Easy Come, Easy Go!
My Brief Acquaintance With a Priest
Words of Life!
Volume 5, Number 4 -- September-October 1994
A Publication Ministry of Word of Life Baptist Churchor
by Fred G. Zaspel
If you are familiar with our church at all you are aware that we are in the slow process of establishing a building fund. We have very much enjoyed these facilities which God has given us. But there are occasions when there are only four or five seats left empty. It doesn't take a prophet to tell that we should be planning for the future!
But I said this is a slow process. Word of Life is in that odd position of becoming too large for the present facilities, yet too small to be able to afford much more. So we save, and we pray that God will provide what is best for this His ministry here in Pottsville.
As of late September the need had been met. A man whom we'll call "Mark" called me and asked to meet me at the church later that evening for some prayer and counsel. By evening I was not feeling so good, so I asked Carmen DiCello, my co-pastor, to talk with the man in my place. I spoke with him again later, several times.
As it went, Mark explained how he had been a priest in the Roman Catholic Church for some twelve years. He had since left the priesthood and had married. He said that he had since come to know Christ as his own lord and savior.
He also shared many stories about the priesthood and about life in the rectory which were really quite interesting and insightful!
He went on to explain that he was suffering from cancer and had been told that he had only a month or two to live. Within the last year his father had died. So also had his only son, and then his wife.
He said that his father had left an estate of $500,000. The insurance policies from his wife and son amounted to another $400,000. Besides all this he owned four pieces of property which had been willed to him by his father. His total net worth was something like $1.8 million.
The purpose of his visit, he said, was to ask if he could donate all that he owned to our church. Now understand, he did not want to leave it to the church in his will--he wanted to give it all over now so that he would know it all was in place just as he wanted.
Now these things don't just happen every day. So we argued with him. Why? Why us? Why now? Why not just put the church in your will?
He explained that he wanted his money to go to a good church who believed and preached the Bible. He said that he had been to see several of the pastors in the area, and we were the first ones to question him at all, let alone argue! And he said that he had observed my articles in the newspaper over the past few years and felt sure that our church was the one he wanted. He even--at the instruction of his attorney--had written a Letter of Intent stating that all this was to be done.
I pressed him, in view of his imminent death, concerning his relationship with Christ. He assured me that he was trusting Christ alone to save him. But he was very concerned that we pray for him in this present crisis--which I did each time I was with him for three days.
So he called again the next day to see if we could go and see our attorney. I took him, and we made preliminary arrangements. His attorney was to come up here from Philadel-phia on Saturday, and all the papers were to be signed over.
Then he volunteered to take Carmen and me to see his Pottsville property on Friday evening.
Now mind you, we are incredulous. This just can't be true. But here it is--God has answered our prayers. Our building will be paid for--in cash.
Friday evening came. And then it went. Mark had vanished. In the mean time Carmen and I had gone to the address he had given us. There was only one problem--it didn't exist.
But where was Mark? We had his Letter of Intent. We had the addresses of the other properties he wanted to donate--in Philadelphia and in Atlantic City, NJ. Were they as wrong as the Pottsville one? And if so, then what can we make of the last three days? He had given detailed descriptions of the properties. We had in our hands a list of the stocks, CDs, etc., which he wanted to give us--and so did our attorney. Was it all a charade? It couldn't be, there were too many details which could make no sense whatever unless the whole thing was true.
So we waited for Saturday to meet with him and his attorney, along with ours. But again Mark was nowhere to be found.
Mark said that he wanted the money to be given to me personally, to ensure that it would be used as he thought it should be. When I insisted that he give it to the church instead, he made two stipulations, namely, that I be the only one with control of the money and that no one know that he had given it. He just wanted it to go to the Lord's work. (He also said that I should pay off my house and buy a new car. And put a cellular phone in it. He even told me what it would cost.)
With those stipulations, believe me, I had plans. First off, our church building was a done deal. All our missionaries were going to get a very significant raise. We finally were going to be able to pay Carmen for his work. And Paul. And Jim. And I have pastor and professor friends all over who are struggling to make ends meet whose struggling days were over. (Sorry Don, Rod, Dave, Tom, John, Gary, Bob, Lloyd, etc.!) I also was contriving a "bribe" for our favorite musicians (George and Kathy Abbas) to move out here--a deal they couldn't refuse. I had great plans. And quite frankly, in spite of all the doubts we had and had discussed all along, it was fun spending all the money!
But by Saturday afternoon it was clear that Word of Life was still--financially--as poor as ever. And we still needed to give attention to the building fund.
Mark had relayed to me details of the conversations he had with the doctors. He even wrote a letter giving me permission to talk to the doctors about him. I spoke to the doctors, but (you guessed it) they had never heard of him.
It's a story I'll tell my grandchildren. It is the most bizarre, inexplicable thing I have ever experienced. I have no idea whatever why the man did what he did. Evidently it was all a lie--a meaningless charade with no apparent punch line at all. He wanted nothing in return. He just wanted to give.
We've seen him walking around town a few times since. Maybe one of these days I'll stop and ask him about his health.
But unless God should see fit to send along someone who really will donate a huge sum of money, our building fund remains. And so does our responsibility.