Brian and Vicki Cockerham, members at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Rayville, don’t just speak for themselves. They speak for a host of others – puppets that is.
WEST MONROE – Brian and Vicki Cockerham, members at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Rayville, don’t just speak for themselves. They speak for a host of others – puppets that is.
2Talk42 Ministries, the Cockerham’s puppet ministry, has been sharing the gospel with children and adults since 1998, Brian said. Using ventriloquism, puppetry, drama, illusions and songs at family crusades, children’s camps and elementary school assemblies, Brian, along with his wife Vicki, present the gospel to thousands of children and adults each year.
“It’s amazing what God will do when you do what He wants you to, then step out of the way and let Him handle it,” Brian said.
“I knew God was calling me to a deeper commitment, I just didn’t know what it was,” continued Brian, explaining how he became involved in puppetry.
Though he’d never seen a ventriloquist, his interest was piqued by a site on the Internet. Then, in June 1998, after taking a correspondence course in ventriloquism, Brian answered God’s call to evangelistic ministry while attending the International Festival of Christian Puppeteers and Ventriloquists (I-Fest) in Kankakee, Ill.
“It was there that the Holy Spirit started moving in my heart,” Brian said. “One morning in chapel I surrendered to the ministry right there.”
The Cockerhams began full-time ministry, living and traveling in a RV, in November 2001, when Brian took early retirement from a 15-year career with the Louisiana State Police. Vicki had resigned her position as administrator for the Richland Parish Communication District E-911 in August.
Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through ventriloquism and puppetry is 2Talk42’s slogan, Brian said. With eight ventriloquist puppets, seven “behind-the-curtain” puppets, and a couple of costumed characters, the Cockerhams have a variety of ways in which to fulfill their mission.
“We usually open with something that nails down the theme for the night,” Brian said.
Usually a performance includes at least one, sometimes two, ventriloquism routines, then a routine with Dennis, who is a “behind-the-curtain” puppet.
“Vicki tells a Bible story and Dennis messes everything up,” Brian said. “It’s an attention holder as Dennis finally comes to the truth by the end of the set, which lasts about six minutes.”
In addition, Vicki has a ventriloquist puppet named Daisy, a shy and innocent little girl who questions a lot, Brian said. Vicki also does a basset hound called Flash who is mischievous, slow, and methodical, while Brian performs with a bear named Grizz, who is just goofy and in need of counseling, the ventriloquist said.
Brian also does a monkey called Louie who “thinks he’s got everything going on.”
“Children and adults alike favor Grizz and Dennis, who is ADHD EFGHIJ and all of the above,” Brian said. I think people like Dennis because he speaks so boldly and is not held back by hurting someone’s feelings. You know the lady who sings in church, but can’t really sing but no one will tell her? Dennis would. Dennis is not focused. You never know where he’s going. He drives my wife insane.”
The Cockerhams have about 20 programs in their repertoire, he added, including a pre-teen gathering that lasts about three hours. This year’s theme is “Not of this World” and is based on scripture from the book of John. Performances have been planned for Highland Park Baptist Church in Monroe and at Beech Springs Baptist Camp in Louann, Ark., in December.
As a result of their ministry, the couple has seen many salvation decisions from both kids and adults, Brian said. In addition, they’ve seen people become more committed in their work in the church and seen people start children’s ministry in a bolder way.
“Of course it’s all God,” Brian added. “He just gives us the privilege of seeing it.”
The Cockerham’s daughter Rena often served as a counselor during invitation when she traveled as part of the ministry team before leaving for college and getting married, Brian said.
“It was amazing how the kids would come to Rena and share with her in a way they never would with an adult,” he added.
One night a girl about 13, came forward and prayed with Rena, who was about 14 at the time, to ask Jesus into her heart. Later the Cockerhams got an email from the girl explaining that her life had been changed immeasurably that night, because she’d been planning to commit suicide.
“It wasn’t us or Rena, but God who saved that girl’s life,” Brian said.
“You don’t get into churches or camps unless someone knows you and trusts you enough,” Brian said about booking events. “So word of mouth is a wonderful thing.”
The ministry survives on love offerings, he added. Though a few people send them money on a regular basis, that income makes up less than five percent of their income, he said, but it comes in handy.
“Some churches give a lot, and some give a little,” he continued. “God knows where you need to be and when you need to be there. God will provide. We’ve never not gone anywhere because we didn’t have fuel or equipment.
“We don’t set fees for churches, just for camps and school assemblies,” Brian added. “We don’t want the smaller churches thinking that they can’t afford to have us come for a family crusade.
“God uses you everywhere, if you allow Him,” Brian continued. “God provides, so you keep cranking and you keep going. We really love what we’re doing!”