About a year and a half ago, I began to search for a new apartment. I was about to get married so I needed a bit more space and money was tight. So I began poking around on Craig’s list. I stumbled upon a listing that looked perfect: Small house with a yard, right around the corner from my sister….600 bucks a month! The pictures looked nice, the price looked even better. So I sent an e-mail inquiring about the place.
The response was quick, and encouraging. The owner said his name was Matthew. Logistics were difficult for him because he was a “missionary” with an organization called “Christian Followers Crusade.” Apparently he had just been relocated to London for the next 2 years. The real-estate market in South Florida was not good, and he thought it would be better to rent his place out for the next 2 years to someone respectful and responsible.
That’s me…sign me up, and my future landlord sounds like such a wholesome, Christian man!
So Matthew requests a deposit, which could be sent immediately through Western Union, after which point he would ship me a key.
Woah nelly. I would really like to talk to a realtor first, do a walk through, check out the paper work, you know…normal procedural stuff. Seemed a bit fishy. So I began doing some detective work.
It took a quick Google search to discover that Matthew’s posting looked remarkably similar to a scam that was circulating on Craig’s list, probably originating from a network of scam artists in Nairobi, Kenya.
But I wanted to make sure, so I came up with a ridiculous plan. If Matthew agreed to what I was about to offer, I would know without a doubt that he was trying to rip me off. So I sent him the following e-mail and waited to see how he would respond:
Sorry for the late response, something has come up and I will be traveling for the next week and a half. I have an opportunity that I really need to take, but I don't know if you will agree to it. There will be a little extra money involved, however. I have extensive experience rehabilitating animals, especially pachyderms. Zoo Miami has a two day old new-born Asian Elephant named Ru-Ru that was born with Fetal Separation Anxiety Syndrome. I'm the only person in S. Florida with experience with this disease, and it requires 24/7 care. I know that this would be a great inconvenience, but would there be any possibility of me caring for Ru-Ru in your house for the next 2 1/2 months? I will confine him to one room to minimize any damage. There will be a fair amount of digested waste, which is normal for baby elephants, but we will protect the floors with sturdy plastic sheeting, and the Zoo has offered to cover any carpet cleaning expenses. I know this is a real inconvenience, but my options are really limited at this point. Zoo Miami will be giving me a $475 per month housing stipend, which I will give to you on top of the $600 per month rent. The total will be $1075 per month for the next 2 1/2- 3 Months. Like I said, I have very few options at this point. If you would agree to it I can wire you the first month rent in addition to the $400 deposit. I will be traveling with Ru-Ru to Johns-Hopkins University for medical treatment. I will be gone for about 10 days and may be unable to talk much, but I'll look forward to hearing from you after that and we can discuss details. Thanks for your patience!
All the best,
It was just a test. I would come clean and admit that Ru-Ru was a fabrication as soon as he expressed serious concern, set me up with his realtor and made sure I went through the proper screening.
Instead, Matthew called me the next day from an unlisted number and told me he was fine with letting Ru-Ru the Asian elephant stay in his house…and then asked me to wire him money. I decided to explore different options.
Which brings me to our work on the search committee. I’m not trying to sound flippant, but it has been a painstaking process and I think a little levity is a good thing once in a while. We have been blessed with the opportunity to explore many wonderful candidates, all of which seem to be loving, Godly men. We’re going about it the right way. The process has been efficient and conscientious. All of our prospects have been vetted by the PCA, with no room for “Craig’s List” candidates. There has been lots of prayer. And reference checks, followed by more prayer. Followed by a second round of reference checks….bookended by prayer. We are confident that God has chosen our man and equipped him with unique gifts to lead this body.
Just a quick update on the housing situation: Soon after the Ru-Ru debacle I got in touch with an actual realtor. She found us a great place with trustworthy landlords. Yeah, it’s a bit more than 600 bucks a month, but it is still a great deal. We’re much happier not having to clean up after a baby elephant every day!
Awesome blog Richard! Its such an honor for me to be a part of this body of such devoted saints (Pastoral Search Committee) who have given selflessly of their time and effort. May God bless the body with this new Pastor. Thank you for all the hard work. May He be glorified.