Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Magical Mystery Tour

Butch & Sundance

You may have already read the story of our first FUMC-Kissimmee Mystery Weekend (see Live To Tell), a ridiculously crazy 1996 trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. In 1998 my fabulous summer intern Jerry Hanbery and I (see picture) decided to do it again. This time we would replace the wackiness of 18 hours in a van with a more creative approach. This time it would be a middle school only adventure, and our theme would be "Crazy Times." And this time, Jerry and I had a serious plan...

We loaded up the vans at 7 PM on Friday, July 31st and hit the road. Thankfully on this trip there were no leaks from the parents; no one on the two vans had any idea where we were going. We headed north on the Florida Turnpike, and the kids were buzzing about where they thought we might be headed. We then turned north on I-75, headed towards Ocala. I was driving the always-iffy blue van, and we had the lead. The blue van's issues played an important part in our plan. About 4 miles south of Ocala, I "noticed" that the van seemed to be running hot. We pulled off to the side of the road and Jerry followed me, getting out of the white van to come assist me as I checked under the hood. We had taped a baggie of water under the hood, and when I poured it on the engine (out of sight of the youth) steam erupted as if something was terribly wrong. Jerry and I did some serious moaning and complaining about the "stupid blue van" and then returned to our vans, telling the students that the van was over-heating and that we were going to go ahead and stop for the night so we could try and get it fixed. We stopped at several motels and I went in to see if they had any rooms (I had a great time telling the front desk clerks what we were doing so the youth could see me having conversations with them), only to return and tell the group there was no vacancy. The youth were now getting a little nervous. We finally found rooms at a Super 8 Motel (where, unknown to the youth, we had reservations!) and settled in for the night. I held a meeting and informed the kids that I was going to try to get the van fixed, but that I did not know what the following day would hold. We might just have to stay in Ocala. I drove off to "get the van fixed" (I sat in the local McDonald's and pretended!) while they enjoyed the pool. I was not back when Jerry sent them to bed. They went to bed grumpy. It was perfect...

The following morning we woke everyone up early and told them to get ready, the van was fixed and we were leaving! We hurried them, half-asleep, onto the vans and hit the road. We were hoping that they would be too groggy to notice that we were now heading south on I-75. And for a while, they were. Slowly but surely, they begin to notice something had changed. We stopped at a Burger King for breakfast, and the questions began in earnest. We got back on the road, and finally some of the youth began to guess our final destination- Busch Gardens in Tampa. And then- as if a fog was lifting- they began to realize that the entire "breakdown" the night before had all been planned. We had fooled them completely, and they could not believe it- and a few were not real happy about it. Jerry and I were giddy- we thought it was one of the best things we had ever done! We went on to have a great day at the park, and a wonderful weekend, including a great time of worship on Sunday morning. We wanted to make it memorable, and we had. It was just one more time when a wild and crazy idea helped some students discover the presence of Jesus in their lives.

I found out a few years later that there were a couple of students on that trip who NEVER got the message that the entire first night had been staged. This came out when one of them asked me, "Where were we going to go on that Mid-High Mystery Trip before the van broke down?"  And the Oscar goes to Jerry Hanbery and Carl Jones...  Have a blessed Thursday, everyone!

Because of Jesus,


  1. I'm going to need every picture you have of Jerry in that outfit. Don't ask questions...

    1. I'll get right on that search, Melissa.


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