Sunday, March 9, 2014

Evangelizing at a Nail Salon, by Tom Peterson

         One morning, while praying before Mass, I remembered a priest had suggested that we should pray every day that we might be an instrument to lead someone closer to Christ. That morning, I asked God to use me that day to bring someone-- anyone, I wasn’t picky-- closer to his Son, Jesus. After Mass ended, the little Vietnamese lady seated next to me leaned over and asked if I would help her son.

     With great anguish, this mother told me that her son had been away from the Church for nearly twenty years. She asked if I would invite him to Mass. It’s always surprising how quickly the Lord answers our prayers when it's something He wants done. The mother added a special request—to not let her son know that his mama had sent me.  It would embarrass him and
perhaps make him angry.
     When I asked where to meet her son, she said, “He works in a nail store.” She meant that her son worked at a women's manicure salon. His name was Jimmy. I went home, picked up some Catholic leaflets, then drove to the nail salon. Walking through the door, I spotted Jimmy immediately. I was a little nervous, but said, “Somebody who loves you, God Himself, and I want to invite you back to the Catholic Church.”
     What followed was silence, absolute silence for what seemed to me to be an eternity. Finally Jimmy said, “Well, it's nice of you to invite me, but I don't need church because I find God in nature. I'm a professional fisherman, and I fish nearly every day and I feel close to God when I'm outdoors.”

Friendship Ensues
     Not very eloquently, I agreed that we certainly can find God in nature, since God created nature. But, I went on to say, Jesus gave us a Church so that we could help each other get to Heaven. With the world being so complex, and life so difficult, it's important for us to stick together as a Catholic family. Furthermore, it had always been Jesus' desire that we should receive the sacraments like Communion and Reconciliation frequently to help us on our journey.
     When we said our good-byes, I wasn’t sure if I had helped or not. From time to time I dropped in to talk with Jimmy, and we developed a friendship. Twice I invited him to Mass, but he never showed up. Nonetheless, I tried to be optimistic.  
     Then, one Sunday morning, Jimmy called to say that he would join me at Mass. Given his track record, I was not optimistic, but this time he did show up. “Everything's changed,” he told me. “I went fishing like I always do on Sunday morning, but this time I fished a crucifix out of the water. Do you think it was a sign?” I was both dumbfounded and elated, “God didn't just give you a cross,” I said, “He gave you a Roman Catholic crucifix to show you which Church to come home to.”
     Then he asked, “Where is the box?” It took me a minute to realize Jimmy wanted to go to confession. Leading him to the sacristy where the priest was vesting for Mass, I introduced Jimmy.  The priest led him to a side chapel where he heard his confession before going to the altar to say Mass. That morning, the prayers of a Vietnamese mother were heard—her son returned to the Church and the sacraments after being away for twenty years.

The Rest of the Story
      We stayed in touch. When Jimmy got married, Tricia and I were invited
to the wedding Mass. When he was back from his honeymoon, he stopped by our house to show us the wedding photos. While Tricia and our girls were looking at the pictures, Jimmy pulled me aside into the kitchen to say, "Tom, I have something to share with you that you don't know. My mom and I are so grateful that you invited me back to church."
      I replied, "You're welcome, it's no big deal."  Jimmy corrected me, saying, "Oh yes it is a big deal, and you don't know the whole story. I was in the Chinese mafia in Los Angeles, and got arrested for major felony crimes against society. I went to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, and served my sentence for the last 15 years."
     Upon hearing that, I turned ashen white, and felt like all the blood rushed out of my body. I thought to myself, "Thank God I didn't know about this ahead of time!  I probably would have chickened out!"  
     Then Jimmy said, "I want to tell you, I'm so grateful, because in prison I almost committed suicide, and there were a lot of other issues. I want you to know that in prison, the inmates had time to talk about Jesus and share their faith.  But now that I'm out, everybody's too busy,
nobody takes the time to talk about God with other people.  Thank you for taking the time to invite me back.  That changed my life."
Tom Peterson
 Jimmy's comments hit my heart, and I realized later that there are 
millions of Jimmy's in the world, countless struggling souls who never grew up with much faith, or just left the Church for whatever reason.  You and I need to pray for them and help these Catholics come home.  We cannot be afraid to do so, as our fear of failure or fear of offending others is impeding Christ's mission for the salvation of souls.  
     The Good Shepherd reminds us that the upside of one soul responding positively and coming home to Jesus and His Church far outweighs the downside of a few people who may reject our faith-sharing overture. Don’t be shy about asking someone if they would like to return to the faith. Don’t be afraid to seek out the lost sheep. Trust that Our Lord is already knocking on the door of their heart—your invitation may be the final push that leads them to opening the door to let Christ in.

Tom Peterson is Founder and President of Catholics Come Home
( and Virtue Media (
More can be found in his  Random House book, "Catholics Come Home" God's
Extraordinary Plan for your life.
Monday's on this blog are being dedicated to the uplifting and mystical connections with God.  Please consider sharing you own story. 

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