The thrilling saga of God’s Upgrades and My Adventures continues with this week’s excerpt, in which your hero find himself out of a job and moving into a new sphere of work …
It was with some trepidation that the following Monday I was rudely awakened by my alarm at 5 am. Nevertheless, as I drove the 25 minute journey to the depot I prayed, as you do, not just that God would look after me, but also for opportunities to be a good witness, and to show the love of Christ to those among whom I was to work.
The depot had been an old army barracks, and several large hangar-sized warehouses were dotted about the place. Each had half a dozen or so loading bays, each with a little set of traffic lights to tell you when it was safe to drive off without taking a forklift and its driver out for the day with you, handy as I was to discover this might have been. As I parked the car I noticed a collection of about 30 huge white trucks parked just round the corner. They must be the ones for the real drivers, I decided, people with HGV licenses. I wondered where they parked the 7.5 tonners. I couldn’t seem to see any.
I walked into the IKEA warehouse. Imagine the scene. 20 or 30 men, ranging in age from 18 to over 60, and arrayed as I was in fluorescent vests, stood around waiting for their orders for the day. Some were laughing raucously in groups; some were perusing page three of the Sun (or worse), all were swearing fluently and profusely. Most of them were built as though they could carry a bed-settee under each arm up eight flights of stairs without breaking a sweat, 40 roll-ups and two greasy breakfasts a day notwithstanding. My prayer for witness quickly turned into a prayer for survival.
Initially and mercifully no one took much notice of me. It was no big deal; temps came and went almost daily, I discovered, and were not a great cause of excitement among the regulars. But it wasn’t very long at all before I did gain some curiosity value. The manager was working systematically down his list, and before long the inevitable happened: he got to me. When he shouted across the room for ‘The Reverend Leach!’ I realised that Agency-man had told them all about me. My reputation had gone before. In that moment I was instantly and dramatically outed. There was a vicar on the crew! I was an immediate celebrity. A strange silence filled the office, as all eyes turned in my direction. If there had been someone playing a honky-tonk piano in the corner, they would have stopped instantly. The silence was broken by a small outbreak of Gregorian chant from some wags in one corner. I smiled nervously around the room, trying to look as if I did this every day.
Initially there were a couple of misunderstandings to clear up. ‘Are you really a Reverend?’ I was asked, both then and constantly for the duration of my stay there. I told them I was, but they still thought I was having a laugh. ‘Why on earth would anyone want to pretend they were a vicar, if they weren’t really and they weren’t going to a fancy dress party?’ I asked. They could see my point.
The other misunderstanding was more serious. One of the bosses had also come from a professional background, but had been struck off for a serious misdemeanour, and so was now working in the transport office. This was common knowledge among the staff, so of course my arrival posed a whole new question. Why should a vicar turn up for work here? There could only be one reason: he’d been at the choirboys. Either that or he’d been helping himself from the collection-plate. Which was it? they wanted to know. I reassured them that it was neither. I was just between jobs, resting.
God’s Upgrades … My Adventures is published by Authentic