After my family Thanksgiving get-together, Katie & I decided to stop at church to get my laptop. When I got into the office, the dreaded answering machine light was blinking. The message was very hard to make out. At first I thought it was a Doctor leaving a death notice (weird). But each time I listened I understood it a bit better. It was a guy named Scott asking for a pastor to call him in regards to a death. I figured I better check into it.
It was extremely difficult to make out the number. I tried 3 numbers, but finally did get an answer from this 'Scott.' He explained, with a southern accent, that his mother had been killed by a drunk driver a few days previous in Florida. He and his family had driven down for the funeral and to take care of her belongings. He also explained that he was struggling with the big 'Why' question. He quoted a few passages (God works all things out for good, God won't allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle). He seemed to just want some counsel. But then the conversation changed gears.
Apparently, on their way back home, the family car had broken down on the Florida turnpike. Scott wondered how things could get any worse! He wanted to send his family home via a Greyhound bus, but he was short on cash (no credit card?). Why was he calling our church, you may wonder? Scott suggested that his family had visited our church a few weeks previous. I had met him, his wife, and their two little girls.
Now, I find these to be difficult situations. There is always the chance that I did meet such a couple and simply forgot. There's always the chance that this is a true story and helping out would be a very Christ-like thing to do. Of course, that's exactly why a con-artist would use such a story! I told Scott that he should contact a local church down there and that we wouldn't be be able to just 'wire' him some money. As soon as I indicated that I wouldn't be helping, Scott hung up.
Now, if my recent history has anything to do with it, it'll turn out that Scott was legit and I blew a chance to help a family in need. If, on the other hand Scott is a con-artist (as I suspect) then I have a few tips for him. First, if you want to succeed in the scam business, you have to leave clearer messages. I almost gave up trying to call you because I could not tell the difference between your 5's and your 9's. Second, be more persistent. Never hang up. Force the pastor to hang up on you. Work harder to live your lazy life.
I also have some tips for churches. Never send or give cash to strangers unless God audibly tells you to (though I'm sure that suggestion will give the con-artists a whole new strategy). Maybe I've just gone cold, but I think churches need policies against giving cash in such situations. At least in our area, there is just too much scamming going on. We get this sort of junk on an almost weekly basis (calls and actual visits). The story is always desperate, the cash needed immediately, and they're always eager to pay you back within the next few days. It's a scam.