By Teena Myers
A wealthy Peruvian changed Ken’s life when he asked him to entertain at his daughter’s birthday party as Smiley the Clown. The parents loved Ken as much as the children. Invitations to perform poured in and the blue-eyed gringo clown became a sensation.
Ken’s new career as a full-time clown enabled him to pursue his first love—missionary work. He had visited hospitals in deplorable conditions to cheer up the patients. The sick slept on the floor. Children lay on tattered blood- stained sheets. The laughter his “clown antics” produced made him glad. He prayed for all who gave him permission, but often left the hospital wishing he could help them tangibly.
An encounter with a printer in Russia set in motion a series of events that fulfilled Ken’s desire. He was smuggling Bibles into Russia in the mid-1980s when he met Anna and Jairo. Jairo printed gospel tracts in Asian languages. Ken worked with them for a season spreading the gospel in communist countries. After the Berlin Wall fell, Anna and Jairo moved to New Orleans. Their paths crossed again when Anna saw Ken perform at a home for vulnerable children.
Shortly after the performance, Ken left for Eastern Europe. When his missionary work concluded in war-torn Bosnia, Anna invited Ken to return to New Orleans and teach them clowning. Halfway through their lessons, Hurricane Mitch destroyed Honduras. Anna suggested using their clowning skills to encourage the people of Honduras, but Ken had a commitment in Bosnia. He referred Anna to Patrick Ferrell, his long-time associate and friend, to assist them with the Honduras mission trip.
During an appointment at Children’s Hospital, Anna’s son told the staff his mother had become a clown and was going to help the people of Honduras. A nun working at the hospital learned of Anna’s trip and gave her medical supplies. Doctors added to the gift, and Anna soon had forty-eight duffel bags full of supplies.
Anna and Patrick delayed their trip to Honduras until Ken returned from Bosnia. During this time, medical supplies continued to pour in. Duffel bags of medical supplies grew into truckloads of supplies. They lacked the finances to pay for shipping, so Anna called the airlines. They agreed to waive the shipping cost for 300 pounds.
Ken, Anna, and Patrick arrived at the airport to learn Anna’s estimated 300 pounds was 2700 pounds. A flurry of negotiations later, an airline official decided the flight could handle the extra weight. The missionaries and their supplies boarded the airplane for an uncertain destination. No one had responded to the messages Anna sent to government officials before they departed.
A secretary greeted the missionaries as they exited the plane. The secretary had a van and a list of orphanages and hospitals in need of their help. Mary Flake de Flores, the First Lady of Honduras, had received one of Anna’s messages. She had started Foundation Maria, so she could do charity work without government funding, and she welcomed the much needed medical supplies.
They delivered six duffel bags to the first hospital. The hospital director looked through the supplies and named children who could now receive operations. Then she took Ken’s hand and kissed it, saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” In all the years he had performed, people applauded but never had a beautiful doctor kissed his hand with such gratitude. That moment changed his purpose for living.
The morning after he returned home, Ken saw an article in the newspaper about the closing of a local hospital. Anna called the hospital. Her request for donations yielded thirty medical beds, forty wheel chairs, EKG machines, ultra-sound machines and items too many to count that were marked for disposal. They had five days to remove the items. Ken called a friend who agreed to provide warehouse space for three weeks. Medical supplies continued to pour in, and three weeks turned into five years.
They hadn’t planned to start a ministry. It just happened. Ken made over sixty mission trips to impoverished nations. He continued to work professionally as a clown and magician, but only to support himself, so he could follow the desire God planted in his heart by the kiss of a grateful doctor.