GARFIELD – Tim Shumaker is pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Garfield and quite an interesting fellow. He has a unique and fascinating ministry that was designed to reach children, but adults are also captivated by his distinctive talent. It all started when as a teenager he was part of a group of puppeteers called the Sonset Puppet Company which used puppets to teach Bible lessons and sing songs.
The Mount Olivet pastor explained, “Even in the U. S. Navy I was active in church and served the children and youth as a volunteer. In 2003 I stopped wrestling with God’s call into vocational ministry and by 2005 I was serving as pastor of Greenville Baptist Church in the Middle Florida Baptist Association.
“One day the director of missions in our association came into my office at the church and asked me if I would work at the association’s booth at a festival in Madison, Fla. I agreed to help, but little did I know what was about to happen. On the day of the event the missionary handed me a bag of balloons and asked me to twist them into animal sculptures. I told him I didn’t know how to do that, so he gave me a booklet with instructions on how to make balloon animals and he left. For hours I worked at making those animals out of balloons and learned how to do it with great success.
“My fingers were bruised and bleeding by the end of the day, but I loved the experience and enjoyed talking to people – the saved and unsaved, the young and old. This unusual ministry started with the balloons, but I soon added object lessons and then sleight of hand tricks or illusions.
“I continued to develop these talents, but in 2009 I had a crisis of calling. I was secure in my faith but did not believe God had called me to be a lead pastor. I felt called to work with children and youth. I was given the opportunity to intern at First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla., and poured my life into the children’s ministry there. I joined the Fellowship of Christian Magicians. (The FCM is not a professional organization, but a fellowship of performers who use their talents to share Jesus Christ. The fellowship includes clowns, jugglers, chalk-artists, puppeteers, balloon sculptors, magicians, etc.). God was developing and shaping me not only as a performer, but as a minister. I had to surrender to being shaped by God and His purposes for my life.
“I became known as Papa Shu in this ministry, but it has been a family affair. My whole family has taken this journey with me; and there is no ‘Papa Shu’ without a ‘Mama Shu.’” Mama Shu is Tim’s wife, Penny. The Shumaker’s daughters, Brittany (aka Jitterbug) and Tabitha (aka Buttons) became their clown alter egos whenever they were called to different places.
The Mount Olivet pastor has a balanced view of this specialized ministry. He added, “The one thing that anchors me in this ministry is God’s Word. The message always comes before the magic, not vice versa. The motto of the Papa Shu Family Entertainment is ‘Declaring God’s Wonders to the World’ and is derived from Psalm 71:17-18.”
Pastor Shumaker has used his considerable gifts in a variety of ways – in teaching Bible lessons in Vacation Bible School, in Sunday School, in children’s church, and in discipleship programs like Awanas and TeamKid. He has also been asked to speak at Upwards sports, Good News Clubs, etc. He has exhibited his Christian gifts at Christian schools, community events and even senior citizen’s luncheons.
Shumaker added, “One of the most powerful ways that I’ve been able to use my gifts is in the area of evangelism. When I’m doing a trick, people drop their guard. I really don’t know why that happens, but it does. So, when I get a chance to plant a seed…I plant the seed. You never know what the Spirt of God is going to do with that seed. I will never forget the time that God used me and my silly tricks in leading a lifetime, hardcore atheist to saving faith in Jesus Christ. His family, who were all believers, was all around him when he said ‘Yes’ to Jesus. Two weeks later the man died, but I look forward to seeing him again one day.”
Sometimes people are skeptical of the use of magic in the ministry, but one of the most effective evangelists Southern Baptists ever had was Felix Snipes. He was a member of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, a godly man, a great illusionist, and a wonderful evangelist who saw tens of thousands come to faith in Christ through his ministry.
All of us have unique abilities, different talents and a variety of gifts. The Apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some” (I Cor. 9:22). Tim Shumaker is faithfully using his rare talents to reach people for the glory of God. His willingness to use his abilities in Christian service should be an example to all of us.
Mount Olivet had a fall revival beginning on a Sunday morning with preaching and singing through Tuesday evening, but on Wednesday evening Papa Shu presented “The Wonder Factory: A Wacky and Whimsical Presentation of the Greatest Story Ever Told.” Pastor Shumaker presented the Gospel in a most fascinating and creative way and the church was filled to see their relatively new pastor capture the attention of his audience and offer an invitation to those who wanted to trust Christ for salvation. Three children came forward to talk to someone about their relationship with Jesus.
Shumaker is not only a blessing to his church, but he has become an ambassador for Christ and Mount Olivet to the entire area. He may well be invited to have a booth at the Sugar Cane Festival in Twin City, the Pine Tree Festival in Swainsboro and the Turpentine Festival next year in Portal.
Tim Shumaker may be Papa Shu to many people, but as a faithful pastor he has a heart to love his church and a desire to reach his part of the world for Jesus.