Susan worked as a banker in her native Africa. Then she became a high-powered real estate agent in the Middle East. Today she owns a beauty spa where wealthy Arab and expatriate women get body scrubs and massages to the soothing strains of “Amazing Grace.”
They ply her for advice on how to become better wives, mothers, and citizens. The tips that Susan shares come straight from the pages of the Bible and Ellen G. White’s writings—and a swelling list of clients are lining up for more.
Susan is on the front lines in a part of the world where it’s difficult to communicate the gospel message. But a small but growing number of Seventh-day Adventists are impacting their colleagues and clients by simply befriending people at their workplaces.
“Since I have opened this beauty spa, many things have happened in my life,” Susan said in an interview in a small café’ near her spa. “I want nothing more than for my life to share God.”
I’M SURPRISED TOO
Susan opened the beauty spa several years ago with no previous experience. But she spent many months researching the industry before opening the door. Now she has a team of ten employees, including five Adventist believers, who offer a full range of beauty and day spa services to a regular clientele of more than 2,000 women.
“Many people ask me back home what I am doing now and they are shocked to learn that I am doing this,” she said. “I actually am surprised, too. But I feel good about it. Now I am working with more clients than I ever imagined.”
Clients learn that something is different about the spa. Hymns set to instrumental music pay softly in the background. Repeat customers quickly find out that they cannot receive treatment on Saturdays. When they ask why, they learn that Susan observes the day as the biblical, seventh-day Sabbath. Many have expressed newfound respect and admiration to Susan for willingness to put her faith before business on a busy day for other beauty spas.
“We have a goal to not only serve people but to also bring them to God,” Susan said. “The staff knows this very, very well.”
I HAVE A SECRET
Susan takes extra time to get to know repeat customers, trying to understand what is causing their frequent headaches and other body aches. She grew especially close to one client, the expatiate wife of a wealthy Arab who began to visit daily, carrying an energy drink in one hand and begging for shoulder massages.
“When I spoke with her she broke down in tears,” Susan said. “She asked me to pray for her, saying she had a secret. She said she had a big problem with drug addiction.” Still weeping, the woman asked Susan what she needed to do to quit drugs. Susan replied that she had no idea but promised to do some research. At home, she prayed with her husband and began researching the matter.
“This was very sensitive,” she said. “We cannot talk about it here or she would go to jail.”
Susan and the woman began to pray together every morning in person and every night by phone. After a short time, the woman announced that she had not used any drugs for two days. When Susan asked how she felt, her client answered, “Weak.”
“I told her that the devil was telling her that she was weak and I gave her the books Counsels on Diet and Foods and Steps to Christ,” Susan said.
THE GREAT BURDEN
The woman eagerly read the books by Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White. She expressed joy about what she had learned about health. But she said she still felt a great burden of guilt. She feared God would not accept her.
The two women kept praying together.
One drug-free week passed. At Susan’s suggestion, the woman stopped spending time with old friends who used harmful substances. Instead she began going to the beauty span every morning and staying home for the rest of the day.
Susan ended up giving her free massages for the next two months, telling her, “Don’t give me any money for now, because when you think about money, you get worried.”
“And you know something? She is off drugs. She’s a free lady,” Susan said. “She has not taken any drugs for three months. Praise God. Praise God! It’s amazing to watch”
TENTMAKING IN PERSON
Susan is an example of a front-line, self-supporting Seventh-day Adventist who is sharing her faith in the workplace. At MENA Total Employment, which oversees the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa region, we call them tentmakers.
They work in beauty spas, restaurants, medical centers, language schools, university campuses, and international corporations.
Tentmakers have the unique privilege of legally entering and working in the restricted-access countries in the region. As they live intentionally, their quiet spiritual influence and cultural understanding gives God an entry point into the lives of countless people who never meet a Seventh-day Adventist. Because the tentmaker is the gospel of Jesus Christ demonstrated in person, living honestly, relating warmly, sharing their faith sensitively.
I’VE SEEN GOD’S HAND
Skilled Adventist women, many from the Philippines, are lined up to work at Susan’s beauty spa, eager for a job that allows them to take off Sabbaths.
Unlike many businesses, the beauty spa has never had difficult with the authorities, Susan said. Inspectors can walk in at any time to check the spa for cleanliness and to make sure that no beauty products have expired.
“When they first walk in, they always ask, ‘Where is your madam? She is a very nice lady.’” Susan said. “But those very same people, when they walk into other spas, are giving fines of $5,000 to $15,000.”
The inspectors even alert Susan’s employees about products that are nearing their expiration date, saying, “Watch out! This is going to expire in a month. If you don’t use it by then, remove it.”
“It has been like this continuously,” Susan confirmed. “We have seen the hand of the Lord working with us.”
Her burden now is to find a way to share Jesus through Bible studies. She has made friends with many people; now she wants them to see God in the Scriptures.
“They know that I am a child of God. They know exactly what I believe. They know that I close my business on a very busy day, just so I can worship. I want to learn how to go to the next level and open up God’s Word to them!” --GN