I teach Bible lessons at a summer camp for abused children in Texas. This year, we were covering Jesus’ life and ministry, but as I wrote my lessons, they really became more about Peter and how God worked through his life.
Day three of the camp was the “Walk on Water” lesson. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on water to meet Jesus on the Sea of Galilee! Amazing! As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water, but when he noticed the wind and the waves, he began to sink. There’s a good metaphor in that for helping us to deal with our problems in life.
Many of us give Peter a hard time, because he started to sink beneath the waves. He should have kept his eyes on Jesus. And even Jesus chided him for his “little faith.” But let’s not forget….Peter got out of the boat. He only had a little faith, but at least he had more than those eleven boat-huggers. No one else was even brave enough to get their feet wet.
I asked the kids how many of them wanted to be “water-walkers” for Jesus – to do the scary things He asks us to do sometimes – and they all said they did. Each child got a “Water-Walker” sticker…
…and some ice-cold water to remind them of their commitment, but that wasn’t the end of lesson.
This lesson came with a test. Would they really be willing to “step out of the boat?”
Their test really started out as a test for us as a teaching team. How could we give them a safe and fun object lesson that would simulate walking on water? Inspiration came from a YouTube video segment about Steve Spangler on the Ellen Degeneres show.
Corn Starch + Water + Hours and hours of manual labor = Walking on water!
Corn starch and water make a funny liquid-solid. Hard when you put pressure on it; soft when you don’t. The official term is “non-Newtonian,” and it’s plenty cool!
I knew we had to try! Through a friend, I made contact with a wholesale food distributor that sourced and procured 300 lbs of corn starch for us. To that I added all that I could clear off the shelves at Kroger, Wal-Mart, Super Target and Albertson’s. We ended up taking approximately 400 lbs to camp.
On Day 2 of the camp, we began mixing 200 lbs of the corn starch and 12 gallons of water in a 90 gallon swimming pool. That was a mistake. In that large an amount, it doesn’t mix easily. We did our best imitation of the “I Love Lucy” grape-squashing episode, but a day and a half later, we had made little progress. Someone suggested we try mixing smaller amounts and then pouring them in, and that made all the difference.
Within a few more hours, we mixed up 167 more pounds to the right consistency and added it to the top of our earlier mistake. Water sports day was almost over, so we invited the kids to come walk on water before we even tested the mixture.
While the teaching team mixed up the last batch, we allowed the first group of girls to get into the goo up to their elbows.
Then, we lined them up and had them get a running start. The first girl to go across hesitated before she reached the other side of the pool and stopped dead in her tracks. The goo at the bottom was like cement. It would pull a toe off your foot if you tried to extract yourself too quickly. Several times while mixing, I got so stuck that I couldn’t get out and ended up falling rear first into the mix.
With the help of several adult camp guides, we got our brave pioneer out of the mire, and I’m happy to say that the second tester actually did walk on water! Once they saw how it was done, the rest of the girls and then the boys had no problem following in Peter’s footsteps, though half of them would allow themselves to get stuck just for the fun of having their camp guides struggle to extricate them.
In the end, 56 campers and a few dozen adults were brave enough to “get out of the boat.” The most courageous danced in the middle of the pool or did cartwheels across it. We still had a few boat-huggers, but you’ll find them in any group of any size.
The experiment was fun, but it begs the question….how many pounds of corn starch did Jesus use when he let Peter walk on the Sea of Galilee?
Here’s our some video clips and pictures from the object lesson. Because of the nature of this summer camp, I can’t show you any of the kids’ faces.