No worries my title this week is neither a misprint nor an oxymoron. I am talking about exactly that, a ministry based off of tattoos. Could it be that two of my greatest loves have found a way to be together? Jesus and ink-is that even possible? Chris Baker founder of Ink 180 created a way to make that a reality back in 2011. He is an artist with more than ten years of experience who works out of Oswego Illinois. His ministry is dedicated to doing cover-ups and/or removals on ex gang members and victims of sex trafficking for absolutely no charge. Chris donates his time, supplies, and talents simply because he feels that’s what he’s called to do.
I had the privilege of viewing the yet to be released documentary about Baker’s inked ministry at a special preview night hosted by Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park. Gripping is a popular word used to describe anything in the drama genre in the case of this film, it was absolutely fitting. Ink 180 shines a bright light on all that is gritty. Featuring testimonies from former escorts and gang members who no longer have to endure the judgment of others for that mark below their eye thanks to Chris and his painful yet satisfying removal techniques. Chris commented on how much it hurts (often just as much if not more than getting the initial tattoo.) He said; it’s almost like penance for them, for the pain they caused. Chris believes, as do I, in beautiful second chances. That’s why when you see Ink 180 advertisements or notice their mobile tattoo truck on the road scriptures like 2 Corinthians 5:17 come to mind.
After viewing the documentary that will be available in September I had a few moments to sit and talk with the man who chooses to give all he’s got. Even now with ink being mainstream certain tattoos are undoubtedly judged. Tons of people are well on their way to being fully sleeved but tattoos on the neck, face, and hands are still considered job-stoppers. In the sex trade barcodes are tattooed on women as if they are owned like property. The documentary showed a lot of contrast, the dark world of gangs and perversion against the light of the
Gospel. “The world is bleeding,” Chris said “it can’t heal itself. Someone has to show them how to look up.”
Being a Christian tattoo artist won’t win any popularity contests and is about as common as a three eyed unicorn also, offering free services means a lot of haters in the industry but Chris doesn’t live to satisfy others. He said; all of the work is paid for because of the One who paid it all. Everyone has regrets and if some of those are fixable, why not fix them? Well tattoo cover-ups cost hundreds and not a lot of artists are up to the challenge. Laser removal costs even more. To be new on the inside yet still judged for what’s on the outside when nothing can be done about it just isn’t fair at all. Chris’s wife Lisa would say Ink 180 exists “for those people that are cast aside. That’s what makes it worth it.” The tattoo ministry has come a very long way in three short years and it is sure to continue. Since it is entirely donation-based the goal of Ink 180 is to connect with other tattooers and dermatologists who have a heart for pulling people out of darkness and are willing to offer free services just to give someone a glimmer of hope. It is true that every cent counts. Don’t automatically think someone will help when you could be that one-you are someone. Tattoos are only skin deep, Chris Baker and his family are helping others who’ve had it rough by simply reaching out their hands and bringing their personal talents to the table. Charity like that, transforming what was once a profit into a free service because it was never just a living but a calling in life shoots straight to Heaven.
If you’re like me and you wake up thinking Jesus, coffee, and tattoos are all you need, Ink 180 would be a great ministry to bring the hope that the Gospel talks about “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”-Matthew 4:16