Why do you have the doors open?
… … …
“Hello? Anyone here?” I heard a deep male-like voice.
‘Great. Why did I leave the door open? I have to deal with another plea for emergency assistance. I do not have time for this. I should not have left the door open.’ I thought to myself. But, it was too late. I have to smile and see who is at the hallway in my church.
“Hi there!” I said.
“What are you doing sir? Why are you here? Who are you?” asked the male figure.
I had to blink twice. ‘Why is he asking so many odd questions?’ My contacts were off. All I could see was a blurry brown-clothed male figure.
“Huh? Oh, I was unloading the backpack boxes.” I replied.
“Who are you?” The male figure asked while stretching one hand to signal not to come close, and the other hand on the gun. I realized I was talking to a county sheriff.
I paused. I was puzzled by his precautionary actions. Then, it occurred to me what I was wearing: baggy sweatpants (I always sag my sweatpants), a hoodie, and running shoes. I dressed down because I was recovering from food poisoning/stomach bug the day before. I did not feel all that well.
“Oh, I am the pastor here, and I am just unloading the boxes.” I replied.
“Why do you have the doors open?” Sheriff asked me. Clearly, he didn’t believe that I was the pastor. My mind was racing. We were having this exchange inside the church. The church that I was serving.
… … …
Tuesday, April 4, was a strange day. I tried to sleep in because I was recovering from food poisoning/stomach bug. My head was throbbing. I was severely dehydrated. Monday night was terrible. But, I felt better on Tuesday morning.
I was also in a good spirits because the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill won the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament. The splendid weather did help me to feel better as well.
I had only one required schedule on Tuesday: to pickup the backpack food and unload it at the church. So, even though I felt terrible, I dressed up (or dress down) and went to pick up the backpack food from our county’s delivery point.
When I arrived at the county’s delivery point, I saw other folks who were also helping with the backpack program for the county. Then, out of the blue, people came up to me and apologized to me. They kept saying, “I am sorry that I treated you so rough last time. I didn’t know you were a pastor.” Others mentioned, “I apologize for questioning your decision. I thought you were out of line by making decisions for us, but you had some authority with the backpack program.”
“I didn’t know you were a pastor.” is a phrase I hear all the time. I get overlooked by visitors of my church. They are shocked that I am the pastor, and while they are polite, they never come back. I get stopped whenever I enter a funeral home. They are shocked that I am a pastor. More specifically, they are surprised that I am their client’s pastor.
All I could muster, with my throbbing headache, was to tell the other backpack people that I understood their positions. I did my best to look lively. I was not in a mood for conversations. So, I picked up the boxes and headed back for the church as quickly as I could.
I could not bear to hear the words again: “I didn’t know you were a pastor.”
… … …
“Why do you have the doors open?” asked the sheriff.
“I was unloading the backpack boxes. You can see where I am unloading them here.” I replied.
“I need to see your identification. Do you have one with you by any chance?” asked the sheriff.
“Sure. Here you go.” As I reached down for my driver’s license, I still notice that his right hand is still on the gun. “I just live right there.” The sheriff took his time examining my drivers license.
After looking at my driver’s license, he relaxed his posture and said, “Mr. Kim (still no mention of pastor/reverend) thank you for the ID.” And, he offers to shake my hand. And, I refused his handshake by putting my two hands up, “I am not feeling too well. You do not want what I have.”
I proceeded to show him where I was putting the boxes. And, I pointed to the hand truck to show him how I was transporting the boxes. As we were going outside to my truck together, he informed me that he saw me sitting in the truck while he was passing by, and the next thing he saw was that the church’s door was wide open. He was looking for somebody and I caught his attention. He thought I was robbing the church. Basically, he was doing his job.
“I understand. Thanks for checking in. Have a good one.” I said as he went back to his patrol car.
… … …
So many thoughts were going through my mind. I felt hurt that I was “profiled” at my church, inside of the church building that I serve. I felt angry that I had to show my ID to prove that I was not robbing the church. I felt disrespected because he certainly did not believe that I was a pastor.
At the same time, I was grieving about other things. Why did the sheriff think that the opened church door on a weekday was abnormal? Why was it the norm to assume that rural churches only open its door on Sunday mornings?
… … …
I hope for that day when someone will believe me that I am pastor, pastor of an all-Anglo rural church. I hope for that day when people do not restrict my occupation based on my race. I hope for that day when it is abnormal for rural churches to close their doors during the weekdays.