Being in ministry means you see people at their best and their worst. You experience all kinds of situations. And you have a few stories to tell. Here are a few of the strangest things I’ve encountered in the past 40 years.
When I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary in the early 80’s, I received a phone call out of the blue. A woman asked if I was Mark Wheeler. When I said, Yes, she asked if I was from __________ (I don’t remember the city or state). I said, No, I was not from that area. She went on to explain that she was looking for a long lost grandson. Her son/daughter had moved away and she lost track of where they lived. She was searching the phone book trying to locate her grandson. I was sorry I could not help her.
I received a very strange phone call one day in my first pastoral position. When I answered the phone, the person said, “Father, forgive me.” I responded, “Excuse me?” The voice said again, “Father, forgive me.” I said, “What do you need forgiveness for?” The voice said, “I killed someone.” CLICK. They hung up. I spent the rest of the day in a daze wondering if it was a prank or real. I even scoured the newspaper for the next few days for stories about crimes and murder. I never found out one way or another.
During my time in Seattle , I taught a class for young families. One of the couples was expecting a baby. I received a call one morning asking me to come to the hospital. The child was born with a genetic defect and was on life support. I quickly went to the hospital and spoke with the mom. The baby would only live a few short days. The parents had to make the difficult decision to take her off life support. They invited me to be present in the hospital with them and their family when they did that. It was a very surreal experience of feeling like I was standing in the doorway of heaven watching someone depart.
Three or four years ago, I received a phone call at 2:30AM. The voice on the phone asked for Mark Wheeler. When I said it was me, they said, “This is April. Marky was in an accident and is in the hospital.” Clearly feeling groggy, I said, “Say again?” “This is April. Marky is in the hospital.” “Which hospital?” I asked. “Bay State,” they responded. I had no idea who Marky was, but I knew an April who served in the church’s AWANA program. I quickly got dressed and went to Bay State Medical Center. I talked my way into ER saying that I was Mark Wheeler. The nurse took me to appropriate cubicle. When she pulled back the curtain, the people there stared at me dumbfoundedly and I stared back at them. They had no idea who I was and I had no idea who they were. The nurse asked what was going on and I tried to explain. It turned out the patient who was in an accident was named Mark Wheeler and his father was Mark Wheeler. April looked in the phone book and called the first one she found. It just wasn’t the right one. I was back home by 3:30AM with a story to tell.