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Issue Date:  January 25, 2008

This Gospel-based youth ministry has a definite point to it

A few years ago, Dan Meyer, 50, a blond guy with the buoyant energy of a puppy, sat in his Alabama church during Christmas while the preacher encouraged people to see the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a parable. The reindeer with the nose he was ashamed of finally realized that his odd feature was his gift and his witness.

“You have to use what makes you unique,” the preacher said.

At that moment Meyer knew he was going to quit his day job as a car salesman to be a full-time sword swallower -- and develop a ministry with a memorable point to it.

“Believe it or not, this is my calling,” Meyer said, pulling a 30-inch steel sword out of a leather scabbard for a recent demonstration. “I can reach the goth kids, the bikers -- I can catch their attention, and I can turn their attention to the Lord.”

Meyer puts the tip of the sword into his mouth, tilts his head back, flings his arms wide, and lets the inch-thick blade slide down his throat. Then he bows from the waist, his eyes twinkling above the hilt projecting from his mouth.

Meyer stands and flicks the sword from his mouth with his fingertips, so that it shoots into the air above his head. He catches it with a flourish. He’s also a juggler, and, in a pinch, a fire-eater.

His message, he said, is to remind kids how fearfully and wonderfully they are made. That the hobbies other kids might think are weird could become a way to witness in the world.

And that they should never, ever try sword swallowing at home.

“I risk my life to do this,” he said. “But I tell them there is a way they can become a spiritual sword swallower. In Hebrews 4:12, it says, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.”

Then, in the show he takes to camps, youth groups and awards banquets, he pulls out the sword he calls Pride. It’s the first sword he ever swallowed after years of practice and lots of gagging.

Swallowing your pride, Meyer tells the kids, is even tougher than swallowing a sword.

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, January 25, 2008

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