I, Natalie Taylor, Meet the Exchangers

June 24
10:45 a.m.

Faith has entered my office and planted herself firmly in a chair across from my desk. She’s staying.

Her presence makes staff meeting very depressing today.

At least for me. Mark, Kate, and Tav are all talking about their vacation plans. To be fair, Mark is going to be working. But if you’re in Switzerland and eating chocolate that doesn’t sound like work to me. Tav’s being all secretive about where he’s going and what he’s doing, and Faith’s giving the little side look at Tav and has smirkyface. I want to slap them both. I wish it was socially acceptable to punch anyone in the face if you don’t like them.

“The pastoral exchange couple will be here on Friday.”

“Do they really have to come here?” I’m going to be the one working with them. Ugh.

“I got a few reference letters about them. I heard they were enthusiastic and fun.” Mark’s trying to reassure me. It’s not working

“Reference letters can be faked. They usually are.” Thank you, Mr. Sunshine Tav. Like I needed to hear that today.

“Oh Natalie, I’ll be here to take care of likkle you.” Faith baby talks me. She thinks she’s being charming. I wonder how everyone would react if I just got up from my chair, walked across to her, and knocked her out.

So going to tweet this meme! socially-acceptable-slap

Yes, that seems to be a recurring theme in my mind right now.

“Nat, you’ll be just fine. There’s not a person who doesn’t love you on sight.” Kate is trying to encourage me.

“I agree.” Tav is smiling at me and without looking in Faith’s direction, I can prove their statement wrong, right here, right now. I can hear the hiss all the way here.

But…does that mean Tav loved me on sight too? I wonder what he means… Was it just a rhetorical type of “I agree.” Or was it a more deep one like, “I agggggreee.” Did he agree agree? Or just…

“…and then Natalie, you can take it from there.”

Wait. What? I wasn’t listening. I was thinking about what Tav had said. Could we just rewind to the last few minutes…to right before Tav said, “I agree.”

“Hmmm…yes, no problem.”

No problem. What was I even talking about?

Think positive. You can handle anything. The couple is going to be wonderful. In fact, they’re going to invite you to Switzerland and give you a ticket to Paris…because you want to go to Paris by yourself.

Okay, much better.


June 26
4:30 p.m.

Mark’s back from the airport with a dour looking couple. I certainly hope not.

Maybe the exchange couple couldn’t make it and this couple needed help and Mark being Mark wanted to help them out.

“Natalie, meet your new boss.”

Oh God. Kill me now.

Mark’s introducing me to Pastor Don and his wife, Darlene, the exchange pastor couple. I’m suppressing the desire to sob uncontrollably—and I’m sure that will turn into hysterical lamenting…like the Psalms or some book of the Bible…a prophet. Yes, Jeremiah. I know my Bible. Kind of.

Yes, Folks. Behind Curtain Number 13, lucky for some, unlucky for others, is Don and Darlene! They have arrived, but they aren’t Swiss and there are no, absolutely no, chocolates.

Big disappointment on both accounts. I wish Mark had at least mentioned that.

“Pastor Don and Darlene are missionaries from Minnesota, but they’re church consultants in Europe.”

“Switzerland, most recently,” Don adds.

So they aren’t exactly pastoring a church. They are “church consultants.” I’m a PK. My mind translates this as: Couldn’t find a church that would hire them in the States so their denomination sent them off to be missionaries, and not good as missionaries, they became consultants!

“Don and Darlene, you’ll love Natalie. She knows everything about the church…great admin resource. My Assistant will be off for the summer, but Natalie will be here to help you in any way possible.”

Pause. I’m thinking, No way. That wasn’t part of my job description.

“Ha haaaa!” Don gives this hearty laugh and you know how you get fascinated and repulsed at the same moment…well, I do…anyway, his huge belly is shaking like Santa Claus. “Ha haaa! Natalie! We’re going to get on splendidly. Splendidly! You won’t even notice us here. Ha haaaaaaa!”

First, whenever anyone repeats themselves, warning bells go off in my head. And secondly, I did’t get the joke, so I just smiled politely. Did I mention he’s five foot five and weighs more than any missionary serving hungry people should weigh? His wife is the exact opposite. Taller by a couple inches than him, and thinner.

Jack Sprat and his wife.

“Natalie, I have to leave now.”

I’m clutching Mark as he is hugging me bye. Maybe he’ll never see me alive again. “Natalie, you’re going to be just fine.”

No, I’m not.

“Don, if you need me, you have my cell number. Call me if you have any questions or just ask Natalie.”

“Don’t worry, Mark.” Don’s smiling at him. I already think it’s a sinister smile—like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” “Darlene and I will take good care of Natalie and your church.”

Okay, he sounds very fatherly and concerned. Maybe I’m intuitively off.

I nearly burst into tears watching Mark walk out of my office door.

Natalie Taylor
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