“Resist the devil …” James 4:7
(Another excerpt from my new book, “Satan’s Worst Nightmare”)
Middle-Class Mission Field
The Tucker’s house, unlike ours, was located on a very busy street in a neighborhood of closely spaced houses and lots of children. Kelly described it as a “thoroughfare” for trick-or-treaters. Scores, if not hundreds, of young people and their parents traipsed down the sidewalks each Halloween Night, presenting a formidable mission field. But somehow, we felt that merely giving out tracts along with the candy was not enough to make the kind of bold statement we wanted to make that year.
With my theater background that included a semester or two of set design, I began envisioning how we might decorate the Tuckers’ yard in a way that was distinctly different from the others. As it was already October, we didn’t have much time, but never underestimate the creative energy of two unorthodox sisters on a mission.
Since yards full of tombstones seemed to be the thing, and since people stopped to read the clever sayings on them, we decided to provide a little surprise for those who stopped to read ours. We selected about a dozen verses from the Bible for our display, each following the theme of Resurrection and Jesus’ triumph over death and hell.
“He is risen!”
“Oh death, where is your victory?”
“I know that my Redeemer lives.”
“‘I am the Resurrection and the Life.’ – Jesus”
“‘I was dead and am now alive, and I hold the keys to death and hell.’ – Jesus”
Kelly enjoyed sitting in her living room, sipping her morning coffee and watching the people walking their dogs or on their way to work or school. Glancing at the tombstones, they sometimes did a double-take, sometimes smiled, sometimes stopped to read every one, not realizing that on the other side of the window someone was praying for them. Although we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare that first year, ideas were brewing for subsequent years, and the multimedia outreach was to get bigger and more complex every year. But for that first year the yard itself was the show.
A decoration that was popular that year was the form of a witch on a broom with arms and legs splayed out, painfully straddling a tree or telephone pole after a head-on collision. Kelly relished the idea of poking fun at these allegedly “powerful” people.
I wanted to take it a step further. Why not portray the Devil himself getting tripped up? We made a kind of scarecrow, attached a devil mask to it, and laid it sprawled in the yard, its foot hung up on the tombstone it had apparently just tripped over – the tombstone that declared “Every knee shall bow,” with its counterpart next to it, adding, “…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Getting the Word Out
We decided to pass out tracts Halloween Night, not just one tract per person, but several. We ordered some comic book-style tracts that we thought were clever and appealing, and Kelly put them in gallon-sized Zip-loc bags, along with a large bag of Skittles. (No puny little treats from the Christians – and definitely no tracts in lieu of treats!) We decided to dress our darling daughters as angels and let them give out the bags, and the little girls were excited about being able to dress up. (The Tucker girls with their round faces, curls, and big eyes already resembled the cherubs in a Raphael painting.)
The local paper got wind of the “different” yard and sent a reporter and photographer to take pictures of the girls in costume, the Devil’s mishap, and the Good News tombstones. The resulting picture and article made it into several papers throughout Michigan, as I learned from friends as far west as Manistee and as far north as Traverse City.
The Big Night
Halloween Night we played festive worship music from a boom box on the porch. I had decided that the girls shouldn’t be the only ones having fun, and I donned some angel garb myself, grabbed a couple of swords from the Shakespeare unit I’d been teaching my English class, and stood guard at the front of the yard holding out the swords in the form of a Cross. People got into debates about whether I was real or a mannequin, and I had some fun winking at some of them when the others weren’t looking. My arms went to sleep a few times, but the entertainment value was well worth it.
Another Little Angel
At one point in the evening I noticed a little girl of about five who was walking among the tombstones, asking her father, “What does this one say, Daddy?” Her father didn’t seem nearly as enthralled as she was, and I could hear him dropping hints that there were other houses to hit up for treats. At one point, he said bluntly, “Come on honey, we need to go.” He clearly didn’t want to read any more tombstones.
At that point I stopped playing “Guess Whether I’m a Mannequin,” and offered to walk around with her, and her dad consented. As I read the scriptures to the wide-eyed little lady, I talked to her about what the verses meant. When her father finally insisted that she go visit some more houses, she still seemed reluctant to leave. And swords or no swords, this angel’s heart was melting.
Throwing Down the Gauntlet
All evening a steady stream of people stopped at the Tuckers’ to collect treats, read the Scriptures on the tombstones, smile at the cute little angels, take our literature, and of course, laugh at the devil.
We should have known we were in for some battles.