by James Garcia Jr.An amazing and multitalented artist has devoted his life to bringing change to the hearts of the California Central Valley and well beyond. His name is Rick Alonzo, and he has been incorporating his talents of painting, martial arts and gymnastic skills to preach the gospel of Christ as well as hope, love and racial reconciliation to places such as schools, inner cities, juvenile halls and Christian crusades since 1992.
According to the Rick Alonzo Website: Man in Motion, Rick was born in the Philippines, but came to the Unites States at the age of twelve. After studying art at Long Beach State University, Rick returned to his home in Fresno where he worked for a non-profit organization as their art director, teaching gymnastics and martial arts.
It was during this time that Rick began to feel that something was missing in his life. Seeking the Lord’s will, Rick says that he clearly heard God tell him that he was going to use his many talents to reach the world for God. “This art is just a tool that God has given me to get people’s attention.” Rick spoke of the story of Moses from the Bible, and of his complaining to God about not being able to speak well, or not having the tools to deliver Israel from the Egyptians. Moses had nothing but a staff, but God promised that with it he would do wonders. “The art is just the staff. It’s basically (God’s way of saying), ‘Rick, I’m going to give you a tool’. God doesn’t call those who think they’re qualified. He calls those and then qualifies them.”
With inspirational contemporary Christian music playing in the background, Rick uses both his hands and bare feet as his paintbrushes to create his art. Often he will paint his picture upside down, leaving the audience guessing as to its subject. Only at the midway mark does he suddenly turn the painting 180 degrees, revealing the mysterious to be something completely obvious, and very often gut-wrenching and profound. “The reason that I painted (Jesus) upside down is because my life apart from Christ was upside down. It didn’t make sense, had no meaning. When I turn it right-side up, I tell kids that that’s what Christ can do for you. Christ can turn your life around.”
Many of Rick’s creations take mere minutes, emerging spectacularly from blank canvasses in the span of one song. In addition to his bare hands and feet, he incorporates martial arts and gymnastics moves into the presentation. Very often he uses martial arts weapon such as Nunchucks, Escrima Sticks and staffs. “The reason that I use these things is because kids today watch violence all the time on TV. So I took these weapons that I know how to use and put paint brushes in them. I painted them with glow in the dark colors and I paint with them.”
Rick’s website states that he has performed his presentations before both small crowds and ones as large as 40,000 in huge arenas. He has spoken at youth pastor conventions, camps and conferences. He has ministered through street evangelism, church services, Christian school assemblies, and television programming, including TBN’s Leon Patillo Show and other cable programs. He has also been invited to speak and perform for Franklin Graham Crusades, and has shared stages with Christian artists The News Boys, Audio Adrenaline, Sandi Patti and Jaci Velasquez.
He also takes secular programs to the schools where he teaches on honesty, anti-drugs for Red Ribbon Week, anti-bullying, respect, good character and being a good citizen. “Bullying is a big thing today so I take the new Karate Kid movie that just came out. I love the story because it represents respect and it has solutions to bullying. I painted all three characters; Dre (the main character), Cheng (the bully) and Jackie Chan. I painted (Jackie Chan) upside down just for a gasp, and the kids had no clue what was going on. I speak about why kids bully and what is the solution to bullying. When I came from the Philippines to the United States, I was also bullied, so I use how I got through those hard times.”
Future plans for Rick include opening an art school. “I also would like someday to have some kind of art school in Kingsburg to teach kids how to use their God-given talent and use it for God’s glory”. It would be a place where he could train his students to use their artistic gifts to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world in need of His message of love and salvation.
“Everything that I do from painting portraits of people, whether I’m out there teaching martial arts, whether I’m out in the schools doing assemblies; everything that we do has to fall into our relationship with God because if (the kids) don’t have a relationship with God, then what’s the use of living. Why do you do what you do? We abide by the separation of church and state…but even though that’s a law, God is never limited in the way that he reaches the community. Whether men put a law and try to stop you from going into the schools or the public places in reaching people for God, God is never limited.”
One of the pages on his website lists a who’s who of well-known names and organizations, all praising the achievement that is his life’s work. “Rick Alonzo is one of the top performers for the youth of America today, and delivers a powerful message!” Steve Peterson, Director – The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Sandi Patti said, “Unique talent! Keeping the audience entertained while giving them unique nuggets of Gold from God’s Word.”
Among these are many who are important or known in the Central Valley, including Fresno Police Chief Jerry
Dyer, Kingsburg Joint Union School District Superintendant Mark Ford and Connie R. Clendenan, C.E.O., Valley Teen Ranch, Fresno, California. “His dynamic energy, talent, message and method of communicating is very powerful. Personally, I feel he should be presenting his message on every high school and junior high school campus. Please book him at your school. He’s awesome!”
Rick Alonzo in action!
Although Rick has traveled the country his current focus is being near home. “I am concentrating with Fresno, Kingsburg, Dinuba, Reedley, Visalia, Bakersfield; these towns that we think are little compared to L.A. and San Francisco. I believe that we can reach these towns and God can set these things ablaze, and there could be a wildfire here and basically bring back California to God.”