In Part 2: “The Making of a Phenomenon” a wealthy Peruvian changed Kenneth Landiault’s life when he insisted Ken entertain at his daughter’s birthday party as a clown. The parents loved Ken as much at the children. Invitations to perform poured in and the blue-eyed gringo clown became a sensation.
Ken’s new career as a clown enabled him to pursue his first love – missionary work. He often visited hospitals in deplorable conditions. 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 in a physical way.
A 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 1980’s 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 Hope Haven Manor, a home for vulnerable children.
Shorty after the performance at Hope Haven Manor 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 instruction Hurricane Mitch destroyed Honduras. Anna suggested using their clowning skills to encourage the people of Honduras but Ken was scheduled to return to 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, Patrick, arrived at the New Orleans International airport to learn Anna’s estimated 300 pounds was 2700 pounds short of the actual shipping weight. 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 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 arrival of much needed medical supplies.
Six duffel bags were delivered 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 I had performed, people applauded but never had a beautiful doctor kissed my hand with such gratitude,” said Ken.
The morning after the missionaries returned to New Orleans, Ken opened the Times Picayune to an article about the closing of a local hospital. Anna called Jo Ellen Smith hospital. Her request for donations yielded thirty medical beds, forty wheel chairs, EKG machines, ultra-sound machines and items too numerous 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 they used the warehouse for five years.
“The first trip to Honduras touched Patrick deeply,” said Ken. “We traveled to Honduras with medical supplies for the next three years. We hadn’t plan to start a ministry. Cheer Up Missions just happened. We have made sixty missions trips to impoverished nations. I continue to work professionally as a clown and magician but that is not where my heart is.”
Cheer Up Missions recently acquired a new warehouse. The ministry is in need of volunteers to repair wheelchairs, package medical supplies and sort clothes. If you can be of assistance, contact Kenneth Landriault at 504-421-0266 or 504-421-0348 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Landriault is a missionary who works professionally as a clown and magician. He is the co-founder of Cheer Up Missions, which delivers medical supplies to impoverished nations.
Teena L Myers is a freelance writer, editor of NOLA.com’s Faith, Beliefs and Spirituality blog, contributor to Gatherings Magazine and credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God. She lives on the westbank of New Orleans and attends Hosanna Church with her husband who has ministered to children for thirty years. To learn more about Teena and read some of her longer teaching works visit teenalmyers.com