It begins with a few stray chalk marks on a flip chart and a question: How would you like to prosper in whatever you do? Or perhaps this one: If you were to serve Jesus like he expects you to, would it be easy or hard?
Missionary Paul Young has the attention of an audience waiting to see what develops on the page and hear an answer to the question. It’s chalk art evangelism, this time from Psalm 1 or Matthew 11:28. With an easel, colored chalk, and a flip chart, Young has brought the message of repentance and redemption into hundreds of public schools, churches, and prisons. He worked first in the United States, but during the last 12 years, he’s served in South Africa and neighboring countries.
Chalk art might seem like a lost art in this age of electronic and digital media, but Young says it boils down to simply using the gifts God has given him to reach this generation: “I’m sure the chalk art has played a part in my being able to preach in schools, churches, and on TV in several African countries, but it would be a mistake to think chalk art is the key [anymore than] David’s victory over Goliath was his sling and stone.”
Young preaches as he draws. He doesn’t mince words, he says, or let the chalk art become the main thing. At the end of his talk, he has no stunning portrait or dramatic scene, but a vivid illustration of his message. “People often remember for years the message that goes with the picture.” His ministry also produces and distributes DVDs and books to help disciple those he’s reached.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, with his wife Vicki and their three children, Young travels to surrounding provinces and countries sharing his art and message. He says his family enjoys the adventures that come with the mission field, but it’s not without difficulties. Young remembers an outreach to Zambia last year that was wrought with mechanical breakdowns. “It was frustrating to be stuck in a tent on the side of the road for an extra week and have more breakdowns delaying us six more days on the way home.” Still, in hindsight, “It was a happy, valuable family time.”
Their biggest heartbreak came in 2006 when their nearly 3-year-old daughter Cherish died. “She got sick on a Saturday night and was gone within 24 hours,” Young said. “That really hurt. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
He says it was good to model Job as they grieved. They continued to go to the Bible for comfort for themselves and others, and depend on the support of friends and churches. “I talk about Cherish a lot when I’m preaching. The Lord has used her little life and early death to draw many thousands.”