Winston knelt beside a large structure composed of sheet metal, tightening a bolt with a pair of pliers. Gears and loops of wire connecting two large coils on either side at the top gave an intriguing science fiction appearance to the machine.
A door at the far end of the room opened and the echo of hard-soled shoes on the wooden floor approached.
“So, this is the surprise you've been hiding from me?” John Ayers smiled and sipped his coffee as he observed the contraption. “What is it?”
“It's a soul searching engine.” Winston straightened up, beaming with the smile of a proud parent.
“A soul searching engine?” Ayers repeated the words slowly.
“Yes, sir. One Sunday a month or so ago you preached a sermon on how we should be searching for lost souls. So I thought about that and came up with the idea.”
Ayers remained silent for a moment, continuing to sip his coffee and studying the device before him.
“Aye, I recall that sermon. I'm glad you took it to heart Winston. So, how does this...engine...work?”
Winston spoke with the earnestness of a school boy, excitedly presenting his science project.
“I was just about to test it Sir. See, it works like this. Once it's turned on, the engine hums along all the time.”
He reached up to the top of the machine and pulled a lever.
The device quivered and hummed. The coils began to vibrate and the wires between them began to glow bright yellow.
“Now, sir, if you'll stand in front of the engine, we can test it, because we know for sure your soul's not lost.”
Ayers stepped to the front of the machine, his curiosity piqued.
“Now, if the soul searching engine is working correctly, it will sense the presence of your soul and the coils will turn blue. On the other hand, if someone without a soul stands in front of it, the coils turn red.”
All the while as Winston spoke, the machine hummed and the coils quivered. Slowly, the wires began to heat up, changing from yellow, to orange, to fiery crimson.
Winston stood scratching his head.
“I think it takes a few more minutes to turn blue,” he said somewhat apologetically.
Ayers shifted uncomfortably, telling himself it was after all just a gadget.
“So, on whom else have you tested this?”
“Well, I tested it on my dog. Of course the coils turned red, and of course Gulliver won't stand in front of it for long.”
“How about yourself? Surely you tested it on yourself?”
Winston looked down and squirmed a little.
“Well, sir, tell the truth, that's why I really wanted to test the engine on you.”
“Winston, have the coils ever turned blue?” Ayers stepped from in front of the machine, feeling a little more relieved.
“Honestly, sir, no, they never have. That's why I'm so disappointed. If they don't turn blue for you, I guess the engine still doesn't work right.”
Ayers put a hand on the young man's shoulder.
“Winston, have you been working on this since the day I preached that sermon?”
“Day and night. It's been kind of an obsession you might say.”
“Just this? You've had no social life? No time with family?”
“No sir! I wanted to do something big for God, like Jesus did for me.”
“Winston, my friend, I'm not sure a mechanical machine or any other man-made device is going to be as effective at searching for lost souls as just being out among people.”
Winston thought for a moment.
“But, Sir, I don't know how to tell a lost soul from a not lost soul.”
“The good news is you don't have to. You just have to get out with people; be open to what the Lord tells you through the Holy Spirit. Trust Him to lead you to those lost souls, and give you the words to say.”
Winston gave that some thought. Brightening a little he said “OK, Sir!”
Walking back to the church, Ayers still shuddered a little, considering his own words as he passed a bustling coffee shop. Pausing he thought of the sermon sitting on his desk, awaiting his attention.
Inside the shop sat a group of teenagers, their t-shirts shouting rebellion.
“Lord, I'm available,” he prayed. “Help me follow Your lead.”
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