He was intimidating. He yelled. He refused any discussion of faith or God. He insisted I was going to work the company's booth at the annual trade show. All weekend. I thought I'd lose my job, but I refused to work Sabbath. Read Meeting Mr. Fire Part 1.
One day, as I responded on more time that I'd be working at the trade show, he stopped short as if he’d finally heard something I'd said. His voice had an edge to it. “So what do you do on these Sabbaths?” I regrouped from my shock to say something about worship. Studying the Bible. Encouraging others. I could tell it was all foreign to him.
But it was the beginning. The passing conversations were all short, always interrupted by a phone call or a meaningless distraction. But they came--and at the most surprising times. 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 as I left on Fridays. Then he asked me to pray for him.
One day he ended our discussion abruptly with, "I’m excited we’ll have time to talk about religious things at the trade show."
I was still very anxious about the fair in all aspects. It would be my first time meeting some customers face to face and networking with many new people. I not only needed to do my work well, I thought I needed to compensate on the other days for missing Sabbath. I'm thankful for a friend who reminded me that the Sabbath is the Lord’s and He can compensate for it. I realized I did't need to worry about defending myself.
Even still, until the very last day, Mr. Fire tried to convince me to work on Sabbath. I knew him well enough to realize he could easily put me in a socially awkward position in front of the company group--new people from different countries would all be working at the same booth.
The day of the trade show arrived. We traveled as a small group, met a lot of new people. I noticed on the schedule that there were meetings through the whole weekend. Some were scheduled on Sabbath. Then… well, I was surprised. As the weekend drew closer, Mr. Fire postponed the most important meetings. I watched him help me get away on Sabbath. I heard--in his own way, of course--he had tried to explain my absence.
That was a precious Sabbath day. I found a church nearby. I experienced a wonderful day worshipping the Lord away from any kind of work or distractions. My heart felt like bursting in praise to God.
But the rest of the trade show gave me even more reasons to praise the Lord. There were hours to visit during the fair. Our booth offered seats and tables for simultaneous meetings. In between those meetings Mr. Fire would approach me with spiritual questions. He asked about the Bible, what was in it, how it was written. He informed me that he’d started to read his own holy book to be able to answer me. He admitted he felt bad he couldn’t say anything about his beliefs.
At one point as we were working at the booth, we began talking about prayer. I knew my praying was different than his. I challenged him to pray to God as his Friend and Father. I asked if I could pray with him. He agreed, surprised.
“Do you have anything special you’d like me to pray for?” I asked.
“No." I could see him hesitate. "Well… Pray for my children.”
So I prayed a short, simple prayer for his family. I prayed for his children by name, his wife. I asked God’s blessing on the fair, on Mr. Fire’s job as the manager of our company. When I opened my eyes at the end he stood silent. For a man always talking loud and intimidating, always drilling me with questions, he was standing there--without words. His eyes were brimming with tears. Quietly he thanked me and left for a pressing meeting.
There are no words to express what those moments meant to me. I am so thankful.
It’s only been a few weeks since then; I haven’t completely processed everything. We’re back to work with the same few and scattered opportunities to talk. But I’m sure Jesus is working in my boss’ heart.
Please pray for me and for Mr. Fire. Pray that the fire in him will ever so slowly be tamed by the Holy Spirit and, instead, he will have a burning desire for God’s grace and love.
I don’t know how long God has been working on Mr. Fire's heart. I don't know how much time God has to appeal to him, but I’m honored and humbled to be a part of anything He wants to accomplish in Mr. Fire’s heart. --LO