|© Olga Vasilkova | Dreamstime Stock Photos|
I ended up my working career by working in a church office. Sounds simple, right? Answer the phone, type up the bulletin, a cinch.
Unless you’ve worked in the office of a growing church (500 members when I started, 1200 when I left), let me just tell you: You have no clue what goes on there. The pastors weren’t always in the office, so as the only other full-time employee, I often handled crisis situations. I prayed with people, listened to their sad stories and tragedies, and sometimes gave them money if they didn’t smell like cigarette smoke. (Hey, if you can afford to smoke you can afford to pay your bills.)
But nothing in the job description prepared me for the eighty-year-old man who mistook my sympathy at his wife’s death for something else. I first met him in the grocery parking lot where he was looking lost. I stopped to help; turned out he was furious that someone had stolen his white truck. I hesitantly pointed out a white truck parked in the next row. He completely fell apart—his wife was on her deathbed and he just didn’t know what he was going to do without her. I listened to him talk and cry for an hour, then told him where I worked and that he should come by and talk to a pastor. Instead, he came by a couple weeks later to see me—his wife had died and he was very sad.
He lived on my route home, so twice when I saw him on the front porch I stopped and chatted with him for a few minutes. The second time as I got up to leave, he jumped to his feet and shoved his walker out of the way. He grabbed my upper arms with shockingly strong hands and kissed me on the lips. “God sent me a woman!” he shouted.
Unfortunately, I seem to have the same self-protective reflexes as a cabbage. I just stood there with my mouth hanging wide open in shock. Which left me wide open for the second kiss. Bleah! Gross! Ick!
I ran to my car. All the way home I shuddered, let out short screams and tried to get someone—anyone—on the car’s On-Star phone. No one was available in my time of need. Not even youth minister Craig, who later laughed his behind off saying, “Oh man I wish I’d been there! Oh man I wish I’d been there!” He's probably still laughing.
The old molester could not remember which house we’d moved the office to when the church outgrew itself, and he went door-to-door knocking and yelling, “I know Valerie’s in there! You send her out!” An eighty-year-old stalker. Someone asked my husband what he was going to do about it. John said, “I’m not going to punch an eighty-year-old!”
Which begs the question, exactly how young do my molesters have to be before John will defend my honor?
The church office manager held a meeting at which we were reminded to keep boundaries when doing ministry. She said, “If he wasn’t eighty, we’d be calling the police about the situation.” Instead, we called Jim, a member of the church who knew the old guy, and asked him to go explain that I was married and not interested, and the whole thing was inappropriate.
But I still shudder at the memory.