Monday

The Mexican Baptist Church

Another story from my early days as a church insurance agent. Part of my territory was Imperial County, CA. The county was kind of an afterthought. Somebody had to cover it, but it was not a desirable area. Imperial County is a very large area geographically that is either farmland (where they have water), desert (where they don't), and a sprinkling of cities, the largest of which is El Centro.

An unfortunately large number of churches in Imperial County are in sad shape. They have older buildings that have spent years subjected to bitter cold in the winter, blazing heat in the summer, and high winds year around. With small congregations there's little money for regular repairs. They're not all that way, but there seems to be a higher percentage of churches like that in Imperial County than other areas I'm familiar with.

I had a call from a Mexican Baptist church in Imperial County just a stone's throw from the Mexican border. The pastor didn't speak any English, but somehow I was able to communicate with him that I needed to tour the building. From the outside it wasn't a bad looking place. It was probably built in the 30's or 40's and had ornate architecture with a big dome.

We made our way into the sanctuary, and although the building was dated, it didn't look too bad. I noticed a section of the rear of the sanctuary was draped off, so I went over to see what was behind the curtain. I figured it was a classroom or meeting area that they want to keep separate from the auditorium. Not quite.

When I pulled back the curtain I found an area where the entire plaster ceiling had fallen in, probably due to a bad roof and water leaks. Plaster was hanging loose on the ceiling, and pieces were on the pews and seats below. I immediately knew that I had wasted an entire day and about 300 miles of driving to come to this church. There's no way we could touch it.

Since I couldn't speak Spanish I couldn't tell the pastor the tour was over, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so we continued. The church had a large basement, and as we were walking down the stairs the hand rail pulled out of the wall and the pastor fell down the stairs. It was everything I could do to keep from laughing. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt and as soon as I could I said my goodbyes and began the long drive home.

Needless to say, I didn't extend them an offer.

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