ou probably wouldn’t like Mr. Fire if you met him. That’s not his real name, but that’s what his name means in English. Many times I’ve thought, How appropriate, because he gets angry easily and yells a lot. I think everyone in our company is scared of him. I used to be, but God opened so many doors to get me a job working for him that I decided his yelling was a mission opportunity!
I had wanted to be a tentmaker for years. When I finished my engineering degree, I decided to send a resume to international companies in the Middle East and wait for God’s leading. Eventually, I got a job in a laboratory.
For the next couple of months, I worked alone in a room and had no contact with other employees. “Lord,” I prayed, “I didn’t come to the Middle East to sit alone in this quiet room. Please give me people to witness to!”
I felt impressed to circulate my resume again, this time to companies outside my career field. I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, to find myself standing in the office of the scowling, preoccupied manager of a rug import company. How could I complain to God if He gave me Mr. Fire?
Mr. Fire was serious and straight to the point. The company needed an export manager, the position offered good pay, and I would have plenty of interaction with people. I could imagine that the job would be a real tentmaking mission.
Trying to exude confidence, I answered Mr. Fire’s questions as professionally as possible. But the odds of making a good impression were against me. I had no experience in export management and wasn’t fluent in the language. Plus, I told him that I wouldn’t work on Saturday because it was my worship day. I thought he hadn’t heard me until he mumbled, “We don’t deal with anything about religion here.” Then, with little explanation about the job and a warning to work hard, he hired me.
The work environment was like none I had ever experienced. Mr. Fire’s mode of operation was to yell at everyone, convinced it was the only way to be heard and get things done. The employees had followed his lead. I, too, was concerned about being taken seriously, but I was determined to resist the toxic company culture. And my behavior didn’t go unnoticed.
One day, a colleague quietly asked, “Why don’t you yell?” I also noticed that I surprised my coworkers whenever I said “Thank you” for anything. I realized that working hard was my witness, saying thank you was my testimony, and not yelling was my best outreach.
One day, Mr. Fire seemed pleased at the number of orders I had processed that week, though he certainly didn’t say so outright. I took advantage of the relatively positive moment and tried to offhandedly suggest that he would get better work out of Leyla, an employee he frequently yelled at, if he treated her kindly. As usual, he gave no indication that he heard me, so I was surprised when a few days later, Leyla came to me grinning. For the first time in the three years that she had worked there, Mr. Fire had complimented her work.
Over time, I got to know my coworkers better, and we began to encourage each other. It took some of the sting out of the yelling we received. I also began doing better at my job and communicating in the local language. I praised God that we were getting great business results. Mr. Fire seemed to trust me more.
Then one day, he announced that I would represent the company at an annual weekend trade show. I felt honored, but I knew that one of the busiest days of the event would be a Sabbath. “I can’t work from sundown Friday evening to sundown on Saturday evening,” I reminded him.
“You will represent us,” he replied.
“But I will not go if . . .”
“Talk to your priest,” he interrupted. “I do not want to discuss this.”
“This isn’t about my priest’s permission,” I ventured. “It’s about my conviction.” His face froze, then darkened for a moment. I fully expected him to fire me, but for some reason, he didn’t.
I’ve always imagined that I would witness about the Sabbath by explaining why I kept it and what it meant to me. I would answer probing questions and inspire my curious audience to further study. But Mr. Fire brushed off anything I tried to say.
Then, one day, as I pushed back cautiously at one more of his trade show suggestions, he suddenly stopped short, as if he had finally heard something. “So, what do you do on Sabbath?” he asked. I was so shocked, I couldn’t answer immediately. When I regrouped my thoughts, I said something about worship, time with God, Bible study, and encouraging others. I could tell I was referring to things completely foreign to him, but it was the beginning of our ongoing conversations. They were all short, interrupted by a phone call or an appointment, but he began surprising me. Once, in the middle of a discussion on an important transaction, he randomly threw in, “So what happens after death?” He began wishing me a happy Sabbath when I left on Fridays.
The day of the trade show arrived, and I learned, as expected, that some of the meetings were scheduled for Sabbath. As the weekend drew closer, I was surprised when Mr. Fire postponed the most important meetings that were scheduled on Saturday and helped me have the day free. I experienced a wonderful day worshiping the Lord at a nearby church. My heart felt like bursting in praise to God.
At the show the next day, something unexpected happened, giving me more reasons to praise the Lord. During meetings held in our booth, Mr. Fire asked me questions such as “What is in the Bible?” and “Who wrote it?”
At one point, we began talking about prayer. I encouraged Mr. Fire to pray to God as his friend and father. I asked if I could pray with him, and he agreed. “Do you have anything special you would like me to pray for?”
“No,” he responded hesitatingly. “Well, pray for my children.”
I prayed a short, simple prayer for Mr. Fire’s family, mentioning each person by name. I also asked God to bless the company and Mr. Fire in his role as manager. When I opened my eyes at the end, he stood silent. The man who always talked loudly and intimidatingly, always drilling me with questions, was standing there without words. His eyes were brimming with tears. He quietly thanked me and left for a pressing meeting.
There are no words to express what those moments meant to me. I was so thankful. After the show, Mr. Fire and I talked occasionally about spiritual things, and I was able to see a shift in his perspective on Christianity. One day, he introduced me to a customer by saying I was the one who taught him what real Christianity is.
Unfortunately, Mr. Fire left the company a few months ago, and I haven’t seen him in a while. God knows everything, though, and I’m sure the Holy Spirit is still working in his heart. Please pray for Mr. Fire. Pray that the fire in him will be tamed by God and replaced by a burning desire for His grace and love.
Our church faces tremendous challenges in sharing Jesus in closed countries, countries that have shut their borders to organized churches and traditional missionaries. But a tentmaker can bypass these barriers! Total Employment is the Global Mission tentmaker program.
A tentmaker is an Adventist professional who chooses to follow the example of the apostle Paul. Paul supported his ministry with his tentmaking trade, and as he talked with his customers, he looked for opportunities to lend a listening ear, meet a need, and share the good news of the gospel.
Like Paul, tentmakers mingle with people in the secular workplace while engaging in intentional, personal outreach. They form long-lasting relationships that enable them to touch hearts for Christ in ways they never could if they were official church workers.
Your donations to Global Mission help encourage and equip tentmakers by providing them with much-needed coaching, training, and spiritual support.
Tentmakers are making a difference for Jesus, but they need your help. Please support their ministry with your prayers and donations.
Is God calling you to be a tentmaker?
Hundreds of Adventist professionals of all types are needed. To learn more, please visit TotalEmployment.org.