Laugh, Live and Love: Chonda Pierce

by

Charles White

 

 

 

 

 

Faith is a powerful thing. It is often the only thing that gets us through the difficult times in our lives. This is true for Chonda Pierce. As a teen, her life was littered with one major tragedy after another. It would have been easy for her to give up and turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide to dull the pain. Instead, she turned to her faith.

Chonda Pierce was born in Covington, Kentucky.  Chonda’s early years are a patchwork quilt filled with memories of cities that she called home. It wasn’t until she was fifteen that her family moved to Tennessee and put down roots.

Although Chonda had finally found a permanent home, trials and tribulations continued to plague her and her family. Just a teenager, Chonda’s world came crashing down. When Chonda was only sixteen, her older sister, Charlotta, died in a head-on collision on a rainy day.  Shortly after her sister’s death, Chonda’s father, a preacher who had struggled with a severe bipolar disorder for most of his life, packed his bags and left his wife, his children and his ministry behind.

Faced with this terrible tragedy and abandoned by her father, Chonda’s family tried to put the pieces of their life back together, but things just got worse. Several months after the accident that took her older sister’s life, her family got more bad news. Chonda’s fifteen-year-old sister, Cheralyn, was diagnosed with Leukemia and died a month later.  Devastated and broke, Chonda and her mother were forced to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Looking back, Chonda realizes that there is only one reason that she was able to get through the trials and tribulations that marked her teen-age years.

“It had to be God,” Chonda admits. “I can’t find any other explanation. You know, I heard the story behind the old Hymn: It Is Well With My Soul. A man wrote those lyrics as his ship passed over the very spot where his wife and children had drowned earlier. I hear the stories of others that emerged from such tragedy and I wish I could sit and ask them: ‘How’d you make it through that?’  I’m amazed."

"I do wish I could say I sailed through untouched by the difficulties of pain. Honestly? I’m still re-learning lessons that the pain and dysfunction of my past tried to leave pinned on my heart. I do know that there were times I seemed to float by almost supernaturally – at other times I stomped through the days kicking and screaming the whole way. Only God can blanket your life so that the scars that cover your knees from falling down over and over are washed away and you’re jumping for joy again.  Now, when my boat floats by the spot where life’s pain began, I’ve discovered -- I AM the song that emerged. And I thank God for that every day.”

 

Eventually, her life of pain changed to one of joy as she fell in love and married her high school sweetheart, David Pierce. From this union came two beautiful children and twenty plus years of love, commitment and joy.

“My greatest blessings in life are David and our kids,” Chonda states. “I love David – we met when we were sixteen. We were sweethearts! But I’ve learned in knowing him for all these years -- love is one of those emotions that fluctuate almost as much as my weight! What remains a constant for us is respect. We have the greatest respect for one another. I know what David has been through and seen what God has done in his life. He has been a part of my life through the ups and downs – and I believe he has a healthy appreciation for the miracle God has worked in my life as well!  When it comes to our kids we each feel such gratitude that God would entrust us with life. Two lives.”

Although she married her high school sweetheart, Chonda had another love: Comedy. Chonda began her love affair with comedy while working for Opryland USA. A theater major at Austin Peay University, Chonda took a job at the park to pay her tuition. During her six-year career with the Tennessee-based theme park, Chonda was asked to perform in a show called Country Music, USA. Being from the home of a conservative pastor, Chonda didn’t know how to dance and was forced to find another way to fit into the production.

“I wound up in a show called Country Music, USA and didn’t know a thing about country music,” Chonda explains.  “In order to keep my job I had to memorize a couple of pages of jokes form Grinders Switch, TN and impersonate Cousin Minnie Pearl. I was hooked! I loved the sound of an audience laughing more so than the applause after a song or dramatic sketch.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Now, Chonda Pierce is a well-recognized name in Christian Comedy.  She has worked with the legendary Billy Graham, performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, written eight books (four of which are children’s books that she has written with her husband, David) and has four comedy videos that have been certified gold.

Most recently, Chonda Pierce has been instrumental in organizing the Christian Comedy Association, an organization that boasts over 200 members and counting.

“I am a huge fan of Christian Comedy,” Chonda relates. “There are more of us than you might think! I have recently been part of organizing the Christian Comedy Association. You see, in the past we have been pegged to be “less than professional” or not-quite-as-funny as the “other comedians”.

Sadly, I think that’s been true at times. I know it’s been true of me! Church comedy was safe for a long time! People would laugh out of kindness and the stories and jokes were always about the visiting evangelist or the preacher!  And if you had a tender “testimony” to wrap up the night – then maybe people would overlook the bad performance! But not anymore! You can’t fill a concert hall up with folks and give them something less than what their dollar and their time from home deserves – no matter how “Christian” you are! You better be funny!!!

The real challenge is to make a room full of people laugh WITHOUT using a dirty word, without pumping them full of alcohol – now that’s an accomplishment! Truth is, I became interested in comedy long before I became a dedicated Christ follower. Now comedy is just a tool… it’s what I use to be able to earn an audience’s trust so that I can tell them about the One that created the laugh in the first place!”

With the success of her videos and a quickly growing fan base, Chonda remains humble and realizes that being able to do what she loves is a huge gift.

“I’m learning every day that my life as a performer is a gift– a gift I am extremely grateful for but keenly aware that it just might be the gift that doesn’t keep on giving!  In other words, when the very way that you pay the bills depends upon the personal opinion of others – you may want to be careful with how “important” you think it all is!

Frankly, not many of us are very “important” in the big picture! But comedy is important to me! Maintaining a sense of humor, enjoying a laugh, chuckling at something my kids did – those are the tender moments that give us a small Heavenly glimpse of what eternal bliss might be like!”

If Chonda Pierce had the chance to look back and share some of the wisdom that God has granted her throughout the years, what would it be?  Simply put, live Christ-Centered lives.

“Spend as much time on your heart as you do your head.  Work on your relationship with Christ as much as you do your craft and goals in life. Everything we do and everything we are is a by-product of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The challenge in life is not the kids, our jobs, our relationship – the challenge is in our humanity and not allowing THAT to get in the way of knowing Christ!”

Life is filled with so much darkness, that it is sometimes hard to see the light. To help us through the tough times, God has given us an amazing gift: laughter.  Laughter is God’s foghorn that helps us to look beyond the pain and see the reward that God has promised: eternal bliss with our Heavenly Father. When the darkness seems unbearable, listen for God’s foghorn amidst your life and remember the promises that God has made to you.