Actor brings Gospel to prisoners

PORT CLINTON Geoffrey Darling is on a mission to serve. And the group he wants to help most: criminal
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

PORT CLINTON

Geoffrey Darling is on a mission to serve.

And the group he wants to help most: criminals.

The New Zealand actor said he plans to bring St. Mark's Gospel to America's inmates.

"They all hang onto something," said Darling, who now lives in Canton, Ohio. "Let's give them something more to hang onto."

Darling, who recently visited Firelands Presbyterian Church in Port Clinton to read the Gospel, said he tends to focus his efforts on prisons.

His first prison visit was at Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton.

"He certainly influenced some people. There's no doubt about that," prison Chaplain Robin Breidinger said. "I think his accent and acting ability really brings the book alive."

Breidinger said about 150 inmates attended Darling's reading at their prison chapel.

Darling studied acting and English at Canterbury University in New Zealand and has worked with Sam Neill of "Jurassic Park" fame.

During his Gospel readings, Darling focuses on solo theater, which requires him to voice several characters. He also dresses the part of a Christian monk and speaks in the style of a Shakespearean actor.

Breidinger said Darling's performance is different from just reading the Gospel.

"I love creative ways of sharing religion and faith and the Gospel," Breidinger said. "I thought it was very helpful, and it went over well."

"The prison ministry is going to grow," Darling said. "It's worthwhile for me and for them."

Breidinger said there is a misconception among the public that inmates are all hardened criminals and have no interest in religion. Nearly 75 percent of America's inmates are Christian.

"We have inmates who are very interested and proactive with their faith and keep it as part of their lives," the prison chaplain said.

The 59-year-old non-denominational actor began presenting Mark's Gospel seven years ago in his native country, including an 18-performance, 600-mile walk along the South Island.

Darling moved to Canton more than a year ago after he married his wife, Rose.

The prison gospel program is in its "fledgling stage," but Darling said he plans to visit prisons near Wheeling, W. Va., and possibly return to the Lorain Correctional Institute.

While he wants to bring souls to Jesus Christ, Darling said his main reason is a little selfish.

"I'm not doing it as much for them as for me," he said. "I want to be able to serve others. Ultimately, letting other lives touch you."