Breaking Out of Prison (aka the Toilet)

When most of the preparation was done for the church makeover, I needed to change into clothes for the church service.  I took my outfit into one of the bathrooms to change, but as soon as I opened the door, a see-through lizard hung off the wall and looked at me as if I was the one who was standing there naked.  I said, “excuse me, I can see your spleen…have some decency and put on some skin,” but he didn’t budge.  If he didn’t care about his own skin, I knew that he wouldn’t have any respect for mine, so I went upstairs to change in another bathroom. 
 
The bathroom on the second floor had a toilet stall with a lock on it, which seemed like a perfect place for me to change my clothes.  After a thorough check for naked reptiles, I locked the main bathroom door and locked the stall as I began to change.  I put on my grey suit, purple shirt, and purple and grey socks (shoutout to color coordination) and then I went to exit the toilet stall. But the door had other plans.
 
I unlocked the door and turned the door handle, but the door handle decided that it wanted to spend the rest of its life with me.  I used my mighty strength to turn the handle as hard as I could, but it wouldn’t budge.  I thought to call someone to turn the handle from the outside and release me from this crappy situation (toilet stall humor), but then I remembered that the outer bathroom door was locked too!  Would I have to live here forever??
 
If El Chapo could use hydraulic bathtub lift to escape out of his safe house, I  was confident that I could use my smarts to break out of this bathroom stall.  I looked towards the ground and saw that the space under the stall was too small for me to squeeze through, so that wasn’t helpful. Then I looked up and saw that the space at the top of the stall was just barely large enough for me to climb over, but it was approximately 9 feet up.  The toilet seat cover appeared to be stable, so I devised a plan to step to climb on the seat and throw myself over the wall.  
 
 
I threw my things over the wall and then proceeded to throw my body over.  I barely placed my foot on the toilet seat cover when it shattered. What was this lid made out of—a Pringles chip??  I started to panic because it started to look like I was actually stuck there.  I started to climb the toilet tank, but it was as shaky and unreliable as the three frat boys assigned to my first group project in Freshman English class at Seton Hall.  I couldn’t live in that bathroom!  It didn’t even have WiFi in there!
 
I needed to transform myself from Mr. David Banner to The Incredible Hulk if I wanted any chance of survival.  I channeled my inner Indominus Rex and used my upper body strength to pull my body up onto the wall, then I flung myself onto the other side like a rag doll.  I was alive. I made it.  I survived.  
 
I spent the next few minutes dusting-off my clothes and searching for my dignity as I prepared to leave the bathroom.  As I walked out of the bathroom, I had to put on my best “I didn’t just spend 14 minutes fighting a bathroom stall and I almost lost” face.  
 
I should have just used the the Transparent Lizard’s bathroom downstairs because at least if I got stuck there, he could’ve used his transparent foot to open the door from the other side, or his transparent tail to pick the door lock. 
 
That’s what I get for judging a lizard by its skin…or the lack thereof!

Extreme Church Makeover

“You see this completey vacant space filled with nothingness?  We’ve got 27 days to make it into something!”  This was the gist of the challenge that my dad gave me last month as we stood in a brand new, uninhabited building in Trinidad.

Trinidad isn’t just the country responsible for my birth, me eating oysters that resemble pigs eyeballs, and a woman serenading me with Beyonce’s greatest hits at 6:13am, it’s also the country where my dad decided to start a church.  My dad is a pastor of a church in America and in January he started an international location in Trinidad.  After a few months of holding church services in a conference center, he decided to move the services into a better commercial space that would allow for more room for growth.  But this was easier said than done, since we had to mold this vacant void of nothingness into a church, and I was responsible for leading the charge.

In the beginning of April, my dad and I walked around the space and he shared his vision as we bounced ideas off each other about how to pull-off a trial run for the first service.  The goal was to use temporary walls as a test before building permanent walls, while still maintaining a pleasant appearance.  After 20 minutes of discussions, taking measurements and snapping pictures, I left and went directly to the airport to return to America and get to work.

I had just over three weeks to select a sound system and a dual LCD projection system, design print banners, produce marketing videos, produce radio broadcasts, order band instruments, make a plan for transporting everything into Trinidad without damaging it, and set everything up in the halls without any delays.  Since I wouldn’t be able to step foot into the space for another three weeks, it was important to use Photoshop to visualize what things would look like, and tweak it accordingly before returning to Trinidad. There was a lot of pressure, but as Martin Luther King Jr says, “the pressure’s on, but guess who ain’t gonna crack?”  Actually, it was Jay-Z…I always get MLK and Sean Carter confused.

I started by working on the layout of the 4,000 sqft room.  We decided on a heavy, suede-like fabric to separate three areas: the lobby, the sanctuary, and the office.  It was important to make the renderings as close to reality as possible so I could fix any issues before they arose.  This resulted in me making many tiny tweaks to the subtle details of the room to make sure that everything worked visually and technically.  Imagine spending five hours finding the perfect drop ceiling clamps that matched the color of the crossbars and could hold 35 lbs of weight without bringing down the ceiling in the process.  That was my super exciting job!

I rendered each design from multiple angles to make sure that everything looked good regardless of where you stood in the room.  Here are some examples of the renderings of the modifications.  Use the slider to see the before/after comparisons:

Before After
Before After
Before After
Before After

After everything looked fine visually, I sent the banners to be printed and moved onto the sound system.  My goal for the sound system was for it to be portable enough for traveling, yet powerful enough to be heard three countries away.  The result was four powerful speakers controlled by a mixing board that was controlled by an iPad via a wifi connection, along with four wireless microphones and over 1,000 feet of cable to connect everything together.

The same amount of detail was put into setting up two LCD projectors, a drum kit, a piano, a bass guitar, and an acoustic guitar.  There were a lot of moving parts to this operation and it was my job to make sure that everything went as flawlessly as possible.  This was incredibly challenging to manage, but as John F. Kennedy says, “difficult takes a day…impossible takes a week!”  Oh wait, no…that was Jay-Z again.

Then on Monday night I boarded a red-eye flight to Trinidad with equipment stuffed into two 90 pound suitcases and two 50 pound suitcases.  Thankfully, the people at the airport didn’t assume that I was trafficking drugs or fake Gucci handbags when I stumbled around with almost 300 lbs of stuff.  The next four days in Trinidad resulted in long hours of nonstop work as the space slowly evolved into a church.  I led a team of amazing people as the room was cleaned, equipment was set up, fixtures were mounted, and problems were resolved— all in Trinidad’s 700 degree hot sun.

All of the efforts paid-off when most things happened without incident during the night of the service.  The actual room matched the renders very closely, the sound system performed wonderfully, the LCD projectors showed clearly, and everything went well.  I had no energy remaining after the service, was slightly delirious from the lack of sleep, and was accidentally almost permanently locked in a bathroom stall, but besides these things,  the seemingly impossible task became possible when we pulled it off!

Five hours after the service, I checked out of the hotel and drove to the airport to return to the United States.  Despite being energy deprived, I was proud to see that one of the most intense undertakings of my life was successful and the only lasting casualties were these three annoying mosquito bites on my calves.