The Tale of the Accidental Puppeteer

I was pondering this week “How did I get here?” I never intended to be involved in the world of recovery, but I ‘accidently’ fell into it. As I pondered this I realized that most of the developments in my ministry over the years were ones that I ‘fell’ into rather than planned.

Many years ago, I found myself involved in children’s ministry not because I was gifted but because there was little that a young evangelist was allowed to do. Adults would not allow me in pulpits but instead they happily entrusted their “most precious” little ones to my fumbling ministrations. Things began to come in focus as I was praying and seeking God about this dilemma. I saw others who could hide behind their guitars and musical talents to dazzle children, but I had none of these gifts. Yet I found myself plunked down in the midst of Children’s Ministry with the expectation that I would walk in the footsteps of these talented folks! I knew I was a fraud and desperately prayed God would bail me out somehow.

One morning I was baby sitting the toddler of my billet hosts. We were watching Sesame Street together when, ‘just for fun,’ I decided to try imitating Kermit, then Ernie, and then Bert. The toddler loved it! I could not dazzle with guitar licks, but I could make voices. This became my lifeline! I became a reluctant puppeteer. I found a rhythm with Bert and Ernie and together we taught children basics of the Gospel. My new partners were naturals at this. Ernie fell into the ‘good hearted but foolish’ role and Bert became the ‘patient and wise’ one. Ernie got into messes and Bert showed him the way.

The next year I was again doing children’s ministry but this time in a remote Northern community. At this time there was little electricity and no televisions in the community, so my pals Bert and Ernie were unknown. I turned to new friends Rueben (the racoon) and Solomon (the owl). They played the exact same roles as Ernie and Bert, and I continued my career as the reluctant puppeteer.

It turned out that remote regions were easily impressed, and I soon took my puppet friends on the road and was invited to one community after another. Soon some of the churches would open their pulpits and I had finally earned the opportunity to do things I had felt called to do! I had come to realise that if I could explain the Gospel to children then perhaps I could share the same Good News with their elders. I had learned the essentials of the Gospel through writing puppet scripts and now I got to apply it to adults. I had originally thought I would be an eloquent communicator like some of my preaching heroes, but I had learned the effectiveness of homely and understandable communication seasoned with humour. Again I ‘fell’ into a style I had never considered.

Later this varied experience equipped me to teach evangelism at Taylor College, but I was restless with the sole role of teacher and began an inner-city ministry that lasted for years. I would not have chosen this path but ‘fell’ into the opportunity. My experience of communicating the Gospel in an accessible fashion suited my new Up Town friends.

It was these friendships that caused be to become concerned with recovery. Through my inner-city years I have been inspired by friends who have recovered and are living wonderfully productive lives serving God and their community.

In all this I trace the fragrance and fingerprints of God. Where I say I ‘fell’ into something I see that I was led! When things are difficult and dark I rest in the knowledge that God leads in wonderful and mysterious ways. I believe we can trust Him!

For Prayer:

On the 12th, I have been invited by the Mission Committee to return to Stone Church to share about Threshold House. This group has been a consistent support via finances and prayer over the years and I am grateful for this partnership.

On the 13th, the pastor of Forest Hills Baptist and I are trekking to Teen Challenge for a visit there. We hope that soon we will be able to announce residents coming from that program.