Chapter Six / The Beginning of Ministry and A Lot Of Water
Among the seminary classes I struggled with, there was one which I looked forward to each week. This class was specifically directed toward the unique ability to communicate with children. As adults, we attempt to put away our childish thought and actions in exchange for more serious and mature behavior. Making an about face in an attempt to sync in mind with a child is not easy. The child sees us as an adult and might find it uncomfortable if we try to "act like them." We must still be the adult, but communicate in way a child will understand. Make the complicated simple. Use a variety of sight, sound, and fun to get a message across. I just finished a minor in elementary education. This task should be in my set of skills.
The assignment: Present a lesson for a child with a Bible verse focus.
"Faith," I asked. "What do you think I should do for this class?"
"Use some of the magic tricks. Put a message with them. Like, that vase you have that pours out the water over and over. You could say, 'God's love never ends,' she said.
"Yes, but," I said taking a step of the trick and finding a stumbling block. "What do I say at the point when the vase is empty? God is empty and then He loves us again?"
"No," to Faith it was so easy. "Just say,' It seems like we are alone and God's not there,' when you show the vase empty. Then say, 'But God's love never ends,' and pour more water out."
"That's great," I complimented. "And the challenge of trying to figure out how the vase keeps filling up with water will be something they will never forget along with the message."
"You're welcome," she said and smiled.
The next day I added more messages to a few other tricks I had in a stored away box. Being introduced to magic tricks from my cousin Bob, I gained an interest in the field and purchased enough during high school to do a few church shows and birthday parties. They were certainly going to be a plus for this class and I was excited to share my presentation. Faith gave me a call while working on the "show" and requested some water for her kindergarten classroom aquarium.
"How much water do you need?" I asked.
"It's a ten gallon tank," she said.
I don't recall why she couldn't get the water from the school. In my excitement over the first success with a seminary class, I grabbed a ten gallon trash can liner and went into the bathroom to fill it up. I was also going over in my mind a few tricks with messages I could add to the already too long class presentation. I sat on the bathroom stool with the bag on the floor which also served as the ceiling for the drug store below. The shower head could be hand held with a five foot hose. It was great for spraying the water in any direction, cleaning the bathtub, and holding while filling up a trash can liner with water.
I'm not sure how much water filled the bag by the time my mind left the "gospel illusion" project and focused on the plastic bag getting too full to hold. "Wait a minute," I thought. "I should have had this bag in the bathtub, not on the carpet. I wonder if I'm going to be able to pick this up? This is heavy."
The entire time during my, "Oh, no" moment, the water continued to fill the ten gallon liner. Two hands were on the bag while another served the double purpose of holding the shower head which was still pouring water and adding to the problem. I knew I had to stop the water since the bag was so full, but I could not let go of one side of the bag in order to get the shower head into the bathtub. The longer I tried to solve the problem the more water continued filling the bag.
"Just do it," I said to myself. "Lift the bag as quickly as possible and get the water into the bathtub."
With one big pull, the bag was lifted. I was surprised at how lightweight the bag was. No water in the bag. Not even a pool of water on the floor. Yes, the carpet was wet, but where did the other nine and a half gallons go?
Within moments I received a knock at the door. Anyone visiting our home on 18th and Minnesota Avenue was required to climb the fire escape steps that led up to the first apartment. We lived above the drug store with a dry cleaners directly adjacent and the "Beer Garden" across the street. Faith and I would sometimes turn off the television and look out the window when the police would arrive at the bar to handle misbehavior.
I answered the door.
"Did you have a water problem up here," asked the drug store owner.
We knew each other since Faith and I would purchase items from the store and sometimes mentioned a fuse needed to be replaced.
"What kind of water problem?" I asked using every theatrical skill I could muster to look surprised and innocent.
"An elderly lady was looking at our purse display and a flood of gallons of water just poured right out of the ceiling and on her head. She ran out of the store totally soaked. We have a huge mess downstairs," he explained.
"That's terrible," I offered. "I don't think any pipes burst up here. I don't have any water shooting out from anywhere. What do you think happened?"
The final question was my way of determining if he was thinking I might be to blame.
"We have no idea," he answered.
I was glad to hear that. I didn't lie about my involvement but was not going to divulge any incriminating evidence. I felt astonished. I felt ridiculous . . . and I was wrong. My biggest mistake wasn't dropping the water. No, it was failing to admit it.
"Alright then," he said and went back down the fire escape.
I stayed out of the drug store for a week to avoid any additional questions.
"What were you thinking?" was Faith's response when the story was told.
Obviously, I wasn't. But the class went well. The professor was extremely encouraging and suggested I pursue this avenue of ministry using the visual object lessons in communicating God's Word to children. This was the beginning of our ministry.