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HOLMBERG: Juggler of clubs, blades, bowling balls and a chainsaw is on a mission

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - If you ask any longtime Richmond area resident about juggling, you’ll hear one name - the much-loved Jonathan Austin.

But if you live on the north side of Church Hill you might have seen a different, younger juggler practicing in his yard or at the Boy’s Club.

This one is also making a good living as an entertainer, but Jesse Joyner has a deeper mission: using his skills to share his faith and love of the Bible.

He didn’t set out to be a juggler. He was just a kid who liked juggling.

He went to Byrd Middle School and then Godwin High, where he got talked into juggling at a variety show.

“It was big hit,” he recalls from his home in historic Church Hill. “The crowd loved it . I didn’t realize juggling was that enjoyable to people. And I got a kick out of it, juggling in front of people, making them smile and laugh.”

He went to see Jonathan Austin and was inspired. “I saw him do his show, I think it was Belmont Library in Richmond . . . He gave me a lot of inspiration to do something similar.”

Jesse used his juggling to help pay for college and then seminary, sure he would wind up being a preacher, like his father.

By the time he graduated from seminary, the calls for his juggling shows just kept coming, and they haven’t stopped.

Countless hours of practice have gone into growing his routine, his skills.

It has helped balance him as a person, expand his vision.

As he improved, challenges from observers led to new elements, including juggling a real chainsaw.

He travels the country, and beyond, weddings, schools, churches, camps, mission trips.

“It’s basic storytelling for children,” he says. “Whether it’s from the Bible or character-building for an assembly for schools or any point you want to make . . . the juggling is a perfect tool to keep their attention.”

He’s been able to juggle both spreading the gospel and earning a living for his young family, doing what he loves to do.

“I feel very blessed,” Jesse says. “I love my job. I don’t feel like I’ve worked a day in my life.”

You can find out more about his shows and ministry at http://www.jessejoyner.com

You can see him perform for free this Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Commonwealth Chapel service held at The National theater on East Broad Street downtown.