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For mimes, only words are Word of God

Their mission is to spread the word of God _ without saying a word.

Nine teenagers from Pasco and 13 from Hernando have gone to Atlanta to communicate another way with the city's Olympic crowds.

These teens are mimes. They belong to the Redeeming Force mime group from Gospel Outreach Churches in New Port Richey and Spring Hill.

This morning they are due to crawl out of their sleeping bags at the Saints of Blood and Fire Warehouse, a 180,000-square-foot building owned by an Atlanta church. Then, along with their chaperones and hundreds of other teens, they will venture onto the street.

The visit has been arranged through Forward Edge youth ministry, an extension of Gospel Outreach. Kim Miles heads up the group and is joined by Shanna Pierce and Baaron Waldroupe.

Mime membership is open to 13- to 18-year-olds. When screening applicants, Miles asks potential mimers whether they live a Christian life and if they have accepted the Lord into their heart.

"That is my main priority. We used to have tryouts, but I don't feel that is necessary," she said. "All it takes is a strong desire and about a year of practice."

The mimes perform in white face with red lips. The makeup takes an hour to apply. They use dark eye liner. A cross in a black circle is drawn on the right cheek.

When they take the stage, they can choose from more than a dozen mime routines, each aimed at a particular audience.

"We picked street ministry mimes for Atlanta," Miles said. "These mimes will attract all kinds of people, people outside of the church, the unsaved. Other mimes are geared toward churchgoers."

The group also performs funny mimes, carrying a boom box out to a busy street to perform the street ministry. Locally they perform at Hudson Beach and at parks.

Miles gives much credit for the group's success to her co-leaders and says she received most of her mime training from Pierce.

In Atlanta, the group will perform one of its newest mimes, Imitator. The mime features Christ in the middle of a stage with his arms hanging down, somewhat like a puppet _ or as if he were hanging from the cross. The mimes take the parts of people who taunt Jesus.

"The party chick mimer goes up and bumps into Christ," Miles said. "She is trying to get him to dance. She grabs his arms out of the crucified position but he is a dead weight and just flops around. He does not move with her."

The character gives up and takes a frozen position on stage.

Miles said the next taunter is a drug user who tries to shoot up with Jesus. Jesus won't do drugs. The taunter shoots up alone and takes a frozen position on stage.

Miles, 22, plays the part of a drunk falling all over the stage.

"I notice Jesus, thinking maybe he will be my drinking buddy. I put the bottle in his hand and shove it up to his mouth. He won't drink and I fall into him. He still won't drink," Miles said.

The drunk takes a frozen position on stage.

The last of the seven taunters is an old man walking with a cane.

Miles says the old man is shaking. He looks at Christ, then stops and tries to bring himself up to Christ's position.

"He is the first one, who instead of trying to form Christ to his image, tries to form himself to Christ's image. That's when Christ finally looks at the old man, grabs him up and boosts him straight up. The old man is suddenly healed and Christ raises him up and hugs him."

Miles says this mime shows what happens when you try to form Christ to what you want him to be.

Dave Miles, youth pastor at Gospel Outreach in New Port Richey, said the main focus of the group is to preach the gospel and follow Jesus' direction to "go into all the world." He said Atlanta is a great opportunity for the mime group.

"Since the whole world is coming to Atlanta, one of the things I looked at as an advantage is that all the world's attention will be focused on Atlanta. We will be able to represent the gospel to all races, creeds and religions."

Redeeming Force will be in Atlanta for one week. Miles was unable to give a set time for their performances. Schedulers have told them only that they will perform sometime between 2 p.m. and midnight each day.

The stage where they will perform has been set up at the intersection of Linden and Courtland near the Olympic venue. You can also catch their ministry at other Atlanta street locations.