"Chewbacca Laughter" Brings an Unexpected Platform
Candace Payne, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mom and member of the worship team at The Oaks Fellowship (AG) in Red Oaks, Texas, says she has been praying for ways to share Christ with others outside of her church. She had no idea the magnitude with which God would respond.
On Thursday, May 19, 2016, God began to answer that prayer when Payne felt the urge to share the purchase, she had just made at Kohl’s, with her Facebook friends. So she created a video and posted it to Facebook while in her car outside of the store. The purchase? A wearable mask of Chewbacca, a character from the Stars Wars movies.
In the video, Payne is clearly beyond excited about her purchase. When she tries on the mask, which is battery operated to make the sound of a wookiee (the fictional type of being Chewbacca is), Payne gets tickled, and begins to laugh. Her laughter, which is more than a bit infectious, drew in her Facebook friends, who immediately began to respond, loving her post.
In fact, Payne’s friends liked it so much, they began to share the video with their friends — and they liked it too, so they shared it. And their friends liked it, and so did their friends, and their friends . . . and their friends!
By Friday morning, Payne says her video already had more than 20 million views. By Monday morning, the video had been viewed more than 136 million times!
“To put that into perspective,” says Mark Forrester, director of communications for the Assemblies of God, “the previous Facebook record for live video shares on Facebook was about 10 million views. This is in a whole other category.”
Following the posting of her video and its amazing viral ascent, Kohl’s saw a run on the mask, selling out their online supply soon afterwards. Several Kohl’s representatives then showed up at Payne’s home on Saturday, presenting her with Chewbacca masks for the whole family (her husband and two children, ages 6 and 7) as well as some other Star Wars-themed gifts, $2,500 in gift cards, and 10,000 Kohl’s points to spend.
Payne says she began getting calls about the popularity of her post from the media on Friday. So far, she’s been interviewed by the BBC in the United Kingdom and National Public Radio in Washington, had Skype interviews with the weekend editions of Good Morning America and Fox and Friends, had an interview with BuzzFeed, and on Monday morning, May 23, was live on Good Morning America in New York City — and the offers and appearances since then have been nothing short of a whirlwind.
But it’s not just media exposure. On Saturday evening, Payne was invited to share briefly with a large group of young people at an AG youth event in Waxahachie, Texas. She explained to the teens that she has learned it doesn’t matter how talented, how anointed, how gifted, how passionate or how willing they are if they are not spiritually fit to do the things God has called them to do. She went on to encourage them to be diligent, patient, and obedient in Christ.
During her live interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts on Monday, Hasbro presented Payne with another box of Star Wars toys and a $2,500 gift certificate. Payne also shared that many people had been contacting her to share their stories of how the video had impacted their lives positively. One woman told Payne that her daughter, who has autism, had not laughed for more than two months before seeing the video — and now laughs every time she sees it. For Payne, it’s about bringing joy to people’s lives.
God has now given Payne more opportunities than she could have ever imagined to respond and speak into people’s lives. Tens of millions of people around the world, who would have been impossible for her to connect with, may now never forget her. Countless numbers have begun reaching back out to her in gratitude . . . many who may be wondering where her joy, that seems to bubble from her so freely, is sourcing from.
“[God is] opening doors of influence and possibilities to be able to reach people upon people that have never even heard the name of Jesus!” Payne said.
Who could have ever imagined that God would use something as simple as a Chewbacca mask, a video, and a joy-filled heart to provide an overwhelming answer to prayer and open the door to innumerable opportunities to impact lives for Christ?
But there’s more to this viral video than most know. On Sunday, The Oaks pastor, Scott Wilson, gave Payne an opportunity to share the “back story.” On Wednesday night before making the video, she felt that the Holy Spirit had directed her to a specific restaurant for supper just prior to church. There, God had a “divine opportunity” waiting. Only one other person was there, and Payne struck up a conversation with her. The woman was a single mom who had just put one child through college with another child now preparing to enter college, but felt God also wanted her now to go to college — but it seemed impossible.
All Payne had was a $20 bill that was supposed to last her for several days, but she felt God tell her to give the money to the woman, explaining that it was “seed money” for what He was going to bless the woman with in order for her to attend college.
She said that as she left, she felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit flood her body head to toe, telling her, “I’m going to honor this obedience, like you’re not even ready for.”
Two days later, He kept His word.
Editor’s note: Candace Payne's “Chewbacca” video has continued to attract views (currently at 146 million) and the demand for Payne’s time has been nothing short of phenomenal as she literally no longer has time to even respond to all the requests for interviews and appearances!