I live on the church grounds. I will blog about manse life someday, but suffice it to say that the congregation is very good at respecting our ‘space’ but no matter how good they are, it can get a bit like living in a fishbowl.
The manse faces the church with a parking lot in between. Yesterday when I came home with The Boy there was a beat-up, 1970’s, camper parked right in front of my house. Admittedly, I groaned. My heart unfortunately has been hardened and with a church fairly close to the interstate with clear signs leading the way to our church (thank you pcusa for THAT initiative) I have seen campers like this before. You know the type: rusting from the outside in, faded fabric and/or plywood covering the windows, a lawn chair in between the two front seats (which are ripped and a lovely grimey brown) so that a third party can sit in the front too… it wasn’t pretty, and frankly it made me nervous.
The church is not totally out in the middle of nowhere, but it is separated from homes with a lot of farmland around. It is a bit isolated – enough where neighbors and such would not really notice a strange car/van/camper in the parking lot… or potentially my screams for help. Adding to all this is that TDH was still over at his Dad’s helping him function after his latest chemo treatment and I was home alone with The Boy.
I have had folks pull in here before when I wasn’t home and wait for the pastor to come home. One guy reportedly was here for hours before I came home and was none too happy with the standard $10 gas card and the list of directions to other resources that could help him with shower, meal, clothing, shelter, etc… Again, my heart has admittedly been hardened because it is overwhelmingly the case that if you do not give these folks cash, they nastily tell you that they are not looking for any of the other kinds of help you are offering them. With only an 8 month old, a cat and a Golden Retriever who would lick the hand of Satan if he thought it would get him some pets available to protect me I decided to avoid handling any potential conflict on my own.
What WOULD Jesus do in 2005 in my church parking lot? (Although I don’t think this is fair since he knew he was being resurrected and I have no such guarantee.)
---Please no theology lessons in reference to this. I know I do have a guarantee, this is just a bad joke that is funnier when said than typed. No really, trust me, it is. ---
So I park the van on the lawn in front of my house and unload what I can and The Boy keeping my eye on the camper. Once safely inside with doors locked I consider various strategies. I go with calling a couple that lives up the road so that she can keep her eye on The Boy and he can increase my burly factor as I knock on the camper door and attempt to get these people back on the road.
They come down and after knocking and banging on the camper it is apparent that no one is in there. We talk to some neighbors. They have seen this thing both yesterday and today going up and down the road and into the parking lot and then out. No one recognizes it or knows anything more about it.
All throughout this everyone is saying the same refrain over my apologies for making a bigger deal than this is probably worth: “You can’t be too careful these days…” “Unfortunately these days you’ve got to look into these things…” Things have changed these days…”
Alright, longer story slightly shorter… we end up calling the State Police (there is no police station out here and no I did not call 911.They were well aware that this was not an emergency.) The trooper comes out and does a check on the license plate and it turns out it is folks who live down the road. He goes down to talk to them and they call me. They are having a garage sale yesterday and today and needed a place to park this thing.
I told him that was fine, but when people do that they a) let us know and b) park over to the side or towards the back, not directly in front of my house.
The trooper came back and said the guy’s wife is mortified and livid. I can only imagine their own family story that will eventually become something like: “Remember when your father’s ugly, stupid, trashy camper had the local pastor calling the cops on him?”
So unfortunately that is life ‘these days’. You can’t just trust that these things are nothing. You have to be aware of your own safety even out here in the country.
One more funny note: the camper was totally locked. Some of the windows were nailed shut, but it was shut. The trooper was cracking up saying he see this all the time – a totally trashy vehicle (and this thing fit the description) and yet whoever left it locked the whole thing up just in case someone might want to steal that lawn chair with a hole in it where the front seat is supposed to be!