March 1, 2016

To Serve the Sheikh or Observe the Sabbath

Editor’s note: The Adventist Review is not publishing the author’s real name, the name of his wife, or their location because of the sensitivities of their work in the Middle East.

, writing from a country in the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa Union

Lord, did we come here for nothing?” I prayed. “Is it really your plan that we leave?

My wife, Sylvia, and I had moved to the Middle East two months earlier so I could participate in the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Total Employment program.

I loved the idea of working in a country where traditional missionaries can’t go and sharing Jesus in everyday life. But I couldn’t find a job and, without one, I couldn’t renew my visa. Time was running out.

Feeling discouraged, I shared my predicament with a friend.

“Don’t give up yet,” he urged me. “I’ve just learned about a job opportunity working as a personal secretary for a sheikh. It might be God’s answer for you.”

He handed me the contact information and said he’d pray for me.

The idea of me working for a sheikh seemed improbable. But I’d told God many times that I’d take whatever employment He provided. So I applied for the position and within a short time was called in for an interview.

I found the sheikh to be a man of few words. But he seemed kind, and I could tell that he was well-educated and well-traveled. To my amazement, he offered me the job, even suggesting that we could negotiate the pay. I promised him that I’d consider his offer overnight and give him an answer in the morning.

That evening I told Sylvia about the good news.

“God is answering our prayers!” she said, wrapping her arms around me.

“I hope you’re right,” I responded. “But Sabbath observance has prevented me from being hired so far, and I can’t imagine that a sheikh would schedule his life around my needs.”

“If God wants you to have this job, He’ll provide a solution,” she said.

I knew she was right, but I held my excitement in check.

“Sir, I would like to accept your offer,” I told the sheikh the next day. “But I observe sundown Friday to sundown Saturday as a holy day, and I can’t work during this time.”

I explained my faith to him as simply as I knew how and waited for his response.

“And if I can’t give you Saturdays off?” he said without looking at me.

“I’ll have to turn down the job.”

“And return to your home?”

“Yes, sir.”

The silence seemed interminable.

“Lord,” I prayed, “Your will be done. Only You can make this possible.”

“You can take Saturdays off.”

It took me a moment to register the sheikh’s off-handed response. Then relief flooded through me. My job search was over. Sylvia and I could stay.

At home that night, my wife and I cried together for joy. This really was where God wanted us. He had opened a door just in time.

That night as I lay in bed, I wondered what God would do through my presence here. I didn’t have long to find out. Within a couple of weeks the sheikh sent an e-mail to his entire staff announcing that I would have every Saturday off, and I became an instant curiosity. My coworkers began to watch my every move, scrutinizing my conversations, lifestyle, and character. It was an opportunity only God could create.

“What kind of influential person is behind you that the sheikh granted your request?” one colleague asked me.

“God is behind me,” I replied. “I respect my employer, but the Lord is above the sheikh.”

As time went by, the staff began to ask me questions about the Bible and my faith, and eventually they requested that I get them Bibles of their own.

I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll see more clearly how God was able to use this experience to influence my employer and colleagues. I know how it has changed me. I’m ready to serve God with everything I have, wherever He leads. Even when I have to plead my case to the one “above the sheikh.”

A version of this story will appear in the May 2016 issue of Mission 360°, the magazine of the Adventist world church’s Office of Adventist Mission.