THE NIGHT THEY PUT THE ACID IN THE KOOL-AID
A few months after I finished preaching my customary midnight sermon one memorable evening, some 150 kids at His Place were busy doing their thing: rapping, playing checkers, grooving on the music, queuing up for bagels, sandwiches, coffee, and our favorite soft drink, Kool-Aid. Because of its modest price and the fact that a small quantity can be mixed with a large amount of water, Kool-Aid is always on hand in plentiful supply.
As usual there were a number of heads completely freaked out, those on downers spread supine on the floor like toppled bowling pins and those on uppers moving around wild-eyed. Many, however, weren’t stoned, either because they didn’t have the bread for a buy, hadn’t made a connection, or weren’t in the mood for a trip.
The scene was no worse nor better than any other average night, except that it had been a particularly lucrative evening for Christ. After my preaching service almost thirty kids had come forward to accept Jesus.
My staff and I were busy in the counseling rooms working with the new converts, witnessing, praying, charting Bible study courses, trying to tidy up some of the loose ends of mangled lives.
I was with an unmarried sixteen-year-old girl who had run away from her home in Kansas City after discovering she was pregnant. In accepting Christ, she had also accepted the inevitability and wisdom of returning and working her problem out with her parents. After making a phone call to her grateful mother and father (they hadn’t heard from their daughter in a week), I accompanied the girl to the curb and flagged a taxi. Clutching her New Testament, she stepped in for the ride to the airport and a late night flight back to Kansas City. She was that rarest of runaways, one who had the fare home.
I walked back into the club and looked around. Everyone on the His Place staff is trained to be Argus-eyed, to scout the room in free moments and keep his eye open for trouble and anything, down to the smallest detail, out of the ordinary.
Walking through the crowd, the only not-as-it-should-be detail I noticed was that our ten- gallon Kool-Aid container wasn’t in its accustomed place near the back door. That was no cause for alarm. Dale was probably whipping up a new batch.
A few moments later, however, a Mayday alarm sounded inside me. I suddenly realized something drastic was amiss. There was more excitement than usual coursing through the building and all at once there seemed to be more kids freaked out, far more than when I had preached only thirty minutes before.
Then I heard a burst of noise upstairs and I could see that all the big heads (the heavy dopers, the real addicts) were pushing and shoving their way into the prayer room side by side with the kids who were part-time heads.
I raced up the steps and had to muscle my way through the throng.
Everybody was shoving everybody else. It was a formidable hassle.
I heard cries of “Man, let me have the cup.” “It’s my turn.” “You’ve already had your share.”
Churning through the crowd, I managed to reach the center of the packed prayer room.
A dozen feet away, sitting on the table we used as our prayer altar, was the Kool-Aid container. The Bible had been shoved aside to make room for it.
“What in the world is going on?”
“Hey, Arthur,” someone shouted, “the Kool-Aid’s hot!”
I had prayed it would never come to pass. The staff and I had discussed bolting down the top of the coffee pot and the Kool-Aid container as a precaution against exactly what was now taking place.
A nightmare had become reality. Someone had dumped a load of acid into the Kool-Aid.
It was bedlam around the container, but like a halfback threading his way through the opposition’s line, I finally reached it. There was only about an inch of liquid left at the bottom. “Who did it?” I called out.
One girl, obvious admiration in her voice, snickered, “Couple of groovy dudes.”
No one, of course, would tell me the names of the offenders.
I lifted the container, holding it over my head, and moved through the mob of protesting kids down the stairs. I was roundly booed as I trooped through the club to the sink and poured out the remainder of the contents.
The wallop of LSD hits some users in fifteen minutes. In others it may be delayed for an hour or more. The average reaction time is forty-five minutes.
When an hour had ticked by virtually everyone in the church was turned on. Between 100 and 125 kids were spaced out. Some sat staring vacantly ahead with glazed eyes, some had passed into unconsciousness, some were giggling, evidently having a good trip.
The only ones who weren’t stoned were the staff members and those who’d been saved. The staff and I fanned our way through the crowd on the alert for anyone having a bad trip who might need help. Apparently everybody’s ride was smooth.
I was thankful The Man didn’t show up. The whole club would have been busted, including me, and I couldn’t logically picture myself before a judge attempting to explain how more than 100 kids had been freaked out in a church.
There were no fights. The last thing a kid on acid wants is to become belligerent. That spoils the trip.
Scratching his head, Dale asked, “What are we going to do?”
There was nothing funny about it, yet I couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s a lot happier crowd than you’ll find in most churches,” I said jokingly.
We decided the only sane course was to proceed as if nothing untoward had occurred. Actually, the bizarre evening wasn’t far removed from many nights at His Place when the overwhelming majority of kids who come through the door are already stoned.
I thought of closing early, but that would have sent a small army of freaked-out bodies into the street, an unthinkable course of action.
As the night wore on it got wilder, some of the heads reaching the peak of their trips, but by our 4 a.m. closing time most of the kids were down or on their way down.
We checked each one as he passed through the door, trying to be certain he could make it home.
A generous Providence saw to it that every kid in His Place that evening survived the experience. Nobody’s mind had been blown. As far as I know, not one youngster had any negative aftereffects.
There was no backlash from the sheriff’s men. I was never questioned about the episode. If anything, when word of the weird incident ran through the Boulevard, our attendance increased!
But from that evening hence some member of the staff was always specifically assigned to keep an eagle-eye on the coffee pot and soft-drink container.
After the last kid had gone through the door on the night they put the acid in the Kool-Aid, Dale wondered, “How could it happen?”
“Either the Lord was napping,” I answered, “or we didn’t pray hard enough.”