One of the funniest things ever observed in missionary travels is watching missionaries attempt to set up and take a portable screen like this one.

To start with the entire contraption is on little collapsible legs that are prone to fold up or tip over if you even look at them funny or speak too loudly in their presence. To make matters worse, the screen itself is held open by an arm and hook contraption that as best as I can figure was invented by the devil to make missionaries invent new curse words.

There was a particular missions conference I attended where a church had helpfully provided their own screen but due to some vagary of the mechanics the screen would not open more than halfway no matter how much they prayed or tried to cast the spirit of Bad Engineering out of it.

The missionary, himself a diminutive man, was not at all impressed by their tiny screen size and right before his presentation before a room full of packed pews attempted to show his field experience and can-do spirit by making adjustments on the fly.

No sooner had he commenced the laying on of hands than the screen immediately completely backslid and began to waggle about forcing the missionary into a strange tribal dance as he wrapped his arms around various bits of it and shuffled around in a circle trying to keep the display from complete apostasy. The entire thing flopped one way and rotated another and threatened in every way to deny the audience a view of a Foreign Land and its Great Need (TM).

Meanwhile, all the other missionaries tried their very hardest not to laugh out loud. Mostly because we were just that hard up for a laugh.

You can call it spiritual warfare if you must. All I know is that I don’t remember anything else that happened that evening but I’ll never forget how that man’s overconfidence ended him up dancing for his dinner in the middle of a missions conference. I’m still convinced those screens are the devil’s own handiwork.

95 thoughts on “Screens”

      1. Never stop dreamin’… unless your dream is stupid.

        Isn’t that how it goes?

      1. Bama Man, my son just graduated with a 3.94 GPA and a double major in history and classics. Scholarships all the way…no debt!! This braggy mama will love Bama forever. Roll Tide!

        1. Thank you, BamaMan! He is a chip off of hubby’s block, not mine. But I cannot help feeling proud. And grateful to UA for the fantastic opportunities they offered. RTR indeed!!

  1. I love the linguistic adventure you took us on in the course of your description of the missionary’s antics. In my time, I’ve used screens like that, and yes, they are possessed, if not by the devil, at least by the spirit of crappy design and even worse implementation.

    1. There was a video of one of those things crashing down on one of the dudes from Sammy Allen’s church. Was called, “Funny Things Happen” or something similar. Can’t find it anymore. They must not have wanted to be featured here, lol.

  2. “The spirit of bad engineering… laying on of hands… backsliding…”

    You, sir, are a genius.

  3. One thing I always wondered – are the wiles of Satan and “trials” the same thing? Or are they separate forms of torture for the fundy believer

  4. Then there were the possessed slide projectors with the slides upside down and backwards, as well as the microphones that didn’t work. And I, the Colombian urban missionary, always got stuck next to the guy from New Guinea with the shrunken head!

  5. I remember these screens and the problems that they usually had; especially the older ones that the missionary bought second-hand.

    Missionaries today usually have a DVD or PowerPoint presentation.

    1. The old ones were the worst. Newer ones usually worked fine, as long as whoever set them up actually spread the legs out, unlike the one shown in the photos…

        1. That’s what I get for reading while eating my supper. I almost choked on my spaghetti reading that.

      1. Exactly my thought! That thing is trying to get blown over by a sneeze with the legs clamped together like in the picture.

  6. I remember helping to set one of those beasts up for a friend, many years ago. I got it it up but the top bar thingy decided to fold itself down to the bottom one without warning, while I was looking away. I had the fingertips of both hands resting on the bottom bar and it was then that I discovered that these things bite harder than a hyaena.

      1. No, but I have been attacked by Fundy-types, which is pretty much the same thing.

      2. I don’t know about hyena bites, but small monkey bites hurt.

        Monkeys are evil, and that one proved it.

        1. Gerbils bite hard too, as I discovered when I was a science technician and my duties including looking after several animals in cages at the back of one of the biology labs. Gerbils, on the whole, are quite cute. Their teeth are not.

        2. Rabbits bite too! Right through my fingernail! They’re not so cute-looking now.

        3. My bearded dragon got all excited about me feeding him blueberries once and snapped at my thumb. He bit right through the nail. He is still cute though.

  7. I haven’t seen one of those things since I was in high school.

    If there ever was a problem with the screen, someone from the AV (Audio Visual) Department, or it was also known as the VA (Visual Aids) Department would come in to save the day. You remember those folks right? We call them IT professionals today. 😉

    1. And don’t worry, the profession hasn’t changed all that much, at least for those stuck with desktop support roles. It plugs in? It must be supported by IT.

      I still laugh about the time in the not-too-distant-past working as an Operations Manager at a university IT’s department. One of my techs got called out for a “keyboard not working” problem. He returned a few minutes later shaking his head, reporting that one of the music professors was expecting him to fix her digital piano.

  8. What about the mimeograph machine to print the programs? It only took me about five years to finally not be attacked by those stencils.

      1. Why can’t we upvote comments? I so wish I had multiple upvotes to give for an awesome Bioshock reference.

  9. My parents used to have the exact same model of screen for the home slide shows (remember slides?) we used to have.
    I learned how to set it up, but it was a fairly involved process and the balance of the whole apparatus was delicate.

    1. Yup. We would be so excited when my parents decided to get out the screen and the projector. We loved seeing slides of our early childhood. (Eventually we got a round slide tray, but usually we’d put the slides in one by one: slide in, push down, “ooh” and “aah”, pull up, remove slide, burn fingers, put in next slide (always trying to peer at the slide by the dim light of the bulb hoping that you’d put it in right ways up because while an upside down pic once in a while was funny, the joke wore thin quickly).

    1. That documentary ruined me when I saw it. Opened my eyes to the world I had been living in and investing in. When it ended, I felt so sick, disgusted, appalled, and determined to get the hell out of there.

      I’d recommend Jesus Camp to anyone. Watch it. Feel it. Learn from it.

      And repent.

      1. Same here, including the recommendation. I watched that documentary at a time when I was struggling with the idea of actually leaving the kind of church tradition I’d grown up in, my parents had grown up in, my grandparents had lived their whole lives. I went back and forth between seeking a real spiritual home and thinking maybe I could just sit in the back of the auditorium of an IFB-lite church and not really be engaged, but not rock the boat either. Seeing the idolatry, emotional manipulation, brainwashing and abuse that comes from so many evangelical and IFB churches all laid out like that made me realize that I couldn’t be a part of those traditions any more, even passively. It was this ah-ha moment for me where I could put everything on a scale and see clearly that the bad far outweighed any good.

  10. Excellent word play, Dar El. Seeing this post made me laugh like the hyena that didn’t bite Paul. I know I have told the story of the missionary with Tourette’s Syndrome, one of these screens, a kid working the slide projector who was supposed to change the slide when the missionary tapped the frame of the slide with his retractable pointer. One tap led to another, and another, and another, in rapid progression. The kid started clicking madly and the presentation ended in severely repressed hilarity and mad confusion.

  11. My grandfather liked to take 8mm films of his trips, from a little skirmish in Europe in the ’40s to his travels around the USA in the ’60s and ’70s, and had an early edition of the projector screen he would use to show them. I think he may have had the screen to show when they would collect at a park on a rally, as they called their get-togethers with other travel trailer enthusiasts in their group.

    I inherited it, and used it when we were attempting to raise support as missionaries. It was old, smelled odd, and was twice the weight of current screens. It didn’t give me trouble by falling, but it was permanently warped and never stood straight. I have used many newer ones at churches, and they all had problems my ancient first edition antique did not have.

    While we used a laptop and projector, I do have two carousel projectors in the attic I was given when we were accepted as missionary candidates. I also have an ancient tray slide projector my great aunts would use to show us their slides of azaleas they would go see each year. As a kid, that was torture. I couldn’t figure why anyone would do that; who would drive that far to look at flower? If any of you are interested, I have pictures from last month where I took my wife to see the same gardens 45+ years later, but I digress.

    At the house, instead of getting the screen out, sometimes we will tack up a bedsheet and show movies on the “big screen”. If you do it, though, tack it tightly. if it waves in any airflow, it gives a weird sensation of extra motion.

    1. This is all very timely as my brother and I are going through my folks slides deciding which ones we should keep and which ones are of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Our parents dragged us there every year for decades and Dad took whatever the term for a large number of slides is. About a month after we got home, we had the enormous treat of making finger shadows on the very bottom of the screen while the adults oohed and aahed over the slides. Finger shadows that got too high up into the screen resulted in a smack across the back of the head that you never saw coming because it was dark.

      1. Aaaahhh…. thanks for the memory. I had forgotten about my cousins and brothers and me making finger/hand “puppets” with the shadows between slide trays. One of my dad’s cousin’s would show us haw to make different animals.

        My wife and I are going through the slow and laborious process of filtering 30 years of photos to make a much smaller stack of “keepers”. We figure if it is blurred, or we can’t figure out who that person is, we don’t need it.

        You didn’t say which Royal Botanic, but I would like to see a lot of them. We used to be members of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, but haven’t been there in a while.

        1. Hamilton Ontario Royal Botanical Gardens. I love them now. They are a bit of a drive though and usually if we are through there it is at an awkward time. I think I am going to see if I can set a record for the number of consecutive years of family photos taken in front of a floral clock, lol. Seriously, I have pictures of me as a bow legged one year old toddling through the greenhouses holding my Gramma’s hand to me as an obviously bored teenager pushing my Gramma’s wheelchair through the greenhouses. I love them if they have people in them. Without people they are garbage.

  12. Our church came equipped with a large white space kept blank (no trappings were hung there) on the back wall to the side of the pulpit. All movies and slide shows were shown on the wall. Real fancy, expensive and high tech for the times. 😉

    Somewhere at a larger church we attended I remember they had a large permanent pull down one (I don’t know the technical name but you know what I mean. )

    Sorry I missed all this.

    1. One of the churches we attended when I was growing up had one that was mechanically lowered from the ceiling just behind the pulpit. At some point it broke with the screen about 1/3 of the way down. I don’t know how long it took them to get it fixed, but it seemed like we stared at that piece of screen every Sunday and Wednesday, but it seemed like forever.

  13. Thanks, Darrell! I needed a laugh this morning. I never got this in church as a kid, but I saw a professor or two perform the same dance.

  14. But . . but . . .

    Slide projectors, portable screens and suchlike are not mentioned in the KJV Bible!

    Power point, possibly, on the occasion of Pentecost and of Paul’s conversion. Scholars are hotly debating this question.

    1. Fundys sure were against tvs and vcr’s, but what did all the “rock and roll is evil” evangelists use to prove their points?

      And if we’re each missionaries every day, why the hell can’t i be served first in the buffet line?

    2. An anagram for “screens” is “censer”, which holds incense and is used in Orthodoxy, so screens must be evil.

      Fundy logic sampling:

        1. Is THAT what the smoke is for? To drive away demons?

          And here I thought it was a relic from the days when everything was never clean, smelled bad, and you needed to make it bearable to be in a crowd of the unwashed.

      1. Most of what I “learned” about the orthodox branches of Christianity back at ol Fundy High should have been “censered”.

        1. You might notice that in churches that use incense, there aren’t any mosquitos.

      2. I hate to be picky, but I can’t help it.
        “Censer” is an anagram of “screen,” not “screens.”

        1. George seems to have quietly removed the pluralizing “s”. He is getting to be quite sneaky in his attacks.

          Is George one of Screwtapes cronies, by any chance?

  15. With this one post you have sent me back to the days when I was part of more fundy type churches—every problem with sound equipment or lighting equipment was an attack of Satan trying to keep God’s Word from being proclaimed. And prayers would go up in intercession that the demon who was trying to silence God’s servants would be cast out of the equipment.
    The demon that is the screen or that is in the sound board keeping the microphone muted must not be tolerated.

    1. And of course, what you were showing was so important that Satan had to assign an entire demon to fiddle with your equipment, but not so important that the message actually needs to be stopped.

      Demons are so trivial nowadays.

      1. I thought the devil played his own fiddle.

        The song lied to me…I don’t know what to believe anymore.

        Is Georgia even a real place?

        1. Georgia is real but I have it on good authority that the Devil uses backing tracks and only pretends to play. Ever since some kid won his golden fiddle in a contest, the Devil has lost confidence in his abilities. Since he’s no longer capable of making country music, I hear he’ll be working with Taylor Swift on a future project.

      2. Wow, I must be more important than I thought.
        Once in Eastern Kentucky on the day I was supposed to show my presentation a demon must have been the cause of a tree that fell off of a mountain and hit a powerline. The service at the church that night was dark, and I never did show my little video presentation. That wasn’t even a Fundy church. I thought it was just the bad storm that came through. I guess it was spiritual warfare.
        (The other baptist church in the town is the one I think our good friend Jeff Fugate began his “pastoral” career. It was suggested that I not take my non-KJV self over there, as it would be a waste of time.)

        1. Uncle Wilver–what was your message? It had to be quite important to cause such a ruckus in the heavens…

        2. It was when we were trying to become missionaries. The outage caused us to not be able to show our video that replaced the “old fashioned slide show”. The host pastor had the missionaries at the conference speak on a different nigh from the one they showed their presentation. The guy that preached that night was a nice guy, but not a dynamic speaker. I guess since I couldn’t show the video, he thought he would take that time and stretched a somewhat boring sermon out in what seemed like a sample of eternal punishment.

          That turned into one of our few supporting churches.

        3. Your “Non-KJV Self.” That is a picture of total rebellion. You should have had demons cast out of you.

      3. It takes a special type of hyper ego to believe that a demon has been dispatched just to interrupt your service….doesn’t it…..or perhaps it is an ingenious way of deflecting the attention from the ineptness of audio and visual departments to a demon….

        1. I have an acquaintance who thinks that way. He studies and believes a lot of extra biblical demonology. He’s a pretty good teacher, and sound in most of his doctrine, except for his spiritual warfare beliefs. At one time he thought (and he may still think) that chronic illnesses are demonic. He also thought Beatles albums (among others) had demons “attached” to them.

          He loaned me some “sermon” tapes on demon activities and said that there were bad spots on the cassettes because the devils didn’t want you to hear them. I figured it was cheap cassettes and duplicating equipment, but what do I know? I avoid those types of teaching as much as I can.

        2. Pat Robertson says that demons attach themselves to the used sweaters you would get from Goodwill.

          Demons are a prescientific kind of thinking. Diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia have been attributed to demons. Funny that such conditions can be affected by medicine. Who knew? People die from exorcisms who could otherwise be helped by medical treatment, if the family only believed that medical treatment could help!

        3. I’ve seen some clothing at lesser thrift stores than Goodwill that had an aura about them, but I always attributed that to the demon of bad hygiene.

        4. If my amazon order comes from a foreign country and passes through customs in a non-capitalist country, do I need to douse it in holy water or anoint it in olive oil?

  16. That’s an idea for a post. Curse words made up by fundies…my favorites are dad gummit or con sarnit

  17. There is a tiny lever on the bottom of the main rod that when pressed allows the legs to spread out further to a stable position. You have to trip it with the toe of your shoe while pulling up on the main rod. You’d think this would be taught in the first semester of bible college.

      1. Rod and shaft?

        Er, Ah, there’s a certain Fundy preacher with a “Dr.’ in front of his name who has a particular fondness for rods and shafts.

  18. I inherited one of those from my Dad plus the 12 carousels of slides of family pictures. Some of them as old as 60 years or more. I think my kids are due for a slide presentation…..

    1. Be sure to tap a water glass with a spoon each time you need to change a slide!

  19. Did anyone else amuse themselves by whipping a string up and down rapidly to make a “screen” for slides?

  20. As a kid, I always loved the missionary’s slide presentations b/c it was pretty much guaranteed that many of the pictures would be backwards, sideways, or upside-down. I figured this “entertainment” was part of making up for how long-winded the missionaries always were. I always wondered how the poor, hungry tribal people survived sitting in the heat of Africa while a suit-wearing missionary droned on.

  21. Yeah, when I was a teen, I attended a mission conference and since I was tall, was given the task of lowering and raising this ginormous screen suspended from the ceiling by using a bent clothes hanger.

    I had one job.

    Needless to say, the screen got stuck, much to the embarrassment of my overly-sensitive teenage self. I, did, however, provide some well-needed distraction for the audience, so there’s that…

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