Clowning Around: Pastor finds twisting balloons helps serve the community | Atlantic

Clowning Around: Pastor finds twisting balloons helps serve the community | Atlantic

EXIRA — Sitting under a tree during a family event for Sept. 11, Rufus is twisting out a story, making something for the next child in line.

Glen Meyer is pastor of the Exira Christian Church in Exira, but he’s also Rufus the Clown, a board member working with the Congregate Meals and Meals on Wheels and a chaplain for law enforcement around southwest Iowa. They are all “different shirts” he wears as part of ministering to the community around him.

“It’s all part of the different ways we minister to people — physically, mentally, spiritually — and that’s what I committed my life to,” he said.

Meyer came to the Exira area in October 2010, from northwest Indiana, but his interest — “kind of my passion” — he said was working in the Church.

“It was what I wanted to do,” he said, since he was young. “That was kind of my passion, or what I was interested in,” so following high school he went to Bible college, and became a pastor.

How this pastor became interested in being a clown goes back to about 2004-05, when a lady he got to be good friends with introduced him to being a Clown.

She was interested in it, and got him started in it.

“It’s interesting, and you don’t get bored of it,” he said.

What does he do as a Clown?

Mostly it’s a voluntary thing, finding events and non-profit groups where he can donate his time and effort.

At an event in September last year honoring vets and those that serve in the community like emergency responders, law enforcement and fire department personnel year, Meyer was making balloons.

His family has always had a close relationship with those in military service.

One of his great-grandparents was in World War I; his father in World War II; his father-in-law served in Korea; an older brother in Vietnam and his son in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“My family has had quite a bit of involvement with the military,” he said, so the event “seemed like a natural fit.”

He thought it would be a fun time to put together an event for first responders, to twist some balloons and have some fun.

His Clown persona is named Rufus — and Rufus is a hobo who is certain that things will get better with time, even if what he tries doesn’t always turn out the way he wants.

Meyer said there were three basic kinds of balloon twisters: Balloon twisters, Balloon entertainers and Balloon artists.

The artists can make incredible things out of balloons, he explained, “I’m definitely not a balloon artist.”

Twisters can twist things out of balloons, tend to twist fast and can come up with creative shapes.

But when twisting balloons, Meyer says he’s really a balloon entertainer. “That’s where I fit in.”

He uses the balloons to tell a story, working with the child he’s making the shape for. He’d ask about how long the dog’s ears were, how long a neck it had, whether it had long or short legs, and the balloon would turn into the shape of that child’s dog. The family gathering which included a dunk tank, vehicles from emergency and law enforcement groups, food and more had a good turn out for a first year event, Meyer said.

“It was an outstanding event, a good way to interact and have a lot of fun with it.”

It was time to “have some fun, and make them laugh.”

Meyer said a friend got him started Clowning — where he learned about Clown Camp and Clown College.

“Sometimes if you want to be a really good clown, you need to go to Clown College.”

His wife has told him she didn’t want to be a clown, but she did go along with him to an event where she learned about face-painting.

“I have no interest in face-painting,” Meyer said, “I can’t draw stick people, so I knew I’d never be good at face-painting.”

The woman teaching face-painting at the event was very good, and his wife got started with that, and was good at it.

“It’s her niche,” he said, “She’s definitely a professional face-painter.”

The pair go to some events together, but also do some on their own. He’s a good ambassador for Clowns, “You don’t have to be serious all the time,” he said.

He’s also involved in another aspect of serving his community: he is on the board for the Congregate Meals and Meals on Wheels program in Audubon County.

That group puts on weekday lunch meals, but has been challenging to run lately, as funding has not been keeping up with inflation. With demand rising along with inflation, he said the group has to raise money on the side to continue to serve.

“It’s a great way to provide meals and meet with the seniors,” he said, a valuable thing for the community, and for those they serve.

“This year we’ve served over 7,500 meals in the first nine months (from July 1 to June 30),” he said. He was working on the group’s budget, for next year, but won’t find out how much they might get until June — short notice when the program starts in July.

Like many groups, the program struggles with numbers of those who need the service and finding volunteers to do things like help serve or wash dishes.

The other thing he’s involved in is being a part of the Southwest Iowa Public Safety Chaplaincy.

While wearing that shirt, Meyer said one of the things he may be asked to do is go on death calls with law enforcement, when a family’s loved one has died. With law enforcement often being short staffed, Meyer said as a Chaplain he can go along, let law enforcement do their legal part, and as Chaplain, he can stay with the family, helping them through their grief until other family support can get there.

He’s also helped with bike rodeos for third graders, teaching bike safety at different stages.

He’s happy to be able to help identify areas in the communities where there are needs, and how to best serve those needs.

He’s glad that the Exira Christian Church that he serves as minister is supportive of his efforts.

“As a minister in a small town,” he said, “you are a minister to the whole community. It’s very important that I be out and involved in community life in different ways, (and my Church) has been very supportive of all that.”

He said they have been able to have ecumenical kids programming, Bible studies, have people to entertain and brighten some people’s lives as a clown and more. “We also help with the food pantry,” he said, and focus on families in the Exira, Elk Horn and Kimballton areas.

His interest in serving goes from clowning around to being serious and supportive as a Chaplain.

It’s all part of the different ways we minister to people — physically, mentally, spiritually — and that’s what I committed my life to,” Meyer said.

Related Posts