Gravitte, a Soddy-Daisy native who has lived in Cleveland for 16 years, has been practicing magic for about 25 years. While not working as a lineman for Cleveland Utilities, he runs an organization called Marvel Ministries that uses magic tricks and illusions to teach people about his Christian faith.
From close-up tricks using things like coins and playing cards to more elaborate parlor and stage tricks, Gravitte seeks to entertain his audiences while teaching them about the story of Jesus and Christian salvation. He said the magic tricks keep people entertained and more likely to listen to his message.
“What I do is teach through illustration,” Gravitte said. “Jesus taught through parables, and I use illusion.”
The magic started when he began learning some basic tricks in his spare time.
“It started when I found one trick and bought it,” Gravitte said, adding that the number of tricks in his repertoire snowballed from there.
He began to learn more and more tricks, showing off to friends and family as he did. He said they would sometimes tell him that he needed to start his own magic show.
His initial response to that was to say he didn’t know enough to put on a full show. However, once he sat down and listed what he knew, he found he had been able to learn over 50 tricks. That prompted him to take his friends’ suggestions to start a show.
“I worked bars, clubs and birthday parties before I became a Christian,” Gravitte said. “Now, I use it as a ministry.”
About six years ago, he started Marvel Ministries because he wanted to turn his talent into a way to share his beliefs. He travels to churches, camps and other organizations in Tennessee and surrounding states to perform gospel-oriented shows for free. He said God makes sure he has whatever money he needs for travel expenses. He still does secular shows solely focused on entertainment from time to time, but he does charge a fee for those performances. Within the past year, he has performed such shows at places like Lake Winnepesaukah amusement park in Rossville, Ga.
Gravitte’s performances are scheduled around his job at Cleveland Utilities. Because of the nature of the work, his schedule can be hard for him to predict sometimes.
“Sometimes, it’s tough,” Gravitte said. “Sometimes I’m needed at odd hours of the night and have to get up and do the show next morning.”
Still, he balances both commitments because he believes he is supposed to minister to others with the skills he has learned.
“It’s a very effective ministry locally,” Gravitte said as he waved a hand over a quarter sitting on a table, making it seem to move on its own.
He explained that hundreds of people became Christians after seeing his shows last year and that 21 people have so far told him they made the decision to convert this year.
As he has continued furthering the mission of Marvel Ministries, he has practiced in front of his wife and kids at home. The children have begun learning performance skills as well and have partnered with Gravitte at some of his shows. His 10-year-old son, James, has begun juggling. His 13-year-old son, Caleb, makes balloon animals. His 10-year-old daughter, Lacey, has been dressing up to practice clowning.
Marvel Ministries is also beginning to partner with other organizations in the community to minister to people through magic. One recent partnership has been with The Salvation Army of Cleveland. On Feb. 5, he helped kick off the first meeting of Cleveland Creative Ministries, a group that meets at the Salvation Army at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday night of every month. The group is for anyone wanting to learn about using performing arts for ministry.
Gravitte said many people are surprised to learn there is such a thing as a Christian magician, but he assures them he is not the only one who uses the performing arts to tell Christian stories. He is currently the president of the East Tennessee chapter of an organization called the Fellowship of Christian Magicians. Its membership is not only made up of magicians but storytellers, clowns, jugglers and other types of performers as well.
At the end of the day, it’s all about using entertainment to tell stories, he said.
For more information on Marvel Ministries and its free magic ministry programs, visit MarvelMinistries.org, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-779-2119.