For those of you who may be unaware, I work with kids. More specifically–I am a children’s pastor. Most people have no idea what a children’s pastor does outside of weekend services–probably just play with Mr. Potato Heads and create new recipes for slime. This is not true. I only play with Mr. Potato Head on the weekends. So, in an effort to help bridge the gap and build a better understanding of the day-to-day life of a children’s pastor, I thought I’d tell you about the time I got cooties.
It was summer in Florida, and I was participating in a time-honored children’s ministry tradition known as camp. Our kids went to camp at Lake Placid. (Remember that movie? Crocodiles who eat cows and men without regard. Sounds like a great place to take hundreds of elementary kids swimming and camping, right?) We never met any man-eating crocodiles, however I did have my own frightening encounter with a flesh-eating creature.
It was our camp tradition to have a luau on the beach the last night of camp, where we would roast marshmallows, play limbo, and compete in hula contests. This particular year I was in charge of the luau and was busy running back and forth across the sand to make sure every lei and hula hoop was in place. (You don’t want any stray leis, that would be a disaster.) My flip-flops were not cutting it in the thick sand, so eventually I kicked them off and went barefoot. The night was a smashing success. S’mores were devoured, limbo champions were declared, and a good time was had by all. The next morning I packed up and headed home. Over the next several days I prepped for our upcoming VBS (a wonderful invention in children’s ministry in which children’s leaders spend weeks entirely sleep deprived and running on a strange cocktail of coffee and goldfish crackers). As the week unfolded, I began to notice something wrong with my foot.
It started with a small reddish line on my big toe. Then the line began to grow. And not just growing larger or redder–it was leaving track marks around my foot. It was moving! I headed into the doctor’s office and presented my case. After a quick exam the doctor told me I had acquired a new friend– a parasite. This thing was living inside my foot–moving around, feeding off my flesh and blood, and leaving a reddish-purple path in its wake. Apparently these monsters live in the soil and sand, and my barefoot night at the luau had provided them with a perfect opportunity to pack up, climb inside my foot, and take up residence in my toe. I was given a prescription guaranteed to kill my parasitic friend, and sent on my merry way.
I dropped the script off at my local pharmacy, and came back a few hours later to pick it up. A baffled pharmacist met me at the drive thru window and explained that my doctor had prescribed a drug that was no longer manufactured. Great. It was Friday night and the doctor’s office was already closed. I could wait till his office opened on Monday and request another drug then, but that would mean two and a half more days of this parasite literally eating me alive. No thanks.
I decided to call in a favor. One of the benefits of being a pastor is that although you don’t usually have friends in high places, you do have a good variety of friends. And I happened to know someone who was a doctor. He worked as an ER physician, so he was sure to be up at 8pm on a Friday night. I called him up and explained the situation. I hadn’t gotten very far in when he burst out laughing. “Amanda’s got cooties! Amanda’s got cooties!” he began chanting, like some punk from elementary school. Seriously? I think he might need to work on his bedside manner. But he quickly called in a script for a different medicine that was still manufactured, so I decided to overlook his taunting. It took about a week for the parasite to die off and the track marks to fade. In the meantime, I spent a week leading VBS and showing off my strange red marks to kids and adults alike who were fascinated by my new friend. Eventually though, my cooties bid me a fond farewell. Or perhaps not so fond, considering I was killing them off. At any rate, they were gone.
Fast forward a year or so. I was preparing to leave the church where I had spent the last three years. I had built some amazing relationships with parents and volunteers, and I was really going to miss them. However, God had called me to go serve in another country, and I was excited about the plans he had for me. As a farewell, a huge group from my church planned a trip to a comedy sports club. This particular club featured an opportunity for you to purchase a special musical tribute to a member in the audience. And my amazing friends chose to honor me with this. They turned in a huge list of random details and funny stories from my life and the talented improv actors began to turn my life into a musical comedy. Not surprisingly, my friendly, neighborhood parasite came back to reprise his role in my life. The charming actors named him “Petey the Parasite” and told a story of how I exorcised him like a demon, preached the gospel to him, led him to salvation, and ultimately took him with me around the world to preach to others.
Although I’m back in the U.S. again, I like to think Petey is still out there . . . sharing God’s love and preaching the gospel to the world–one parasite at a time.