I have been out of sorts lately because the pastor of the church that my husband and I have attended for six years, has apparently lost his mind. The week before Fathers Day he called my stepdaughter late at night, waking her up, and asked her to do an “important favor” for him. The favor, if she had done it, would have been a federal felony on the military base where she works.
My stepdaughter, whom I have grown to love like my own daughter during the two years that she has lived with us, was devastated, confused, heartbroken, and angry. She came to me with all of this the morning after the pastor’s call, because she did not want to upset her dad. Her dad, my husband, has had three heart attacks in years past, and he recently had an eye hemorrhage, possibly caused by a blood pressure spike.
After my stepdaughter told me what our pastor had asked her to do, I was also devastated, confused, heartbroken, and angry. Over the years, I had come to love this man like a younger brother. Some of his sermons have moved me to tears. Plus he and his wife were a huge help to us after my husband’s motorcycle accident in 2014.
When my stepdaughter came here to live in 2015, her dad and I invited her to our church. At first she was unsure, because it’s nothing like the denomination she was raised in. But she really wanted to worship with us, and eventually she grew to love the people there. For the past several months she has become very active in doing things for the church, getting up before dawn, when she isn’t even a morning person, to cook breakfast for students at the church before she had to go to work. She did this, even during the days after she had major dental surgery, when she was on a liquid diet only and could not eat any of the delicious food she was cooking!
But she did it all voluntarily and very joyfully. She was bubbling over with happiness, because it felt so good to be part of an extended Christian family for the first time since she was a little girl. She had even started to run errands with her truck and physically helping out the pastor and his wife in their construction business, after getting off work from being on her feet all day at her government job. She did all of this without pay, for the sheer joy of serving the Lord, serving the church, and helping out the pastor and her new Christian friends.
But then the pastor calls her up late at night, talking all “hyper,” she said, like someone who is on a manic bipolar high, and he asks her to commit a federal felony for him.
The day after my stepdaughter told me what the pastor had asked her to do, the pastor called my husband’s cell phone while he was still asleep. I answered, and I told the pastor about my husband’s recent eye hemorrhage, and that the doctor’s nurse had said it was probably a blood pressure spike. I reminded the pastor about my husband’s history of three heart attacks, and I told him that he had an appointment with his VA doctor in three days. In the meantime, I said, we were trying to keep my husband calm, which was very hard for us to do, considering that we were so upset about the pastor asking my stepdaughter to commit a federal felony on the military base where she is employed!
I also told the pastor that I had grown to love him like a brother, and I appreciated very much all the help he had given us after my husband was injured in a motorcycle accident. But, I said, none of that makes it OK for him to ask our daughter to commit a federal crime for him!
Then the pastor asked me if I would come outside and talk with him face to face. He was calling from right outside our house! Call me a chicken, but I did NOT feel safe about doing that. You see, what this man had asked my stepdaughter to do was to buy him a gun illegally, a gun without a safety. He wanted her to buy this particular gun at the military exchange store, to buy it in her name, because “someone was probably using his ID or had the same (very rare!) name, so he can’t buy a gun himself, and it would be a felony for his wife to buy it for him, because of some “stupid government law” that prohibits the spouse from buying a gun when you can’t buy it” —
— these are the words that my very distraught stepdaughter swears our pastor said to her, and she is NOT THAT GOOD OF AN ACTRESS to make all this up!! Not even an academy award winner actor could fake something this good. Plus, why would she even want to make something like this up? You could see on her face how much she loved being involved in our church!
Not only did the pastor tell my stepdaughter that he wanted her to buy him this particular gun that he had seen on sale at the military base exchange store (he saw the gun on a sales flyer that my stepdaughter had posted on her FB wall, for the benefit of her military followers) — he told her she could “give it to him as a gift,” and that he would pay her for the gun, plus give her some extra money “for her trouble.” And in addition to this, a few days prior to him calling her late at night to ask her to buy this gun, he had called her at work and asked her to buy him a particular camouflage style military uniform and a matching military camo style backpack — and when she told him that these items are restricted to active duty military personnel only, he said “Well, you work by yourself most of the time, don’t you? You can buy them when no one else is there.”
What is this guy planning to do? Does he want to be Rambo now??? He has never been in the military, so he has no rights to anything on sale at the base exchange store.
Considering all of these things, plus the fact that my own father, who was also a church pastor, was arrested when I was twelve years old for trying to murder my mother — I was the only witness, and it involved a gun!! — considering all of that, I Did Not Feel Safe about going outside to talk to the pastor at that moment, all by myself.
Plus I happen to know, because the pastor’s wife has talked at length about these things during the weekly women’s Bible studies, that she and the pastor are being audited for the past several years by the IRS, they are being accused of tax fraud, and in the past year they have been questioned twice by Child Protection Services, because someone has accused them of child abuse! And the pastor’s wife keeps crying about how they are Totally Innocent of tax fraud and child abuse, but Satan is attacking them!
So, because I knew all of these things, after my stepdaughter told me about the pastor wanting her to buy him this gun and the camouflage military uniform and backpack, we did a Google search on his very unique name and found FIVE CRIMINAL ARRESTS in California, in the area where we know they lived prior to them moving here to New Mexico about seven years ago!
I had just finished telling the pastor that I know about their IRS audit and their problems with Child Protection, and I told him that we had searched his name online and found out about his arrests. And I told him, “Look, we all have a past. But maybe CPS and the IRS investigations are not all “Satan attacking” you — maybe, at least some of it, is reaping what you sow!”
I then reminded him of the scriptures which tell us that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual, not carnal, and we need to trust God to protect us. We Christians aren’t supposed to go around shooting our enemies, we are called to LOVE our enemies!
After I said all of these things to this pastor, when he asked me to come outside and talk to him face to face right then and there, and I realized that he was calling from right outside our house — call me a big chicken, but I did NOT feel safe about going outside to talk to him right then!! So I told him no, I was not going to do that, and I ended the call.
OK…. giving this pastor the benefit of the doubt, maybe he did not realize that what he was asking our daughter to do was in fact against federal laws. But even if he did not know this, until I informed him of the fact, can you guess what this man did — this man who has been our pastor for six years — right after I ended our phone conversation?
……he unfriended both my husband and my stepdaughter on Facebook! He did this, although neither of them had said one cross word to him about anything, *I* was the only one who did that! (I am not on Facebook, therefore he could not unfriend me. So I guess he got his petty “revenge” by unfriending my family, instead.)
So now my husband, our daughter, and I are grieving the loss of our church family, the loss of our pastor, and the loss of our Christian friends — one of whom is suddenly ignoring my stepdaughter’s texts, and taking many more hours than usual to answer mine. Who knows what this pastor is telling people. Oh, and the pastor’s wife also unfriended my stepdaughter, so again, we are wondering what the pastor has told her, and what poor pitiful sob story she has brought now to the weekly Bible study. (The woman who is now ignoring my stepdaughter’s texts, rarely misses a Bible study.)
The past three weeks have been very painful, for all of us. But, you know what? People are human, people are imperfect, and people will fail you, yes, even church pastors. However, I am NOT going to lose my faith over this, like I did at the age of twelve after my minister father went crazy and almost murdered my mother. And again thirty years ago, when I worked for a major TV ministry for several years and lost my faith a second time, because of the hypocrisy I saw going on there!
Today, my eyes and my heart and my faith are fixed on the Only One who is perfect and sinless all the time, the One whose Love never fails, and who will never, ever let us down.
Our Heavenly Father will never unfriend, unfollow, or block us. Only we humans do that.
What a Friend we have in Jesus!