married. He says he is “still looking.” However, he cast some doubt on his chances for matrimony by recounting a recent prayer session.
“I asked God for a wife, but he said, ‘I gave you a (ministry) [church] that you didn’t ask for.’ I think that was his way of telling me to shut up about a wife.” But even as he cruises through middle age, the Gospeler voices no concern about his financial future. “God always provides,” he said, “When I had regular paychecks coming in, God wasn’t obligated to do anything for me. But when I go out into the ministry without a salary, then God is obligated to open doors, to provide. And he does.”
still works part-time jobs when the need arises, though. For instance, when it became necessary for
him to get a new set of wheels several years ago, he cleaned churches. As soon as he accumulated the money for a
down payment, he bought a
Finally, I asked how he manages to survive – and look healthy, too – on $10 worth of groceries a month.
when I make soup,” he said, “I make a big pot so I can eat out of it for five
or six days. It isn’t hard to do if you
put your mind to it.”
I decided to do my bit for his ministry and took him out for a good lunch. We ate heartily, and when I paid the tab, it was half again as much as he usually spends for a month’s supply of groceries. And I didn’t even feel like we splurged.
I think there’s a real lesson in frugality here.