Five years ago, Ben Brown received a starter balloon modeling kit for Christmas.
Brown’s wife, Mindy, said it wasn’t something her husband even asked for.
“He is artsy but it was a random gift,” Mindy Brown said.
However, Brown didn’t set the kit to the side and allow it to collect dust.
Instead, he began practicing and even eventually moved beyond simple balloon animals to more elaborate characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Wile E. Coyote that required multiple balloon shapes, sizes and colors.
“I started getting on YouTube and learning how to do more advanced stuff and it just went from there,” Brown said.
Along with the learning process, Brown also had to overcome his lack of confidence when attempting to create more elaborate balloon models.
“At first, I was scared to death to make anything that was more than one balloon,” Brown said. “Like I just stuck to one balloon animal — keep it simple, you know. I was like I could never do two balloons.”
But now, Brown has no issue with twisting and turning as many balloons as it takes to create a piece of balloon art.
And what the balloons don’t capture, such as facial features, he’ll use Sharpies or paint pens to draw them.
“Making people is the hardest thing because there’s so much detail,” he said. “And that’s because there are so many colors you have to use and that takes a little bit of time.”
Brown also quickly figured out that not all balloons meant for modeling are created equal.
He has to order his balloons from a company in St. Louis, Missouri.
“I started ordering better balloons because the ones you can get around here are cheap,” he said. “They’ll pop on you. …It became hours and hours of squeaking and twisting before I really got good at it. I’m sure my wife got tired of all the squeaking and popping.”
About two years into his newfound skill, Brown began working with a children’s ministry called Kingdom Kids at Walnut Memorial Baptist Church.
Scott Seiber, Walnut’s children’s pastor, said that ministry targets kids in kindergarten through fourth grade, and often uses visuals such as drama and art to not only maintain the children’s attention but also to help bring the Bible lessons to life.
“We realized that the kids were so much more engaged,” Seiber said. “Specifically, with Ben and his balloons, a lot of times he’ll actually prep balloons. He’ll spend hours before a Sunday … making props. For instance, we’re doing Jericho and he can make trumpets for the kids and they get to come up with their trumpets and march around Jericho.”
Seiber added that he’s also noticed how Brown has taken his talent and turned it into a Christian ministry.
“When he first started, he didn’t really talk a whole lot but lately he’s become more comfortable with the kids; he’s more engaging with it. Now, we even do a little drama — some banter back and forth. So it’s just cool to see him growing as well. It really has become a ministry. The kids really love when he’s up there.”
Brown’s Bible illustrations have also included Noah’s ark, Moses and Jesus on the cross.
“It’s just giving the kids a visual so it will stick with them and they’ll remember it,” Brown said. “...God gives us all gifts ... and this is what we all should be doing with our talents.”
Don Wilkins, email@example.com, 270-691-7299.