TORRINGTON – In the beginning, there was a chaplain in Rockford, Illinois.
Chaplain Jill Bryan has been a mobile chaplain since 1982. She has served the community in Goshen County since 2003. She has recently left Goshen County to tour cities in the eastern United States.
Bryan grew up in a home where her parents took the kids to church every Sunday and every Wednesday. They said prayers over every meal.
Like many teenagers growing up, Bryan wanted to test the limits. At 27, she found herself on her knees. She told God that she would give her life to him if only he would help her out of the mess she was in.
One year later, she remembered her promise. Using the talents she had cultivated throughout her life, she began doing Jillybean. Jillybean is the name Bryan used to market her act where she would perform ventriloquy acts, sing, dance and tell jokes. She originally began her performances for children, teaching them Christian values while entertaining them.
People loved it and Bryan saw tremendous success. She traveled across the country, performing and teaching. Bryan came to Wyoming in 1993 to do a vacation Bible school for North Hills Baptist Church. She returned 10 years later in 2003 to start a biker pitstop. She ran the pitstop for 11 years.
Bryan also has significant training in counseling grieving families and helping them cope with trauma. She has deployed to emergency situations such as the movie theater shooting in Aurora, the Colorado Springs fires and flooding in Houston, Texas. She recently participated in the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation’s conference where she took a class from the coroner at the Baltimore Medical Examiners Forensic Lab.
“I believe, as a chaplain, I’m now more qualified than ever to help in traumatic situations,” Bryan wrote in a newsletter recently.
With the help of her toy hauler, she travels the country wherever her services are needed. She is prepared to leave at a moment’s notice to run to the aid of those suffering.
Now, Bryan still does the occasional show for children and youth, but she also has a new crowd.
“As I age, my ministry also ages with me,” Bryan said in an interview with the Telegram.
Bryan has been doing more and more events at senior centers and retirement homes, providing company and entertainment for those living there. She recently began her tour stretching between Rockford, Illinois and Lakeland, Florida. She had originally planned to move the ministry back to Rockford permanently where it first began, but her plans have changed.
Bryan has planned to tour for the next two to five years, and as such, she has a few things she’d like say to the Goshen County community.
“I just want to thank you…Thank you and I’m still praying for you.” Bryan said. “Thank you for the encouragement and the training and I just learned so much through living in Wyoming for 15 years and I really just wanted to say thank you and God bless.”
Bryan remembers several touching memories from the last 15 years in Goshen County.
“Golly, there’s just so many,” she said when asked about a specific time she remembers.
While she mentioned the joy of being able to comfort families in hospitals, there was one family in particular that opened a pretty big door for Bryan.
“When I was in Torrington’s Hospital, I went in to pray with a family,” she said. “I guess I was able to make the patient and all the family members laugh and they asked me to do Jillybean. Well, long story short, that opened up the door to perform for Mrs. Cabela in Sidney.”
Mary Cabela is one of the founders of Cabela’s, one of the most popular outdoor outfitting and equipment chains in the country.
Bryan’s current plans are to be back in Goshen County next year before going back out on tour. She admits, however, that those plans could change anytime.