I, like everyone else, have a story to tell. This one's a story of life and life-giving ministry. I feel like it's important to give an account of this. It's a story of how just one little thing like a ministry of kindness changes lives; at least mine.
I will start at the beginning of the story. The setting is six years ago on a cold night. I had just lost my job a few weeks prior. There was no money coming in, no friends to speak of in my corner, nowhere to serve the community (church or otherwise), spiritual turmoil everywhere, and depression setting in. That sounds pretty lousy doesn't it? However, God works in ways that we can't imagine. I was in for an act of love and grace. I was out (extremely sad because of life's hard knocks) looking for a vending machine to get a snack. Instead, God provided something tons better. There happened to be a ministry team out in the streets giving snacks away. They stand outside and give peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and something to drink. They do this to give God's love out freely to anyone that will accept it. When I found them, they introduced themselves and explained what they were doing. I found out that their ministry is called "Jericho Road", and that they did it every Thursday when Eastern Kentucky University's classes were in session in the Fall and the Spring. I quickly found everything that I needed: friends, a church home (Wesley Foundation and First United Methodist Church--Both in Richmond KY), and a place to serve at--being the ministry that helped me (Jericho Road) and FUMC. Because of the kindness and direction shown by this ministry, I am a much stronger person spiritually and much more mature as a man. Without the kindness and help that were bestowed, I don't know where I would be except lost in my opinion. I am serving heartily a lot of places in my church home(s) helping my community with kindness and helpfulness.
All Praises, Glory and Honor to God. Amen!!!
God Bless You. Be Safe.
In Christ, Richie
About Toonspirit Ministries And Our Commitment To Teaching And The Community
Welcome to our ministry site. I am glad you stopped by to say hello.
Now, you might be wondering what this is all about. Well, really this ministry site started all of a sudden. I never considered myself a writer before, but I suppose the "out of the blue" calling can come to any person that is of the Lord Jesus Christ. First off, I want to explain why I call this ministry what I do "Toonspirit Ministries" (plural). I personally teach with cartoons and gaming (Yu-Gi-Oh!) The ministry started with just these goals, but quickly grew into much more. I am very active in the community as well.
As a whole (not just personally anymore), we look for good things to do. First, we look for people to talk to about their life issues. Everyone has a story and not all of them pleasant. This calls for patience and an open mind. Second, we look for people in restaurants to talk to and sometimes eat with them (sometimes even paying their bill). Third, we look for closet talent (people who have something that they can do but don't know how their talent can help or how to get noticed. Fourth, if we have finances in the ministry we can sometimes (not all the time) help with buying economical medicine. This sometimes may not work out in a sense because some people aren't grateful or they will use the money for personal wants instead of the use intended. Now, for some information on Toonspirit lesson production (Namely "Toon Lessons and Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Lessons). God gives me a topic, shows me to the best cartoon in my archive or the best cards (Yu-Gi-Oh!) for the topic, I analyze the cartoon or cards (with God's help), God gives me the words to write (analysis included of course), shows me to the best possible scriptural match for the principle of the cartoon or cards or even the circumstance of the cartoon or cards, and gives me the proper discussion questions and web information to help the lessons to sink into people's hearts. The cartoon lessons are in a curriculum known as "A Spiritual Lesson In Toon Language" and the Yu-Gi-Oh! lessons are known as "Spiritual Lessons From The Yu-Gi-Oh! Card Game". These lessons are what I am called to write. This is not to say that the people that minister with me won't be led elsewhere (because they will be). This ministry encourages freelance Christian brainstorming.
This is a very special symbol and will be used for every lesson that God has given and will give me. It will show up as well on some of the pages as either an ornament or to highlight links better. It is a tugboat with its anchor down. I made this symbol by accident when I was teaching Bible School one year. I was making graduation forms and messed up on one my children's names. I was frustrated until I saw what it looked like. So, I repeated the same "mistake" intentionally on all the rest of the graduation forms. When you see it, think of what God can do in you even in "mistakes" such as this. The tugboat with its anchor down symbolizes and reminds us that as Christians, God will give us a load to carry, but it won't sink us.
Tugboats are very strong. They pull and/or carry a lot of weight. The anchor that is down is God's symbol and reminder to us. He is whom we trust and hope in. If we are anchored in Jesus Christ, we will never sink. This is true no matter how heavy our load is. The billow of smoke symbolizes moving forward with our Christian lives. When you see the smoke of this tugboat coming from its stack, you know that God is moving us ahead in our Christian lives "Full Steam Ahead" and at the same time relieves the damaging pressures of life so we won't "Blow Our Stacks" and sink or be powerless.
I hope this information paper about the ministry and lessons of Toonspirit, as well as the story of the tugboat with its anchor down both help you to understand the lessons that God gives me and enlightens you on what God does for the people that are obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Continuing along our information tour of the ministry, here are a few questions that people might have before they see or experience one of these lessons. These are actually questions I have experienced in some way or another (of course these may not be exactly worded). All of them that I have experienced so far have been fair honest questions.
Here they are:
Q: What age group are these lessons geared for?
A: These are mostly geared for (I believe) High School and College age people, however there are many lessons that I believe will work with just about any age bracket
Q: How much spiritual meat is in these lessons apiece? This is my interpretation of the actual question that was experienced which was: "Are they good?"
A: This depends on personal opinion somewhat as far as one's satisfaction goes. These cartoon lessons are obviously not going to make everyone happy because they will step on people's toes (philosophies and ideas) sometimes. I have had this happen somewhat already. However, if one is open to a different kind of ministry (Bible analysis using secular cartoon works) and can use imagination for some of the symbolism that God has given me, then I personally guarantee a good meal. In other words, you can't be afraid of a change of pace or change of spiritual venue for learning the Bible and how to know our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q: What kinds of cartoons are used?
A: I use a variety of cartoons. They include: The Smurfs, Tiny Toon Adventures, Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Power Rangers Zeo, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Power Rangers In Space, TaleSpin, Prime Cuts (These are cartoon music videos) Acme Hour (usually an old MGM Short, or Looney Tune), Cartoon Network Skits, (A lot of times Cartoon Network would play one of these funny little things after one of their programs--they teach well), Garfield And Friends, Superbook (This cartoon series actually teaches the Bible. I use one of these when I am covering about three or more chapters of the Bible in one lesson. I will use a secular work in each one of these for comparative analysis.), Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, Digimon, GI Joe, Cartoon Specials (like "A Charlie Brown Christmas), The Flintstones, The Simpsons, The Popeye Show (Cartoon Network's Popeye compilation show complete with some archival information about the series, writers, etc.), , Pinky And The Brain, Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, Darkwing Duck, The Muppet Show, Monster Rancher, Movies-- Including Joseph King Of Dreams, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, NFL Football, The Flintstones, Voltron. This list will change in numbers (increasing) as time goes on. This list is complete as of this day: July 20, 2011.
Q: How do you organize all of those lessons?
A: This is very interesting. The lessons that you see today on our ministry site are not in the order that God gave them to me. Some of the lesson sections were made long after a matching session was made. This happens very frequently. As far as organization goes, I have all lessons numbered in order from first to last with matching lessons that became a second, third etc. part mixed in where their respective kinds would be. An example is "Don't You Believe It! I and II". Section II came much later, but went into this section of the curriculum (3 rd lesson and 4th lesson sessions on the list).
Q: Do you take lesson requests?
A: Yes, I do. Any requests are very welcome. Remember though, I have to have the series in my archive or I won't have access to it to make any lessons. If anyone requests an episode in a series (or even just the series in general) that I don't have, this person would need to get a copy from a retailer or something like this, loan it to me and be patient. I might be able to buy it out of a store with the ministry for my lesson breeding archive (still be patient). It would then be part of the Toon Language curriculum. If loaned the copy, I will make a personalized lesson for that individual who lent it to me. It would be a true Bible analysis and discussion like everything else, even if the individual doesn't like what the cartoon and Bible combination teaches and would be edited to be part of the curriculum as needed.
Now An Actual Interview
This Interview was conducted by my good friend Steven Stone: He helped me to give some information to the public about this ministry. Thanks Steven!!
Interview (somewhat shortened version) with Richie
1) How do you feel the general public views the cartoons you use to illustrate the biblical lessons?
It really depends on the audience's personality, age, and knowledge of the cartoon in question. At least in my recent experience, it may even depend on the series in question. Overall though, most people are not aware of the biblical parallels in these cartoons. Many are used to them being entertainment. I have frequently heard this in response to a lesson: I will never watch a cartoon in the same way again. This happened in some way, shape or form especially when this ministry started. Now, a lot of people are genuinely amazed and like this way of teaching. I like it that way.
I have gotten a lot of curious people who have been blessed too. It seems like, unfortunately, that a lot of people are not prepared to make a time commitment to a bible study like this one at this time. This is true no matter how much or little that they liked it. Most of the time now, I get an excited "That's awesome" response.
2) How and when did you first become aware of the connection between the particular cartoons and bible scripture? How did the Toonspirit ministry start?
Part A--Becoming aware: This is a very interesting story. God opened my eyes to this in the television season of 1999-2000. I have always been a cartoon fan, but this was different.
When Mom and I are together we like to watch tapes that I recorded together. In this particular season we were watching a series called Digimon. In the middle part of this season of the series, mom and I were both amazed at the Bible parallel(s) especially in this particular set of cartoons. My heart melted with awe because I knew that there was some spiritual meat in this cartoon when so often I haven't seen this as much.
Part B--The Toonspirit ministry's birth: First, I want everyone to know that I have been archiving these cartoons for about nine years now (mostly because I wanted something to watch when these shows were taken off the air in exchange for "bigger, better, and newer things". So, I know that God was prepping my ministry without me knowing it.
This is how the Toonspirit ministry actually started. I was baptized in 2002, and in short order; I began to have dreams when I was sleeping about God's protection, faith needed as a Christian, and faith already attained. This was awesome. These dreams also included in their content: God's plans for me, what I was doing correctly, and what needed to change.
Two or two and a half years later God revealed to me that I needed to remember the Bible parallel(s) that mom and me have seen and the dreams he had given and to look for those parallels down so that other people can learn the Christian walk in a different way. This also consequently, also appeared to me in a dream. Concisely, the dream was this: My friends and I were at an amusement park and I was riding rides with them. But no matter what I was riding in, I was always about to die because of it ending in a bottomless pit (log flume ride), a ride going nuts as it wasn't designed. This ride was what is called a hand chain ride (doesn't exist in amusement parks with good reason--Basically you hold on for dear life on a roller coaster chain without a chute.) My friends made it easily because it went straight up and clean for them. Mine? No! It goes sideways, upside down and every way but correctly. I held on, but after all that, it stalled out and crumbled and my character went into utter darkness with my friends trying to hold their hands out to save me out of the trouble I was in and the dream was over. God told me the interpretation to this dream was this: If I want His best for His will, then don't follow my friends because my life would mean very little if I did. I would even eventually lose my zeal for Him. God told me then (stated above) to start writing on Biblical parallels in the cartoons so that people will know how to live a life worthy of God's signet ring.
So, God wanted me to create the Toonspirit ministry--Taking secular works and making Bible Study materials out of them. The most prominent study sets are from my cartoon ministry entitled "A Spiritual Lesson In Toon Language". I also make Bible Study materials out of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game (I make spiritually themed decks and analyze them Biblically).
3) Can you explain to the readers what your cartoon lessons are about?
This depends on the topic involved. However, generally when one looks at these lessons, that person will find that they are evangelical in nature concerning witnessing for our Lord Jesus Christ, holy Christian living, and general moral concepts as well. They promote discussion on sometimes issues that may be more personal in nature. Sometimes there is controversy. An example of this with my experience would be the lesson entitled The Azraels Of Life II--We Are Not Amused. This is Part II of a "love your enemies" lesson. What would you feel like if your worst enemy died and you could have helped to save his/her life? Would you be happy or sad? This lesson brought out a conversation about Adolph Hitler. It was in that group a controversial lesson and in general may be. However the Bible is clear about God's attitude toward even his worst enemies.
4) About how many people have you shown these to already?
I would say at this date more than I honestly can count. A forced estimate might be close to 100+. This may generous or conservative (I have lost count--a good sign)
5) Do you see a big change in the outlook and lives of the people that have seen these lessons, if so, what kinds of changes have you seen?
I don't truly know how much impact directly that these lessons have had in people's lives. However, I can say that these have a history of exposing strengths and weaknesses in myself and other people. However, I think that these lessons have caused people to think about their lives and pray harder for the Lord Jesus to strengthen them on the weaknesses and confirm and solidify what is right and good. This is from most of the feedback that I have received.
6) Are you planning on showing them in big group presentation settings?
Yes, I would like to do this. I have done this once with a decent sized group before at First Baptist on the Eastern By-pass near Wendy's (Richmond KY of course). I have done these with a 4th and 5th grade Bible school in Irvine. I have gotten the taste for this kind of thing and I plan to continue especially after the legalities are taken care of as far as copyright issues are concerned.
Well, now you know about the different things we do in ministry and teaching. Please don't hesitate to call on the phone, contact by e-mail, or speak to us on the street with questions, comments, requests, appointments for lesson times etc. To our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be the glory forever. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!!!
Enjoy the rest of the site. God Bless You Be Safe!!
--Carl R. Heinlein (Richie), President of Toonspirit Ministries!!