Published March 11, 2019

The Unexpected Way God Used my Meager Talent for the Extraordinary

I am a home services professional. I work on everything that has to do with fire and heating a home—fireplaces, stoves, ovens. My father started the business back in the 70s. He dedicated it to the Lord years ago. And when I took it over, I tried to be a good steward of what we had.

I didn’t expect what God would do through my meager talent.

I remember attending the Summit for the first time. The speaker broke a clay pot on the stage; the image was meant to represent a story from the book of Jeremiah and what happens when you say yes to a tough calling from God. Afterward, they handed out pieces of clay to everyone in the audience and encouraged us to write something on it and hold onto it.

When I got that piece of clay, I was moved, and simply wrote, do something.

When I got that piece of clay, I was moved, and simply wrote, do something.

Months after the Summit, I was praying with my wife about how to use my business to glorify God with my meager talent. What could I do to help people?

A divine connection

A week later, I had an interview with a client I had been trying to connect with for months. Whenever I went to meet with him, he was out of the country. When I finally connected with him, I asked, why are you out of the country so often? He told me he helps run an orphanage in Tanzania.

Tom Gross with Fire StoveKnowing absolutely nothing about Tanzania, I asked, does it get cold there? He explained how the country is located close to the foothills of Kilimanjaro, so it is cold. When they have power, they use electric heaters or kerosene. I asked him, could you use a wood stove in a place like that?

He broke down into tears. He told me he and his wife were praying to somehow get a wood stove in their orphanages!

Suddenly, I realized that this was a divine connection. I had no clue how this was going to happen, but we were going to step out in faith and make this happen. Later that year, we got some of our vendors together. We got not just one stove, but two stoves, and somebody also donated the chimney. We bought a 20-ft sea container. We collected donations for school equipment—desks, shoes, clothes, playground equipment, tools, etc., and we had it shipped over. We allowed four months for it to get there.  We had an opportunity with a mission in mind to put these stoves in the orphanage, so we went there.

Everything went wrong. Why am I here?

Home in TanzaniaWhen we got there, we discovered everything was stuck in customs, and officials wanted $10,000 to get it out! I started to doubt my purpose there. I prayed, God, I felt clear that you wanted me to do this! Why would you do this if we could get all the way here, but come up short?

We didn’t want to waste the trip, so we went into the village and did an extreme mud hut makeover. We worked on a two-room mud hut that was originally just mud bricks with a thatched roof. We put concrete on the outside of the mud, installed windows, doors, a new metal roof and a solar panel for light.

As I was mixing mortar on the ground in the mud, wearing my really nice, opened-toed sandals, and grumbling about how all my clothes, work boots and tools were on that container, I started asking God, why am here?

I looked at the guys next to me—one had no shoes, and the other had plastic bottles strapped to his feet. Then it hit me, I wasn’t here to serve, I was here to be opened up to the needs of the people, and really get to know them.

When we left, I knew I’d love to come back, and finish what we started.

Finishing what we started

Eight years went by!

The orphanage director let us know that the container was finally released at a cost of $300, and sent to the orphanage, and nothing was stolen! He continued to tell me they were going to dedicate a new building, and they’d love for us to come.

In July 2018, I took my daughter, our store manager and his 16-year-old daughter to Tanzania. We finished the installation of the two wood stoves and helped build a learning center on the orphanage grounds.

I was reminded that we’re all God’s creatures. When I went to Tanzania the first time, I thought I was going to serve them, but I gained so much more from them. They have next to nothing, yet they’re happy. God had definitely called me for this mission.

Don’t underestimate what God can do through your influence

Orphans in TanzaniaBefore the Summit, I used to wonder what I could do with my meager talents. But the Summit opened my mind and enabled me to stretch. I’m not a doctor; I’m a fireplace professional, and I can’t underestimate what God can do with my talents, even though I don’t think I my talents are worth much.

The truth is, whether you’re a painter or a fireplace guy, a brick layer, a teacher or a doctor—whatever talent God has given you can be used by God for the extraordinary even if you think it is meager. I enjoy what I do every day. I’m not saving lives. I really didn’t think of myself as changing the world, but now I have different perspective, because I can change the world.

Our business continues to grow and God continues to bless us in so many different ways. My vision is to be a light. I enjoy my relationships with my employees. Through them, we’re being a light in our community and our world. The reality is, you don’t have to go around the world to give back. You can do it in your own neighborhood. We give back in our community by taking gently used materials from one home, cleaning them up and reinstalling them for someone who has a need. Our staff really gets a kick out of it.

When God asks you to do something, do it. You won’t regret it.

If I had never been to the Summit and had never said yes to God’s tough call, I would not have gone around the world on my own. I know for a fact that I have impacted the children in the orphanage. I will never be able to replace that experience. I don’t think you need to go around the world to have that, but opening yourself up to be used is an incredible experience, and my world is much richer for it.

You never know what you might take away from the Summit, or how it will change your life.

Some leaders go to seminars and workshops all the time, but I never get what I get from the Summit anywhere else. Sometimes you come away with that one little nugget, and other times you get a whole booklet of nuggets to apply to your everyday life. All it takes is that one, which might be all you need to propel you forward in your business.

It might be that the one thing you get is it so razor sharp, you wonder how that person knew what you were going through. At the Summit, there are so many opportunities where God puts people in the right place to cross our path and give us what we’re looking for.

About the Author

Tom Gross


Fireside Stone & Patio

Tom Gross is the second generation co-owner and president of Fireside Stone and Patio.

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