Jumping out of airplanes, breaking free from jail cells, and evading death. It’s just another day of work for Anthony Martin.
Martin, a member of Mapledale Baptist Church in Sheboygan, Wis., started Ambassador in Chains Ministries in 1998. Martin uses his talents as an escape artist to draw people into local churches. He specifically hopes to attract those who would not necessarily come to the church for a more traditional presentation of the gospel.
Anthony Martin stands beside the box he would have to escape while being dropped 14,500 feet from an airplane.
Guy Fredrick, pastor at Mapledale Baptist, praised Martin for his work within the community and using his talents to share the gospel.
“He’s very evangelical, very solid in his doctrine, very solid in his teaching and I highly commend him,” Fredrick said.
Leo A. Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, also praised Martin, who is an executive committee member for the convention.
“I found Anthony to be humble and a gifted person…. His presentation really draws people’s attention and then he weaves it into a gospel presentation that is memorable,” Endel said.
Martin details the account of his life as an escape artist and as a follower of Jesus Christ in his book, Escape or Die, published in 2013. The 49-year-old escape artist has made a career of evading death, but even Martin says there is one escape he can’t do by himself.
“Skydivers deal with life and death every day,” Martin noted. “The reality is if the parachute doesn’t open, you’re going to impact the ground at 180 miles per hour. It’s a life-and-death situation. Now true, we do have a backup that God provided that we can escape eternal death and He was gracious enough to provide us with it. So for people to insist on being able to flap their arms to survive or somehow provide some other means is illogical.”
Despite the life-threatening situations Martin routinely places himself in, he has learned to understand his fears and not allow them to hinder his stunts.
“With my escapes, one principle is to understand what the different kinds of fear are,” he said. “There is the fear that the tiger is in the room, that’s a legitimate fear because you can see him, he’s in the room. Then there is the other kind of fear where what if the tiger comes in the room? And I find that most people spend a lot of time with the what-ifs.”
Martin has had to overcome fear many times in his career. In 1990, the escape artist had his hands chained and was placed inside a metal cage that had locks just removed from the factory packaging. The cage, along with Martin, was then lowered into a water-filled quarry. Martin was able to escape in one minute and 45 seconds.
One of his more recent stunts garnered national attention when Martin appeared live on the Fox News Channel in 2013. The stunt involved him being handcuffed and chained inside a box with a “keyless” lock. The box containing Martin was then released from a plane 14,500 feet in the air. The live audience watched in awe as Martin escaped from the box and released his parachute in time to land safely on the ground.
Many would affirm that Martin is an example of how God can use extraordinary and unconventional talents to advance His Kingdom.
Martin wrote in his book that he originally intended to start his ministry with Roger Nelson. Nelson founded Skydive Chicago and became a mentor to Martin when he practiced his aerial escapes. Soon after the two men met, Nelson was imprisoned for involvement in a smuggling ring that funneled drugs from Central America into the U.S. But once out of jail, Nelson and Martin reconnected. Martin said he saw a changed man who had an authentic relationship with the Lord.
The duo worked together as Nelson passed off his wealth of skydiving knowledge. But Nelson died in a skydiving accident just days before their ministry was set to launch.
Nelson’s death led Martin to start the ministry in honor of his close friend, and he set out to impact local churches around the country with his unique abilities.
Martin said he believes in the local church and the role it has in reaching out to the local community. Martin said there is a place for many talents inside the church.
“I think the lesson to be learned is to use the talents that God has given you, whether you are a skydiver, an escape artist or whatever you do in life,” Martin said. “There is something that you do that puts you in a position to contact people. … I can’t think of a profession where there is not some interaction with people.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Woodman was summer intern for Baptist Press. He is a journalism major at the University of Missouri.)