Revolving doors have been around for a long time. You’ve been in them. Sometimes they’re hard to push and at other times move quickly from strong arms in the section behind you. But the brief trips end up in altogether new environments, including exciting, life-changing involvements, the source of purpose we had never considered. Sometimes, we hear about a friend’s experience like the following:
“Oh, how l loved riding the purple bus to Temple Baptist and how much I valued Children's Worship. I still remember the songs we learned and sing them on rides with my grandchildren. You will never understand how much being a part of the Temple Baptist family meant to me as a child. I thank God daily for bringing me that church and Jim you! Devra”
It’s amazing how God builds on one’s willingness to leave comfort zones to meet unknown potential needs of others. Hearing stories from former bus-riders like Devra who track their spiritual foundation to our church’s children’s worship, Sunday School, and music programs are exhilarating. Not only did the attenders benefit in the long run, but writing the children’s worship book opened the path for my writing career as well as influenced David, the 'volunteered' 14-year-old helper, toward a unique ministry-track. He shares his story:
Temple Baptist Church provided a great introduction to bus ministry, children's worship and puppetry. Each Saturday morning Dad and I would go to the church to warm up the buses and make sure they were full of fuel and ready to run on Sunday. While Dad was in the church office taking care of paperwork, he allowed me to drive the buses in the parking lot. Sundays were very busy with picking up the children and then after Sunday School driving to the firehall to lead the music and do puppets in children's worship. Each Saturday evening, Mom would type up a timely script for Zip and Zap puppets to perform that we would record in the basement of our house on a cassette recorder.
This was great preparation for me in high school, then afterwards when I joined the Air Force. A church in Louisiana where I was stationed had a bus ministry, children's worship and puppet ministry, the perfect place for me to plug into worship and minister. Soon I was driving a bus and doing minor repairs on all the buses. It was a home away from home. My life had so much purpose.
Charlyn W., the puppet director and her husband Charlie took care of building stages and props. Each week the 6–8-member youth puppet team presented special songs and skits for children's worship. Two-character puppets were the favorite of the children. A frog puppet always provided the announcements and chief goodfeather provided the good word for the day.
I marveled how the young puppeteer created a narrative allowing the kids to only see the feather on the chief's head. The anticipation and excitement grew as he would bring the chief puppet into full view. He masterfully captured their attention as he pretended to forget the good word for the day. I was so impressed with his skill. We took the puppet team on mission trips, to retirement centers and nursing homes. What a blessing to minister to those of all ages. The puppet team was a very close-knit group that really enjoyed being with each other. Our church hosted a puppet seminar that brought in puppet teams from all around the area and we got to learn so much about what others were doing and to work with professionals that helped us improve our skills.
After my military years ended, I began college in Nashville, Tennessee where they had a college puppet team. Their puppets were in very bad repair, so I carried them home for the summer. A seamstress friend from Temple Baptist Church helped me repair the damaged puppets and assured me that we could make our own puppets. And so, it began. During that summer, I resumed working at TBC by growing the puppet team, training and involving my brother, Roger, and his good friend, Josh, who continued to add new puppeteers as I headed back to school.
I took many brand-new puppets back to college and as a member of a large city church, was asked to direct a junior high puppet team. This 9-member team was fantastic. I assisted the junior and senior high puppet teams to get prepared for mission trips. What a blast doing puppets for day camps on the beach and at churches. All of the puppeteers graduated from high-school except for one. I showed up for the next practice time expecting one person, but there were 10 because the 9 from the junior high team were now in Senior High, ending up with 14 puppeteers, a three-tier stage, and puppets dedicated to musical instruments like guitars, pianos and bongos. We performed at a retirement center and received requests to visit three more. We were performing at least two shows a month outside of what we did at the Nashville church. I was constantly looking for new material and many of my friends were handing me material that they had run across, thinking we might like to try it. I also became skilled at sewing and outfitting the puppets, as well as designing and making puppet screens.
After graduation from college, I moved to Fort Worth to attend Seminary in pursuit of a Master’s degree in religious education. While in seminary, I started Junior High, Senior High and Singles puppet teams at a large church. At a seminary seminar I met a denominational, professional puppetry teacher who was the guest speaker. How exciting. We really connected. He answered my questions and challenged me. He called on me to lead puppet seminars and to fill in when substitute leaders were needed. I was invited to write articles for the denominational Church Recreation magazine about how to start puppet ministries I learned so much from all the different puppeteers’ gifts and was impressed with their love to minister to young and older people using puppets.
When I heard a new song that I visualized could be used in a puppet show, I tried to find a place to perform it. I still enjoy watching puppet shows and like to perform for family reunions and other special events. I used what I had learned about making and various uses for puppetry in teaching children as well as for adult ministry as my major for the Master’s degree.
The pandemic’s revolving doors constantly swing to uncertain paths as parents, teachers, students, nurses, workers--all of us--have been forced to function in handling unfamiliar tasks and chores such as virtual appointments, remote learning, working from home, zoom meetings, classes, interviews and unique ways of caring for others while maintaining safety, all promising interesting paths to new environments and providing in-depth purpose at the same time.
Even old-fashioned unfamiliar exciting responsibilities like moving away from home, going to college, choosing a major and electives, getting married, having a child, changing jobs, etc. become revolving doors for all those involved. Just consider the influence scattered about when we choose to walk through a new door of need and the possibility/probability of benefiting others.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. Ps. 16:11 (ESV)
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. Phil. 4.9 It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose Phil 2:13
Lord, thank you for giving us courage to step away from our comfort zone and giving us wisdom and ability as we patiently acquire new skills to meet the needs of many, for your glory.