Other than special events, helping out during busy days, and tasting recipes, I don’t work in the kitchen. They are self-sufficient or at least they were. Our head chef, who had been with us from the beginning, was moving away and our #2 chef, Eji-a (also with us from the beginning), was stepping up to fill the position. That leaves us with one empty spot needing to be filled. Then suddenly, another lady in the kitchen had to leave to take care of her mom for the month of September. Because of all the changes and the need for personnel, our family has been at Gina’s working, a lot.
Eji-a does a great job and she has the sweetest spirit. She wants to see us succeed. We had a few days go by without seeing a lot of customers come through our doors. So Eji-a started asking our Father to send people to the restaurant. My first night back in the kitchen, Eji-a’s saw the clear answer to her request, and I watched her faith become stronger.
Here in China pro soccer is equivalent to American football and baseball. The teams are mostly Chinese but we have met players from Africa, Brazil, and Croatia. Our city is home to one of these teams and the international players frequent our restaurant.
The day after Eji-a’s request, we host a visiting soccer team from Xian (the city of the Terra Cotta Soldiers). No problem, we’ve hosted lots of groups before. The manager had called ahead to order food and we had it all prepared. Once the food was on the table, two managers came to the kitchen window and start yelling out orders for more food. David and our Local manager were frantically tying to write down the order. The restaurant was already pretty packed before the team came in so it was pretty crazy.
Most of our employees were grumbling about the rude behavior of the managers and the extra work it caused, but not Eji-a. She was running around the kitchen with a huge smile on her face saying, “Thank you, Father! Thank you, Father!” Her words and joy spilled out from the kitchen and ran through all our workers and I saw grumbling hearts change.
When I arrived at 9:30 the next morning (a Saturday, and our busiest day) before the restaurant opened, the soccer managers were sitting in the restaurant. They ordered a massive amount of food for take-out before their big game. Eji-a smiled. Not a table was empty during the lunch rush. Once again Eji-a wore her wonderful smile. After lunch, as I made dozens and dozens of meatballs and she made spaghetti sauce, Eji-a smiled. When she had to eat her lunch between orders while standing, she smiled. When the dinner crowd came, once again every table was filled. Eji-a smiled. There were so many customers that the dishwasher had to stop cleaning and help with food prep. The dishes were stacking higher and higher, but still Eji-a smiled.
When the customers were gone and still several hours of clean-up remained, I turned to Eji-a. I said, “I’m sorry yesterday and today were so difficult for you. I know you are tired, but we really appreciate your hard work.” Eji-a looked at me and a huge smile spread across her face as she said, “I’m tired, but it hasn’t been difficult. My Father answered my prayer and I am so thankful for the work He gave us.”
I have to tell you, I love this woman! She asked for customers and we had an abundance. It would have been tough with all the regular workers in place. From Saturday afternoon on, only Eji-a and myself (and trust me, I am way below par in speed and ability) knew how to prepare most of the food. Instead of grumbling about the workload, she was praising our Father for His goodness in sending it our way. She recognized His hand and took comfort in knowing that He was in control.
For the record, Eji-a has changed her request slightly. “Father, bring more customers, but maybe not all at once.” And of course, she said it with a smile.