I spray painted a white sheet. I painted a tree with a blue-sky background. I created a pocket on a tree limb from which would emerge my puppet Solomon the owl. I created a hollow in the bole of the tree from which Rueben the raccoon would appear. This with the addition of two thumb tacks became my highly portable puppet theatre as I ventured into children’s ministry in Northern Manitoba. This ‘theatre’ would easily hang in any doorway and had the added advantage of taking next to no room to pack as I travelled to ‘fly in’ communities.

Solomon was a wise old bird. He would supply the wisdom that was required to solve the problems of Rueben, the silly raccoon. Their personalities made them endlessly versatile to tackle almost any Bible story I decided to highlight. Kids warmed to these characters. They related to Rueben and the messes he would get into and listened attentively to the solutions-oriented Solomon. I found that First Nation’s children also took to the idea of learning from wildlife creatures. To the advantage of the Gospel

Later as I moved ‘South’ these two characters morphed into Bert (the wise owl character) and Ernie (the silly messy raccoon character). I have always had a knack at mimicking voices so I could do a more than passable Bert and Ernie. They simply picked up the threads of their predecessors and children responded warmly.

I had learned, early, to use what was at hand to the advantage of the Gospel and this has stood me in good stead. I have learned to look for opportunities as life changes. The tools of the past sometimes (almost certainly) need to be set aside in favour of newer ones. The message remains the same, but the vehicle alters to carry it in a new situation.

Often this feels like “taking the lemons life hands you and making lemonade”, and this is an indispensable asset in any evangelistic ministry. In my day to day life with our little community of Street Hope Friends, I try to encourage and exemplify this. Often my friends will name and complain about the latest indignity or injustice they experience. Dwelling on the hurt can often lead to a spiral of anger and despondency, so I encourage folks to take their eyes off that, at least for a moment and instead think about a recent blessing, or thing to be thankful for. We are living proof that despondency and thankfulness cannot co-exist. Thankfulness has the power to lift us, emotionally and intellectually, above our circumstances. Like Paul and Silas, we can ‘sing in our prison cells’.

God is the Creator and as his image bearers we are called to creatively build hope and health into even or especially, the most trying circumstances. To make lemonade!

I have only just learned that the bus we were counting on for our Roamin’ Holiday will not be available to us. This felt like a crushing last-minute blow … but I believe it provides the opportunity to widen the circle and enlist the help of other drivers to join us creating a ‘Convoy of Hope’. This hasn’t yet come to fruition, but I am squeezing this lemon for all its worth. I’ll let you know in a future blog how it goes. In the meantime, pray for our Roamin’ Holiday.