WEB BLURB: Freshman Andrew Franks brings the mentally disabled to Christ by dressing up like Jesus.
By Christian Herrera
“God hates me. Jesus hates me. They’re gonna kill me! They’re gonna send me to hell!”
Freshman Andrew Franks was working with ResCare – a service that provides homecare services and group homes for those with mental disabilities – at a group home near his hometown in Columbia City, Ind when a particular client began expressing how much God “hated him.”
“He has mental disabilities,” Franks said. “So he was unable to comprehend.”
Franks wanted to help the man understand God’s love, so as an experiment, he began growing his beard and hair out to resemble popular cultural portrayls of Jesus. Within four months, he had a full beard and shoulder-length hair
“I started to look a little bit like Jesus,” Franks said. “Consequently, [the client’s] behaviors and his physical aggressions towards his peers went down because of the appearance of Christ. Like ‘Oh, I better be good. Jesus is here.’”
This method worked with his other mentally disabled clients as well.
“The clients from the group home I work with wanted to go to church,” Franks said. “I was talking with my boss, and she agreed that I could bring the clients with me to the services.”
So far, he said, it’s been an “overwhelming success.”
“The clients love it,” Franks said. “They’re asking me every day if we can go to church now. I lead the worship on Sundays, and they’re always in the front row.”
This is the root of why he chose to grow his hair and beard out. After years of growth and experimentation, his hair has become a personal lifestyle.
“Now I’m kind of attached to the image and the ability to do that whenever I need to,” Franks said. “I just trim my mustache so I’m not eating my beard. I don’t want it hide-pencils-and-food-in length.”
In a report Franks conducted over the psychology of beards, he discovered that people with beards are considered to be more trust worthy – “less attractive, but trustworthy” – because of characters in society like Jesus and Santa Clause.
“When I first came [to HU], people thought I was a professor. People would ask me where classes were and I’d say, ‘I don’t know. I’m a freshman. Leave me alone!’”
Franks believes media outlets also establish a certain positive attitude towards beards.
In American culture, beards have become popular with all the actors in Hollywood.
“Like Zach Galifianakis when he first did The Hangover. Everyone wanted a beard like that.”
For Franks, it’s a conversation starter. It’s even an ice breaker. But it doesn’t seem to work with everyone.
“There are some girls who aren’t into the whole beard thing,” Franks said. ‘”And some are like, ‘That’s a cactus on your face, what are you doing?’ I constantly hear from my friends and women at church, ‘You look so unattractive with that scraggly beard. Why don’t you just get rid of that?’”
Last year, while Franks was going through the drive-thru at Burger King, an older gentleman on a bicycle told him to “hurry up and order, you bearded lady”’ because of the long hair. When Franks looked back, hecouldn’t tell if the man was laughing or cursing at him.
“And I was like, okay…whatever. You have your bike, I have my beard. We’re even.”
Even his family is not fond of his lifestyle choice. They are more upset with his long hair then his long beard. However, they recognize why he is doing it and accept him for who he is.
Regardless of negative reactions, Franks continues his mission. Just last Halloween, he threw on a bath robe and some sandals and let his hair and beard do the rest.
“At work, when I’m handing out candy, kids say, ‘Oh look, it’s Jesus!’” Franks said. “I’m like Superman. Instead of tearing off my shirt, I throw on a robe, and there he is!”
In the general public, he receives a wide array of responses. Whenever he dons his Jesus robe, most people either walk a little bit faster when they see him or smile and keep walking their way. Some people attempt witty jokes and ask him to pray for them.
Franks is a worship leadership major at HU. His ultimate intention is to be a leader in the ministry of a small church. He said he is studying worship leadership to become a better musician and better worship leader.
“I’d like to get to the point where I can record my own songs and submit them … where they could gain recognition so we can all sing about the passions [towards Jesus] we have.”
He is currently the worship leader at his home church in Columbia City. Within his own church, he finds opportunities to demonstrate God’s word through his hairy lifestyle.
“There’s Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Easter — all within a few months of each other,” Franks said. “The opportunities to do drama and videos with the church become available. You don’t have to buy a fake beard and fake long hair.”
Frank semphasizes that he does not take credit for actually being Jesus Christ. He does it for the fun it creates for the children at his church and for his clients at ResCare.
“That’s what started this little fad,” Franks said. “That’s kind of what keeps it going. I’m not Jesus himself. A representation of Him? Sure.”
In the end, his overarching message of his Christ character is to represent the love of Jesus.
“It carries that significant meaning,” Franks said. “The physical representation that Jesus is alive. The body is no longer in the tomb.”