Manicure as Mission

A Story told at the 2017 Celebration of Church Life

By Khon “Keon” Tran

While living in North Carolina a few years ago, I had a dream. I was in a shoe store where I saw a pair of sandals that I really liked. This was not normal for me because I do not like sandals. However, in the dream I liked them and bought them. After I left the store, I suddenly realized that I had left my old shoes inside the store. I went back to the store, but I could not find my shoes.

Before moving to North Carolina, I had worked in my family’s manicure business. I had the skill and knew the business, but I had given all that up. I thought I wanted something else. So I left my home in Philadelphia, disillusioned and unsure about my life. Somehow, I ended up in North Carolina where I met a pastor who took me in. I began attending his church and Bible study. The Lord gave me a hunger for the Word, and I began to grow in Christ. I had a good church, good friends, and a spiritual mentor, Patty.

One day my friend Tri called me from Philadelphia. Tri said he believed God wanted to call me back to Philadelphia. I was not so sure. Why go back? What would I do there?

Then I was reminded of the dream. My mentor, Patty, helped me understand the dream as God’s call to me. She thought the new sandals represented a new path I needed to travel. The new path was not necessarily something I wanted to do. However, Tri’s call, the dream, and Patty’s encouragement led me back to Philadelphia.

When I arrived, I stayed with Tri. We went to church together. We entered the STEP program together. Tri showed me what God did for him. He treated me like a brother. Tri had experienced a renewal in his life when he committed himself to God.

Years earlier when Tri was far from God, he had owned several nail salons, but his lifestyle put him out of business. Now, with God guiding his life, Tri decided to go back into the salon business. Tri asked me if I wanted to work for him since it was what I knew how to do. Back to work I went – manicures and pedicures – at Jade Salon.

Although my work in the salon was familiar, I was different. Tri helped me understand that this was not just a job; it was a ministry. As I prayed, God said, “In everything you do, do it for me. You’re not working for a human master you are working for me.” When I received that message, I started looking at doing nails in a different way. Jesus tells us to go and minister to people – the great commission. However, in the nail salon people come to me. I sit with them for thirty minutes to an hour. It is a great opportunity for me to pray for people, encourage them, and sometimes to share the gospel.

One day Donna came into the shop. She was having problems and her daughter had been injured. Tri and I prayed with her, and then we invited her to a Bible study. She liked the study and came regularly. Donna became a part of our church and eventually went into the STEP program. After graduation last year, she now helps to lead a new church in Delaware.

When Joanne came into the salon, God’s Spirit impressed on me to quietly pray for her. I said, “You look very healthy. How’s your health?” She looked at me and then suddenly broke down and cried. Her doctor had just told her she had cancer. This was her second time having cancer. So I encouraged her by saying, “God helped you before and can help you again.”

She said, “I remember a time when I was attending church and the pastor was having an altar call. I went up front for prayer, and I believe God healed me.” I said, “God helped you before and can do it again,” and I prayed for her. She cried tears of joy and said, “I am so glad I came here today. I may look okay on the outside, but you asked how I was on the inside.” A few weeks later she came back to tell me that the cancer was gone! I believe she was healed because she trusted God.

Another customer, Sarah, came in for a pedicure. In our shop, there is a small step to go up to another level to get to the pedicure station. When Sarah stepped up, she tripped and fell. Tri was there. He helped her and prayed for her. In the conversation that followed, Tri asked her if she wanted to receive Jesus, and she said “yes.” She prayed and accepted Jesus. Later Sarah told Tri that her son is a pastor of a church, and for 30 years, he had been trying to minister to her, but she would not believe. However, when Tri ministered, she felt God’s Spirit touch her. A few days later, Sarah’s son came in and told Tri, “All these years I tried to minister to my mother and she would not believe. Thank you for taking the time to minister to her.”

Although I do not particularly like doing pedicures, I was reminded that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Now as I do a pedicure, I just start to pray that the client will feel God’s love and care. I do my best to give a good massage and to relax the clients. Those times when I pray quietly and show them love and care, they really appreciate it. They sense the good relaxing presence of God.

So, my “new sandals” have taken me down a new path I would never have imagined possible. Through my simple faithfulness to God’s call, I have received so many blessings. As I minister to people, I myself am ministered to.

Khon “Keon” Tran lives in Philadelphia and is a member of Church of the Needy.

Watch Keon tell this story at CCL:

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