Some days, ministry is more fun than others.
So there's this couple: fiftysomething, married about five years, they seem nice but what do I know? Started coming to church a couple three weeks ago, so I don't really know them yet. They did tell me up front that they were having some financial trouble. His new job as a press photographer is already behind on the paychecks -- thank you, Death of Print. Then they lost their apartment, crashed with a friend. Then, Friday night, they were out on the street. Slept at the train station.
Saturday, they called me.
Now, I'm a foreigner with poor language skills and virtually no local connections. Not your go-to guy for emergencies. But Mother A., God bless her, has spent the last year networking like a crazy woman. So she made a couple of calls, and found them a place to stay for a few nights. It was a vacant apartment, and a nice one. I know it was nice, because I met them at church with a backpack full of blankets, picked up some groceries at the store, and took them over. You could say I helped them move in, although "moving in" meant putting their daypacks down on the floor and saying "Here we are."
That was a good day. I was glad to help.
Then, for two days, the owners worried. Who were these strangers they had let into their property? Were they drug addicts? Boozers? Would they wreck the place? Would they overdose and die and be found weeks later because of the smell? It is easy to chuckle during the daytime, but at night, these things can keep you awake. And they aren't irrational fears; we live in a bad old world, where things really do happen.
So they called me.
Politely but firmly, they said that two nights would be quite enough, and could I hand them the keys sometime tomorrow. So I went to bed, tossing and turning, knowing that I would have to wake up in the morning and change from Lord Bountiful into the moustache-twirling bad guy. Which I did, this morning. Called the guy at work, asked him to come home quickly. Walked over to the apartment, and explained things. Tears were shed, fears expressed. Rightly so. We took some time to clean house -- basically, this just meant wiping the kitchen counter.
The woman had washed some clothes, so we waited for them to dry, speeding it up a little by holding them near the burners of the gas stove.
It took about two hours. Then we left, locking the door and stepping out onto a brisk, windy autumn day. The sort of day that is pleasant to walk around in, until the sun goes down and it gets cold. I gave them some money for lunch, and walked over to the owner's house to drop off the keys.
I reassured the owner that the apartment was in good shape, that the people were grateful, and that even if her fears were misplaced, they weren't unreasonable. I thanked her, and started home.
It was noon, and it had already been a lousy day to be a pastor.