Whopper Fishing Tale — But It’s True!

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You’ll chuckle at this children’s minister’s seeming
failure

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“At the current cost per person, I could’ve sent them all
out on a Lake Michigan charter boat”

I guess I’ve always felt that, sooner or later, it was going to
happen: the one colossal ministry disaster that would forever brand
me as “that crazy children’s director we once had.”

Maybe this was it.

I was asked to come up with an idea for an evening Sunday school
event. I prayed a dutiful-if somewhat abbreviated-prayer for God’s
guidance. At that instant, a Fishers of Men Night popped into my
head. Sounds like a safe concept, right? A real fishpond in the
parking lot! Every child would catch a fish to take home and
eat.

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Now that’s a multisensory experience! (Suffice it to say I’ve
since learned that instantaneous popping is not necessarily an
indication that the Holy Spirit’s cooking up a good idea.)

But being a real advocate of hands-on learning, I thought this
particular “inspiration” was not to be denied. Besides, it would be
fun! It would be exciting! It would be creative! What it was, was a
mess!

I called trout-fishing outfits to book a date. After 10
long-distance calls, I found someone who could set up a tank for
$250 and sell me the 9- to 11-inch fish for $1.25 apiece.

“By the way,” the man said, “I don’t advise doing this in the
summer. The water needs to be cool.”

I guess since I couldn’t afford his price, I thought I didn’t
need to heed his advice. I chalked it up as a bad attitude.

Undaunted, I found another guy who sold fish but wasn’t into the
tank business. His fish cost the same but were two inches longer!
That gave me the incentive to find my own tank. I said I’d get back
to him later. By the way, was he mumbling something about the
weather in July?

I advertised our need for a free above-ground pool for three
weeks with no response. It was now the end of May, and local stores
were selling small pools. Why not? It was cheaper than renting, and
we could sell it afterward. We got a great deal on a 12-foot
pool.

Behind every intense-type children’s director, you’ll likely
find Wonderful Spouse (very akin to a super hero) who’ll spend a
couple of days assembling an above-ground pool. Now, how could I
have known that we’d have to haul in dirt?

Meanwhile, back at the fish farm, the trout had now grown longer
so the price was higher. Twenty dollars a pound was starting to
sound like a bargain. I ordered 150 of the 14- to 16-inch trout,
and my friendly fish farmer said he could lend me an aerator. He
could also sell me chemicals to dechlorinate our city water.

He might’ve also reminded me about cold water; but at the time,
I was thinking of ways to get around buying the chemicals. Someone
mentioned that the ballfield sprinkler system was on well water.
Because of the automatic timers on the sprinklers, we’d have to
fill the pool on Friday. All we needed was 100 yards of hose.

Mind you, all the usual stuff had to be taken care of during the
fish negotiations. I had to write puppet scripts, hire puppet
performers, publicize on the cable channel so we could reach more
people, photocopy handouts, coordinate plans with the music
minister, and consult sound technicians.

Finally, all that was left to do was pick up the aerator and a
few blocks of ice to cool down the water that had had three days to
warm up. The aerator was almost half the size of the pool.
Wonderful Spouse was able to rig heavy piping to hold it up, but
the piping punctured the pool lining in a few places. So we lowered
our pool price by a few dollars.

Three hours to go and the water temperature was 76 degrees-after
we put in our ice! It needed to be 55 degrees. The whole community
was on its way to see 150 trout floating belly up in a leaking pool
churned by a 200-horsepower aerator!

Wonderful Spouse took care of buying out the ice reserves of
three supermarkets and a gas station while I got the puppet team
settled in. The fish were trucked in; but after 750 pounds of ice
(that’s not a misprint), the temperature had only dropped to 67
degrees.

We waited for all the people to arrive. My senior pastor said I
was calm and focused when I presented the lesson. That could only
have been the result of the Holy Spirit controlling all bodily
functions of a person in the thralls of STSD-Simultaneous Traumatic
Stress Disorder. I’m not sure what caused my STSD. It could’ve been
the result of 150 terminal trout, or it might’ve been that only 10
families came out for Fishers of Men Night. I must’ve regained part
of my faculties later, because I have a vague recollection of
children complaining that the fish, also suffering from STSD,
weren’t biting very well.

Our youth pastor is a remarkable example of Christlike mercy. He
took one look at me, removed his watch, and climbed into the fishy
water which, although not cool enough for fish, was plenty
refreshing for a human being. Someone handed him a net and he
caught fish for the kids. Well, I suppose nets are more biblical
than fishing poles anyway.

Fish were flopping everywhere. There were gleeful screams from
the children and fathers. Mothers, however, expressed concerns
about fish slime. Should I let them know that at the current cost
per person I could’ve sent them all out on a Lake Michigan charter
boat? Nah. I knew the fish weren’t the only things flopping.

I didn’t go into work on Monday.

There was someone, however, who did not stop working; who never
wavered in accomplishing his purposes no matter the circumstances;
who had worked through, around, and despite a frazzled children’s
director. Reports came in Tuesday from throughout the community and
neighboring city.

Because families went home with bags of fish, they had to do
something with their excess fish. People asked neighbors for advice
about cleaning and preparing fish. They gave fish to unemployed
friends and had neighborhood fish fries. And they all talked about
Sunday school!

A couple of our families were cleaning fish in their front yard
when four teenage boys came by. The teenagers asked where they’d
caught the fish. One fisher replied, “In our church parking lot.”
Seeing the surprise on their faces, another fisher followed with,
“Haven’t you heard about fishers of men?” Then she was able to tell
them about her faith.

God re-enacted the story found in the fourth chapter of Matthew
right here in Spring Lake, right before our eyes. In God’s power
and wisdom, he took the little we had to offer and used it to
spread the gospel in ways we could never have foreseen.

When you think about it, I guess God’s an advocate of hands-on
learning, too!


Ann Miller still works at her church in Michigan where they
have a swimming pool for sale…cheap. Please keep in mind that
phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to
change.

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