I wish that some more of my friends and my wife could have been with me this evening for dinner. I stopped by La Cocina in Smithfield with a dear friend of the family. We decided to meet at 6:30 at the restaurant, so I arrived a bit ahead of time to get a table. While I was waiting, I saw someone whom I never enjoy seeing enter the restaurant with his wife and daughter (I think that is who he was with. My back was to them, but that would make sense.)
Years ago, this man was buying a radio station and making it into a "Christian"/Positive Country station. He basically made all executive decisions, all programming and hiring was done through his organization, his "ministry" owned all the equipment, and he made a lot of promises as to improvements that never materialized. With his decision making and lack of funding promised, he ran that station into the ground. The sad thing was that we had started to improve listenership, even with the crappy signal and equipment we had. A few professionals improved the sound as best we could and held things together.
The general manager was a friend of mine with whom I had worked at another station in Raleigh. Another friend and coworker of ours from that same station came to join us there. The G.M. and I have since become even better friends and we hang out together a lot.
The "minister" created a situation where we could not sell ad time, we had little revenue, and we were falling behind in payroll. In talking to members of his congregation, some were under the impression that the church was purchasing that radio station, although it was never the church's deal, it was the private ministry of that pastor. Of course that didn't stop the fleecing of the sheep to contribute to the cause.
The G.M. worked for a few years without pay in order to fulfill the objective of the mission, with the understanding that he would eventually be taken care of monetarily. That never happened. He owed me over $3200 then denied owing it. A few other employees were actually asked to donate their back wages as a ministry gift. Then this man had the gall to say that he could not be sued for back wages on Biblical grounds.
Well, at the small claims court case, the man perjured himself. Everyone knew it. The former owner, who, on paper still owned the station only because the license transfer had never happened and the "minister" never fulfilled his end of the contract, was "legally" seen as the owner. That man had never had anything to do with that radio station in all the time I was there. He was basically out of all control, payroll, operations, programming, equipment, etc. He knew that he was being screwed in this whole transaction, and then he got screwed at the magistrate hearing. Each participant in that room knew that the man was lying, but he weaseled out of it.
My friend, the G.M. appealed that decision, but the "minister" hired a lawyer who spewed a bunch of B.S. and received summary judgement. We all knew it was wrong.
Ever since then, that "minister" has dodged me. I have seen him in Wal-Mart several times and he took off each time after seeing me. I have seen him at Golden Corral and he totally ignored me. I saw him this evening and he ignored me again. My friend told me that his wife sure noticed me and stared at me the entire time. The whole time, every time, I chuckle to myself. He knows his shame.
It would have been one thing if this man had come to me and been honest and said that he didn't have the money to pay me and it didn't look like I would get paid. Instead, he denied any knowledge of a part of my due compensation, though the G.M. had two different conversations with him about it. Later, his story changed to him not owing me anything. I don't take well to being lied to, especially by a clegyman. He basically dared former employees to sue him, declaring that we couldn't according to the Bible. That was sheer arrogance. I didn't sue him. I sued a corporation that he founded and of which he was the head. Only through legal technicalities did it work in his favor, although he knows the real truth.
After getting burned by this man, all I could do was pray for him and that radio station. I got to the point that I was very disappointed and frustrated. The radio station that I worked hard at improving was still lingering on the air, was sounding like crap, and this man still had his radio station, as well as stood in a pulpit every Sunday and preached righteousness. It just made no sense to me. I got to the place in praying for him (not against him, by the way) that I told the Lord that I just don't know what to pray for any more.
The Spirit told me to "pray that they would be shut down". That took me by surprise, since it seemed a bit odd. I was supposed to pray for my enemies, not against them. Very stunned (I remember that I was driving at the time and remember the conversation well.) So I said, something like, "Uh, OK, Lord. If it be your will, then I pray that you would shut them down." I prayed that a little hesitatingly and unwillingly, not knowing what it would mean. My heart's wish was that no harm would come to anyone or anthing. Within a week, the tower was struck by lightning, one piece of non-critical equipment was fried, and the station never operated again until it was taken back over by the previous owner, since the contract was basically null anyway.
I was told a few other things about that situation that I will not say here but hide in my heart. I learned a lot that day and week. It is a lesson that I will never forget.
To this day, that man has made no attempt at reconcilliation. I went to him when I was wronged and he never received me. Oh, well. He never did like the fact that I had some theological differences with him and would not attend his congregation. His son would ask me theological questions, I would give answers, and then get chewed out by this man because the son would get the answers I gave totally twisted and inaccurate by the time they were relayed to him. I was shocked and amazed at the confrontation I got over that. I still think about it and laugh, it was so bizarre and so far from how things were discussed.
My wife is still indignant (that is putting it mildly) over this whole thing. She is fairly bitter, having seen her husband screwed out of money by a minister and seeing how we suffered financially at the time of such an economic low point in our lives.
To add insult to the financial hosing, I was still owed money at the end of one calendar year. The back wages were actually reported on my tax form for that year as having been paid, even though they were not. Then, the following year, I got another tax statement claiming that same few hundred dollars that was due the previous year and paid the next year on that year's forms, as well. Basically, I got hosed yet again by double reporting of income. The first reporting was illegal. The second reporting was double the insult. It was done by this man's ministry in the name of the former owner, since I later inquired of the former owner as to who did the tax forms. On top of that, there was still an outstanding balance due me, as mentioned earlier.
Things like this have really left a "bad taste in our mouths", so to speak towards ministry. Add to that some of the things we have endured since, and we have a novel. Actually, I have been contemplating writing one. I already have a title picked out, but will not mention it here. It may get used by someone else.
One sad thing I realized a long time ago is that so called "Christian brethren" don't always treat people better than the "world". I have been treated better, more fairly, and more honestly by heathen than by any Christian employer or minister I have ever been around. That, my brothers and sisters, is a sad commentary.