MUSKOGEE — Bart Glatt might have become a medical doctor had he not been mesmerized by a neighbor’s magic tricks when he was in the seventh grade.

He also was fascinated by Houdini’s illustrious career, bought a book on magic and taught himself a few elementary sleight-of-hand tricks. When his seventh-grade English teacher asked students to “learn to do something you’ve never done before,” Glatt had his first opportunity to perform some magic tricks before his class.

To his growing arsenal of magic tricks, he added an interest in photography. By the 10th grade, he was being hired professionally for photo assignments in his hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana In 1972, at age 16, he was hired by Conoco and Citgo to photograph refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It was like a wonderful fantasy,” he said.

Today, Glatt uses magic and photography to entertain and enlighten members of Muskogee’s First Baptist Church. His role as pastor of volunteer ministries includes missions, media, college and senior adult ministries. He serves with the church’s recently appointed senior pastor, the Rev. Johnny Douren, a childhood friend since the age of 7.

Glatt remembers well his initial reaction when he felt called to the ministry.

“I went down kicking and screaming,” Glatt said laughingly. “I remember asking my late wife, ‘How would you feel if I went to seminary instead of medical school?’ She said, ‘I’ve been wondering when you were going to ask me that question.’ It was a tough surrender, but I decided to take the talents God gave me and use them in the ministry.”

During his long love affair with magic, Glatt has performed for more than 3 million people during numerous live performances. The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist General Convention has sent him to witness in foreign places where the name of Jesus cannot be mentioned.

“I’ve traveled all over the world doing magic for people, millionaires on their yachts and presidents, including Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, after they were out of office,” he said.

During the past 20 years, he has been Coca-Cola’s official game host for festivals and corporate events. With his monkey pal, Bonzo, he is an international goodwill minister. He’s also the official voice of the Los Angeles Public Works Department and has narrated hundreds of programs, commercials, documentaries and public events.

His photography has been featured in numerous national magazines and Fortune 500 stockholder’s reports. Among his clients are Chevron, Citgo, Conoco and numerous businesses, organizations and churches.

As he settles into the new job at First Baptist, which he assumed in May, he already is being booked for performances. He recently entertained a co-op of home-schooled students and has been to nursing homes and Bible schools.

This fall he will teach a class on magic. He will be the featured speaker in October for the Women’s Missionary Union at First Baptist.

“Magic is an incredible tool and a perfect hook for missions,” he said.

For Glatt, it has a unique way of attracting people’s attention that allows him to tell Jesus’ story.

As a minister, he also worries about the decline in Christianity and the Muslim element that is evident.

“Many people today just don’t believe the Bible. They are disillusioned,” Glatt said. “We are becoming a secular society, and some people just don’t feel the need for religion.”

Still, he believes many people want to know there is something more to life, and that encourages him to introduce Jesus to them.

For Glatt, magic is a tool he can use anywhere — on a soccer field, in a restaurant, in obscure villages in foreign countries, at sports camps around the world.

“It’s been very gratifying for me,” he said. “I’ve had a wonderful time.

“Muskogee is the best place for me to be,” Glatt said. “In my life, I’ve always been at the right place at the right time — we can touch the whole world from here.”

On the horizon, he’s making plans for First Baptist’s national and foreign mission trips.

“It’s quite a moving experience for me to lead someone to Christ through the power of magic,” he said.