Whittlin' Time Away

Meet Leonard Jenkins. Most folks ’round here just call him the Whittlin’ Man. The porch in front of his wood-carving shop is always open.

The Whittlin’ Man always has a colorful story to tell. He’ll get goin’ for a while, tell all sorts of stories that’ll make yer belly ache from laughin’, but listen closely to him, and yer gonna hear the greatest Story ever told.

Young Life is full of talented people who communicate the message of the Gospel in a variety of ways. Mike “Ash” Ashburn, a special assistant to the president of Young Life, is one of the mission’s performance specialists, using his love for humor and storytelling to introduce people to the Gospel in his one-man stage show called The Whittlin’ Man. This is a new and exciting venture for Young Life.

Ashburn is taking his overall-donning, Appalachian persona on the road nationwide to churches and other groups to explain God’s unfolding love story and to raise money for Young Life. Ashburn said he hopes the play can be used as a fund-raiser much like the banquets and golf tournaments areas hold annually as fund-raisers.

Although it was designed as an evangelical tool, Ashburn said, the performance could be tailored with stories to encourage Christians. “We need to laugh,” Ashburn said. “An audience can be taken from belly laughter to the feet of Jesus just like that.”

Ashburn speaks and performs at many Young Life camps and fund-raising banquets. He has also performed for and with a variety of ministry leaders and organizations such as The Navigators and Focus on the Family.

The first part of this performance is filled with the Whittlin’ Man’s banter and sketches that involve the audience. As he draws in his listeners, the real story emerges.

“Once we’ve got people leanin’ forward, we’ve got people trusting, and then we can begin to weave the story.

“In many churches we are looking for ways to effectively share the story of the Gospel without turning people off, and I think The Whittlin’ Man project is a great way to introduce a lot of our friends to church.”

The Whittlin’ Man talks frankly about creation, sin and the cross and gives his listeners a simple way to begin a relationship with Christ.

“So many times, especially with adults, they’ll get to the point in life when they know all they need to know to give their life to Christ, but they simply say things like, ‘I don’t know enough.’ My little boy comes up [during the performance] and teaches them how to give their life to Christ.

“I love [being] the Whittlin’ Man because I have got the best seat in the house,” he said. “There’s always someone in the first couple of rows that I can almost literally see take a step from death to life. And that’s what the Whittlin’ Man is all about.”

Carving away at all our misconceptions about God, the Whittlin’ Man’s stories can bring audiences on a front porch across a threshold into a new, abundant life.
To book a performance for your organization, church, corporation or Young Life area, contact Eva Ashburn at (800) 341-9902 or P.O. Box 546, Fishers, IN 46038. You can also send an e-mail to mashburn@1165.younglife.org. All proceeds from performances go to support Ashburn’s Young Life ministry and local areas.