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Pastor gets into the movies to tell film crew of Jesus

PADUCAH, Ky. (BP)–He appeared in half a dozen scenes during the filming of “U.S. Marshals” in western Kentucky, yet Paul Blizzard acknowledges his movie debut could end up on the editing room floor.
But Blizzard already feels rewarded from reaching out to the cast and crew of the sequel to “The Fugitive.” That included distributing 250 “Here’s Hope” New Testaments the final day of his stint as an extra in late July.
“I used to feel it was a disappointment not to lead somebody to the Lord, where they prayed the sinner’s prayer,” said Blizzard, pastor of Reidland Baptist Church in Paducah.
“I still enjoy doing that if God gives me the opportunity. But I believe witnessing is planting seeds, watering and cultivating.
“Sometimes we don’t see the fruit right then. But somewhere down the line the Holy Spirit will use that, and another believer will have the blessing of being there when they’re birthed into the kingdom.”
“U.S. Marshals” stars Tommy Lee Jones — who hunted Harrison Ford in the original production — and Wesley Snipes as the fugitive.
Although a plane crash and other scenes were filmed 30 minutes away in a southern Illinois community along the Ohio River, Warner Brothers housed its crew at Paducah’s Executive Inn.
If his appearance remains in the final cut, viewers will see Blizzard wearing a blue jump suit with “Coroner” on the back. He dragged body bags up a hill and worked in the background after the staged crash.
He was one of 45 extras selected from a list of 1,300 applicants. It meant taking a week of vacation to work 12-hour days for $45 a day, plus time and a half for overtime.
“The set was all work,” he said, noting they weren’t permitted to bring cameras or seek autographs. “It was very hot and there was a lot of sitting around. Sometimes we would do over 20 takes for one scene.”
Blizzard’s goal in applying for the position was to share Christ with Jones, an opportunity that never arose. But God showed him there were sound technicians, prop handlers, transportation assistants and others who were just as important.
He had chances to share the gospel daily. After the Paducah Sun mentioned him in a story on the filming, a member of the casting department asked, “Are you the reverend?”
That led to him explaining his T-shirt with “God is Love” written in Russian, details of his Southern Baptist mission trip to Russia and the gospel.
His work with the Kentucky-Russia partnership paid other dividends. At one lunch break, a member of the camera crew noticed his Russian watch, sparking a discussion about Bible distribution and deliveries of humanitarian aid.
As they talked, other sound and transportation crew gathered around. One person asked why someone would go that far for no pay.
“I shared the simple gospel message — the essence of John 3:16,” the pastor said. “One guy said, ‘I never heard it that way before.’ He didn’t understand Christ or why he died on the cross. They were enthralled with the simplicity of the message.”
After many said they had never read the Bible, he scrambled to find New Testaments for everyone. Washington Street Baptist Church, a predominantly black SBC congregation in Paducah, loaned him five cases.
Using his computer, the pastor created a sticker incorporating the movie’s logo. He affixed one to each Bible, stating it was a special gift to crew members.

The group remained in the area another week to film additional scenes in a house converted into a restaurant. When Blizzard stopped at the casting office in early August, several people came over to thank him.
One man with tears clouding his eyes said, “Thank you, Paul, for the New Testament. I’ve never had one before, but I appreciate it. I’m anxious to read it.”
While he doesn’t know the movie’s rating, profanity and other objectionable content is common in modern movies. That has already brought some criticism his way and the pastor expects to receive more. But, since he has also ridden on a gambling riverboat to observe the activity and stick tracts in slot machines, that prospect doesn’t deter his enthusiasm.
“Jesus received a lot of criticism for eating with prostitutes and sinners,” Blizzard said. “But if we’re going to be fishers of men we can’t fish in a bathtub. We need to go where the fish are.
“It was a unique opportunity God opened for me to be in that place. It was more exciting to witness than being in a movie. That was secondary to sharing Christ with people who have never heard the gospel.”

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  • Ken Walker