Siblings in Christ, I’m not sure what I’d originally planned to write about this month, because I’ve totally forgotten. The thing that’s taken most of my attention for the last 48 hours is the 27-foot deep hole that opened up in my backyard, just 12 feet from my house! For those who haven’t heard, there was apparently a well dug by hand sometime in the late -1800s. When the well was abandoned, it was simply covered with wood, which was then covered with dirt and grass, and forgotten about. Over the course of the next century or so, the wood covering the well slowly rotted until, on Monday, September 27th, a small piece of the ground caved in and exposed the abandoned well. First, I think it’s nothing short of miraculous that no one fell in and nobody was hurt. During our annual Rally Breakfast, we drove an ATV over this abandoned well. During Kid’s Time, elementary school kids played hide -and-seek in my backyard. The dirt covering the well was weakening and collapsing so much that, eventually, all it took was gravity to cave it in, and yet it never caved in while someone was on top of it. Thanks be to God. But the other thing that I wanted to mention was that it’s going to cost approximately $5,000 to properly fill and seal this well in accordance with state regulations, and that money will probably end up coming from our endowment fund. In this case, the endowment fund is doing exactly what it’s designed to do: covering a large, unbudgeted, unexpected expense so that the church’s general and building funds don’t have to. We started this endowment fund four years ago, and to date it has produced enough revenue to cover a total of roughly $8,500 in building maintenance expenses for the church, including the cost of filling in the old well. And there is still money available! And that’s just the income from the endowment. The original principal remains untouched! So, thanks be to God that nobody was hurt when the old well finally caved in. Thanks be to God that our church has the resources to properly fill and seal the well. And, if you’ve never given any money to our endowment fund or if you haven’t given in a while, it may be a good idea to make a contribution. You never know when we might be really thankful we have that resource available!
Blessings, Rev. Dustin Bartlet
Last week, I was made aware of an email scam that’s being carried out in my name.
The way the scam works is that an email will be sent, which claims to be from me or from another pastor you know. The email will look like it came from me, but if you look carefully at the email address, you’ll see that it’s off by one letter.
The email will say something to the effect of, “I need your help with an urgent matter that I need you to handle discreetly. Email me as soon as you can.” If you reply to the email and indicate you can help, the scammer (who is posing as a pastor) will then say that they are trying to help someone who’s having a financial emergency but don’t have money immediately available, so they’ll ask you to go and purchase some kind of gift card and then email the card numbers to them and promise to pay you back.
Of course, it’s a scam, so the “pastor” simply uses the gift card to buy things for himself, and doesn’t pay you back.
This is actually a fairly common scam, and many of my colleagues have been impersonated over the last couple of years. Pastor Peary Wilson, of Pringle, was impersonated just a few months ago. I guess it’s my turn.
So, first of all, I will never email you and ask you to send money or gift cards directly to me. The ministerial alliance has money to help people in financial emergencies and has systems for distributing that money. In the event that I do ask you to donate money in order to help others, I would always have you make your donations to the church or to the ministerial alliance, never to me directly.
Second, if you have any reason to suspect that a message that appears to be from me isn’t real, verify it first. One easy way to catch these email scams is to send a new email as a follow, rather than hitting “reply.” That’s because these impersonators use an email address that is very similar to the real one, but which is off by a single letter or number somewhere. If you hit “reply,” then your email will go to the scammer’s fake, almost-identical email address. But if you start a new email using the address you already have, it will go to the person being impersonated instead of the scammer, and they can quickly confirm that they didn’t send the fake email.
Finally, be very skeptical of anyone asking you to send money or gift cards online. Even if it looks legitimate and from someone you know, don’t trust it. Verify it. Call the person in question and speak to them directly. This email scam in which pastors are impersonated is one of many, many scams out there. So be as innocent as doves, but be as wise as serpents!
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