Hollywood headliners left the stage for a different fortune.
Somewhere on the Las Vegas Strip, some 25 years ago, you might have caught Doug and Hélène Kornwolf’s act, which included magic, singing, dancing, character portrayals and comedy. They headlined alongside “big names” like Frank Sinatra, Tiny Tim, and B.J. Thomas.
Drawing on their individual successes they joined forces with one of entertainment’s most polished show bands. Together they launched an international tour showcasing the band’s music, Hélène’s soothing song and dance routines contrasting with Doug’s fast paced rock and roll, hilarious comedy and their combined avant-garde illusions.
“We were making ‘very good’ money,” Doug admits.
“We were high rollers. We drove Jaguars, spent lavishly, and lived like there was no tomorrow.”
The Kornwolfs had it all: fame, fortune, travel, media, popularity—everything that a successful career couple could want.
But it all came at a price. They personally witnessed and experienced the tragedies of fast-living, broken lives and addictive lifestyles.
The Holy Spirit was convicting Doug as he began reading Gideon Bibles left in dark motel rooms. He’d watch televangelists “just to hear the music,” but listening to their sermons slowly convinced him that they had to change their lives somehow.
“One night I asked Hélène, ‘If Jesus were in our audience, would He applaud?'”
Her honest answer: “No, probably not.”
“It was hard to walk away (from that life) because we were making big money,” Hélène says. “Looking back on those years we now realize that God had already planned to bring us together for a purpose. He arranged it; we truly believe that.”
Doug and Hélène left the Hollywood/Las Vegas scene to return to a farm they owned in Quebec.
“We converted our barn into a little grocery store while we figured out what to do next,” Doug recalls. “We joined a Baptist church and became born-again in Christ, even though we had to drive 100 miles to go to the only English-speaking church near us in (French) Quebec.
“We became involved in this Bible-believing church where we were nurtured and discipled in our newfound faith,” he says. “The (church) leaders encouraged us to use our gifts and talents in a Christian capacity. That has led us to where we are today.”
Doing an extreme makeover of their act to conform to Christian audiences, the Kornwolfs soon realized that they could present the gospel in a very appealing and entertaining way. Many souls were soon beginning to be won into the Kingdom.
They were soon filling booking requests for churches, including Salvation Army corps and Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) throughout Canada and the United States. While performing in front of Salvationist audiences, the Kornwolfs grew increasingly impressed with The Salvation Army’s mission and ministry.
“As we traveled, we saw the compassion and dedication of the officers,” Doug says. “We’d never seen anything like that before. In our years of ministry in Salvation Army venues, we saw a lot of marginalized people who seemed to feel welcomed by officers and soldiers, where otherwise they might not be.”
Wanting to further identify with The Salvation Army, Doug and Hélène became uniformed soldiers in their Montreal Citadel Corps. They were hired to build an ARC program in Hamilton, Ontario, which they accomplished with great success. Before long, the USA Eastern Territory lured them south to become territorial evangelists with the rank of envoy.
Retiring from that position in 2014, they moved to Florida and made their home near Jacksonville, their base from where they continue crisscrossing the country conducting revivals, dinner theaters, block parties—“anything a corps officer needs to attract people.”
They particularly enjoy ministering to the men and women in the ARCs.
“We are both in recovery ourselves, so we can really connect with them,” Doug says.
Calling themselves “Evangelists That Entertain” rather than “Entertainers That Evangelize,” Doug and Hélène are careful to keep the gospel of Christ front and center throughout every performance.
“Whether I put her in a coffin and set her on fire, or if I have her in an illusion and she vanishes into thin air—everything has a gospel application!” Doug explains.
This dynamic duo engages the audience about 85% of the show, keeping their attention and subtly driving the point home that Christ died for their sins and rose again to bring us eternal life with the Father.
“We love the new life we’ve found,” Hélène blushes, “and we want to share His love in an entertaining and inspiring way!”