Painting the path to redemption has been Pastor Geno Bartoletti’s passion for many years.
The pastor of two Nanty Glo area churches has been drawing people closer to the Lord through his Chalk Talk ministry since 1992.
Bartoletti uses his ministry to spread the Gospel at churches, banquets, youth group meetings and nursing and personal-care homes.
“I have been drawing since I was a little boy, and it is one of the greatest sources of joy that I’ve ever known,” said Bartoletti, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Nanty Glo, and the Laurel Mountain Bible Church, Mundys Corner.
As his skills progressed, Bartoletti, a 1974 graduate of Blacklick Valley High School, Nanty Glo, joined local art organizations in order to display and promote his work.
“Like most people, the awards and personal recognition found in art shows were my motivation,” he said.
“Important to me at the time, my attic and drawers hold these awards now. There was an emptiness that accompanied those successes.”
That was about to change.
While attending the Nanty Glo Christian Missionary Alliance Church in the late 1980s, Bartoletti and his wife, Terri Lynn, took their children to a Christian camp in Clearfield County.
At the time, a husband and wife team were conducting a Christian program with the husband focusing on a Chalk Talk ministry.
“Having that passion for drawing all my life, and searching for a way to use that passion for God, I found this was an ideal outlet,” Bartoletti said about the ministry.
He started practicing and a short time later started his own Chalk Talk ministry.
“Occasions such as banquets, church functions, revival series, youth meetings and Bible studies provided opportunities to present the Gospel in a rare and unique way,” he said.
“Over the years, I’ve been blessed to have been able to do secular presentations at Cub Scout meetings, Ebner Elementary School in Altoona and Blacklick Valley Elementary Center (Nanty Glo), where the illustration was to promote local history in the classroom.”
At Blacklick Elementary, Bartoletti drew a picture of Bethlehem Mine 31, located near Nanty Glo, as it appeared in the 1950s. He also played recordings such as “Big Bad John” and “Sixteen Tons,” both tribute songs to coal miners, to accompany the drawing and add interest for the students.
One of his favorite places to conduct the ministry is a nursing home.
The setting reminds him of his late mother, Margaret Bartoletti, who was a resident of Maple Winds Care Home in Portage when he went there for the first time to conduct the ministry.
Since then, he thinks of his mother every time he draws at a nursing home.
Bartoletti and his wife have visited Turner Apartments in Ebensburg numerous times since 2005 during Bible study on Tuesdays. His wife sings while he conducts his ministry.
He said his wife, daughter, Megan Johnson, and Megan’s husband, Adam Johnson, along with members of his churches, sing during his ministry on special occasions such as Christmas. At other times of the year, he plays musical recordings.
Bartoletti said the ministry is a great way to teach the Bible because it’s different.
“There are way more eloquent preachers out there than I,” he said. “But folks will remember the drawing and the experience long after they stop remembering what I had preached.”
Bartoletti uses art paper that is normally around 30 inches high by 40 inches wide.
He has plenty of colored chalk and chalks that are termed both fluorescent and invisible.
A black light is used to make the fluorescent and invisible chalk suddenly appear, or “pop.”
In one his drawings, that of a Nativity scene, Mary and Joseph are shown walking in the light of the star.
“When the black light hit it, Christ was on the cross within the star,” he said.
“I can tell if it got the impact that God was looking for when the crowd gasps, and you hear the oohs and aahs.
“That’s when the audience seems to appreciate it the most.
“I’m reminded, however, that the purpose of the Chalk Talk experience is not to entertain, but to educate people about how much God loves them, how He surrounds them with things they take for granted, and how the beauty of nature in the drawing and the praises of musicians in the music can make God’s presence very real.”
Regarding secular pictures, Bartoletti has drawn many subjects, automobiles being his favorite.
Numerous automobiles are among his drawings that are being featured through March in the art gallery of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Richland Township.
One of his automobile drawings is on display at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Dauphin County. He said his father, whom he described as his hero for encouraging his artistry, was proud of that drawing.
Rev. Peter Nordlund, associate pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Richland Township, said Bartoletti does a fantastic job with the ministry.
The drawings are beautiful, Nordlund said.
“There are things that can’t be said other than through works of art,” he said. “The drawings bring clarity to (biblical) stories.
“God has given Geno a great gift and talent, and it’s great to see him using them.”
Patty Greenwell, activities director at the Presbyterian Home of Greater Johnstown, said the residents enjoy Bartoletti’s Chalk Talk presentations.
There always is a full house when the Chalk Talk ministry is on the activities schedule for the day, she said.
“Not only do our residents look forward to watching, but our staff does as well.”
The scene is set with music as Bartoletti draws a picture to visually describe a story that he is telling, she said.
“The whole room is mesmerized while watching,” she said.
“The finished product is beautiful.”
Bartoletti, a draftsmen by vocation, is employed as a draftsman and designer for Neff Specialities in Hastings.
He and his wife are co-owners of Bartoletti Illustrations, which specializes in technical illustrations, architectural renderings, drafting and wedding photography.
The Bartolettis also have a son, Dane Bartoletti, married to Sarah, of Revloc.
They have three three grandchildren.