This testimony is dedicated to:
1. Those who are afraid to keep the Sabbath because they would lose their business, job, income, or security.
2. Those who are postponing baptism because they might hurt the feelings of their family and friends, or feel that their colleagues would not understand and accept their decision to be baptized.
3. Those members of the Guam SDA churches who prayed for my family’s conversion.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, I grew up on Guam, a small tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. Guam is a United States territory with a rich culture heavily influenced by its early Spanish heritage and today’s modern America.
Guam is predominantly Catholic, and the Catholic Church strongly influences the culture and family relationships on Guam. My parents and grandparents were devout Catholics who prayed constantly and went to mass often. As an altar boy at the village church, I learned to love and trust God and to believe in Jesus from a very early age.
After finishing college, a business partner and I started a very small tourism beach business on Guam in 1986, providing a few Jet Skis, and several kayaks for rent to Guam’s growing Japanese tourism industry.
Over the next 15 years the business expanded rapidly, adding an Avis Rent A Car franchise with 120 cars, parasailing and dolphin-watching boat tours, real estate investments, and a jet helicopter tour service with three helicopters.
Our company also operated nine beachfront rental locations for hotels like the Hyatt, Hilton, Westin, and Marriott. With as many as 185 employees, and over 1,000 customers on a busy day, we had grown to become one of the largest tour attractions on Guam.
In 1992 I married my lovely girlfriend from Guam, Carmen, and we soon had a son, Lawrence, and a daughter, Caressa, to add to our family.
In the year 2000, my wife and I purchased my partner’s shares of the business and became the sole owners of the company. We were excited for our future. What could possibly go wrong?
Business in Trouble
Over the next few years, the effects of September 11, 2001, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) caused the majority of Japanese tourists to cancel vacation plans to Guam.
To make things worse, in December of 2002, Super Typhoon Pongsona struck Guam with nearly 200 m.p.h. winds and 20-foot waves. In just a few hours the typhoon destroyed over 4,000 hotel rooms and Guam’s tourism industry. Most of our company’s business locations and equipment were also destroyed or damaged by the typhoon.
The effects of September 11, wars, SARS, and the typhoon resulted in a 75% reduction in business for our tour company, which forced 130 employee layoffs, millions of dollars of debt, several hundred thousands of dollars in negative cash flow, and a daily operating cash loss of several thousands of dollars! In only two years our business became financially worthless and apparently hopeless.
Amazingly there was hope for our hopeless situation.
Shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, my cousin Dwight persistently asked my wife and me to participate in a Bible study together. Being very secular and content with our former faith, my wife and I declined Dwight’s invitations to Bible study many, many times, before at last giving in.
Dwight arrived at our house one evening with an elderly Japanese-American Adventist couple in their 70s. We were introduced to Joseph and Verna Nozaki, who were both working as a mission doctor and nurse for the Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic. That was the first Bible study that my wife and I had ever had in our lives. We continued to have Bible studies once or twice a week from that point on.
After a few months, our family accepted an invitation to attend our first Sabbath service and listen to a special sermon being delivered by the pastor. Not knowing exactly what to expect from a Sabbath service, we delayed our arrival by at least a half hour. We did not know that Adventists enjoy fellowship, Bible study, singing, children’s stories, and special music before the sermon is even preached, so essentially we were still on time.
Wow! The sermon was so meaningful. We had never heard God’s Word preached like that before. It was a spiritual eye-opener, and we looked forward to going to church every Sabbath.
My wife Carmen accepted a call to be baptized in 2002 without me. I admired my wife and wanted to follow, her but I couldn’t. The tour business was still open on Sabbath and I felt too guilty about it to be baptized. So I continued to study the Bible and pray.
Dilemma Over Sabbath & Stewardship
Meanwhile our company and Guam’s tourism economy were recovering poorly. Every month, many local tour companies and other businesses were closing down. Guam’s economic situation was the worst it had ever been over the last sixty years.
Our company remained open on Sabbath because Saturdays were among the largest revenue days of the week. After owning the business for nearly 20 years, I knew that closing on Saturday during those economic times would logically force the company into bankruptcy, lay off the rest of the employees that didn’t deserve to lose their jobs, and cheat the banks and vendors out of any chance of ever being paid back the millions of dollars that we owed. I determined that triggering such a chain of economic disasters would be a greater sin than breaking the Sabbath.
In January of 2004, a pastor/evangelist named Louis Torres came to Guam to conduct a two-week evangelism series. As this series unfolded day by day, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me a much deeper understanding of the Gospel, the commandments, and the importance of the Sabbath. I desperately wanted to be baptized to show my love and loyalty for Christ.
At the end of each evangelistic presentation I would fill out my “decision card” indicating that I believed in Jesus as my Saviour, believed in the commandments, and accepted the understanding of the Sabbath. Significantly, I had not checked the box on the decision card asking if I wanted to be baptized.
To my surprise a few days later, Pastor Torres and our church pastor stopped by my office for a visit. Pastor Torres wanted to encourage me for my decision to accept Jesus as my Saviour, the commandments, and the understanding of the Sabbath. He also delicately inquired why I had not indicated my desire for baptism.
My decision card revealed a personal enigma. How could I accept Jesus, the commandments, and the understanding of the Sabbath, yet not accept baptism?
I explained to Pastor Torres that I could not, with a clear conscience, be baptized because our business was still open on the Sabbath. I also explained that without the Saturday revenues we would go out of business, forcing innocent employees out of their jobs and defaulting on our debts and loans which would in a sense, I rationalized, be stealing.
Pastor Torres gently explained that baptism would give me the strength I did not have to overcome these problems. We prayed together in my office. I cried, then decided to be baptized regardless of the perceived consequence.
A Leap of Faith
I was baptized at the end of the evangelism series in January of 2004. By April of 2004, we closed our main tour business operations on Sabbath as an act of faith. In addition, we gave up our agreements to operate the numerous different hotel beach rental operations we had managed for more than ten years, allowing operations to be closed completely on Sabbath for the first time since 1986.
Pastor Torres was right. Baptism did give me the faith and strength I needed to close the business on Sabbath. Amen!
Before closing the business on Sabbath, I prayed and asked God for forgiveness for being such a poor steward with His resources. I came to recognize that I never really was the owner of this business that had in fact always belonged to God.
Also, prior to closing the business on the Sabbath, I prayed that since it was God’s business, for the goodness of preserving His reputation and their understanding of the Sabbath, He would not let any bank, vendor, or employee that was ever owed money by our company to go unpaid.
In order to close our tour business on Saturday, we had to first write letters and hold meetings with travel agents, hotels, and vendors to explain why we were turning away their business on Saturday. I had to explain the same reasons to the employees, my family, and friends.
By informing all businesses, employees, and friends that our business was closed on Saturday, God was now using me and the company to promote and make all our business partners, employees, and friends aware of God’s Sabbath.
Initially, closing the business on Saturday was inconvenient for the travel agencies, hotels, and vendors that supplied our company with customers and services. Since we were now closed on Saturday, the travel agents and hotels informed us that they would have to recommend that their customers choose our competitors who were open on Saturday. We were also informed that we should expect to lose a substantial portion of our Sunday business as well because most of our Sunday customers made reservations during the day on Saturday. More than ever, the decision to close on Saturday appeared as if it would be the final nail in the coffin for our struggling business.
Morale within the company was tense as well. Closing on Sabbath was not a democratic decision made by a majority vote of the employees. Their job security was now threatened by the decision to close. I could sense the employees questioning my leadership ability during these tough and delicate times.
Win or lose, I was committed to close on Sabbath no matter what. Besides, this was God’s business now, and I was just His steward. I continued to pray and to be optimistic, holding on to God’s many Sabbathkeeping promises. Truly, it would take a Bible miracle from God to make this business plan work. It was time to test my faith.
If I remember correctly, the first Sabbath we closed, Friday night, we had put the reservation phones on an answering machine, then left for the night. On that first Saturday that we were closed, the weather changed unexpectedly and it rained terribly hard all day.
When we came into the office on Saturday evening, our answering machine was filled with reservations for Sunday because nobody wanted to book their tours on that first Saturday that we were closed due to the bad weather and heavy rains. On Sunday the weather was ideal, and many same-day reservations were called in. It appeared that the rainy weather on Saturday proved to be a blessing, and preserved the business through our first Sabbath-day closure.
For the next six months or so a similar pattern of weather continued. Good weather on Fridays, terrible rain on Saturdays, and good weather again on Sundays. God was providing!
Here are some of the other miracles that happened at work:
- Equipment and supplies were lasting much longer than they had ever lasted in the past, which reduced operating expenses tremendously.
Even though the tour agents and hotels tried at times to recommend our competitors’ tours to their customers, the customers would reject their recommendations and insist that they go to our business instead.
Within a few Sabbaths of being closed, employees seemed to be better rested, more productive, and better team players. Our customer satisfaction and employee safety records also improved.
With the Sabbath rest came clearer and better management decisions that made the company much more efficient, thus increasing revenues and reducing unnecessary expenses.
Within time the travel agents and hotels changed their opinions about our closing on Saturday because, for unexplained reasons, our company was making more profit for them than ever before. Their customers were satisfied, and our safety record was excellent.
More Than Miracles
In February of this year (2006) our Japanese sales and marketing director and I went to Japan to meet with that country’s largest travel agency, which was also our company’s largest supplier of tourists and revenue. At that meeting, our Japanese sales director was questioned about our policy of closing on Saturdays. In reply, he explained that we were closed because we were a Christian-owned company that followed the Sabbath.
Japanese senior management also asked our sales director if we would make exceptions and open on Saturdays for special occasions such as large groups or busy Japanese holidays. When our sales director explained that my Christian principles were at stake, and not money, the Japanese senior tour managers paused and talked amongst themselves for a while before replying to my Japanese sales director.
Together, the Japanese senior tour managers expressed their sincere understanding. Their next statements made me say “Praise God!” when they respectfully informed our sales director and me that it had been a long time since they had done business with another company that felt their principles were worth more than money. Furthermore, they agreed that they now had a higher level of trust for our company, and agreed to protect and increase their support for our business relationship. Similar experiences could also be recorded for most of our business suppliers.
Since my baptism and closing of the business on Sabbath in 2004, God has blessed His company and our work with many small and large miracles that testify to His wonderful love and protection.
Today our company has been blessed with the conversion and baptism of employees and their families who are now active in different Seventh-day Adventist churches on the island.
Although Guam’s tourist arrivals have not yet completely recovered to the previous September 11, 2001 levels, our business is doing better than ever before.
With God in His proper place as Owner and President of His tour company here in Guam, the finances have turned around. My prayer that God would pay the business debt to everyone that the business owed has been accomplished or exceeded.
Most importantly, God has proved that obeying the Sabbath and closing the business was an important and necessary way to tell and show the employees, the Guam business community, and me that with God all things are possible.
My initial altruistic concern about staying open on Saturday to protect the employees’ jobs and pay back loans and vendors was a terrible sin of pride. God has proved that having enough money was never an issue for Him to run His business operations. I thank God for His loving mercy by letting me continue to serve Him in this business. I realize now that there is more security and assurance in being a servant for a generous and loving God than to be the sleepless owner of a business with a million problems.
Today God is using the revenues of this business to generate needed tithes and offerings to assist the Guam Seventh-day Adventist churches, evangelists, schools, and other necessary mission work.
Before closing, I would like to add that our two children, Lawrence and Caressa, have also been baptized and love the Lord dearly. My wife and best friend, Carmen, is a teacher at the Guam Adventist Academy on the island. Our family is closer and more loving than ever before because of our shared love for God, and most definitely because of the time we spend together on Sabbath.
I would also like to mention one more miracle before I close my testimony. After we were baptized, my wife and I discovered that we had been on another Adventist’s prayer list for conversion long before we ever had our first Bible study with my cousin Dwight and had met Dr. and Mrs. Nozaki.
If at all possible, please add my wife’s and my parents, siblings, and their children to your prayer requests for conversion.
Trust and Obey
In summary, I urge anyone who is struggling with keeping the Sabbath, being baptized, or returning a faithful tithe to submit to and to trust and obey God. The Lord Himself says to us, “Them that honor Me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30). Listen to these additional promises:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
“Our Heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service of God supreme, will find perplexities vanish and a plain path before their feet” (Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 481).
“Those who surrender their lives to His guidance and His service will never be placed in a position for which He has not made provision. Whatever our situation, if we are doers of His Word, we have a Guide to direct our way; whatever our perplexity, we have a sure Counselor; whatever our sorrow, bereavement, or loneliness, we have a sympathizing Friend” (Ministry of Healing, pp. 248, 249).
Through your own free will, allow God to fulfill His wonderful promises to you. He will never fail you.
Note on Author
*Steve Kasperbauer earned a degree in Business Administration from Arizona State University, with a double minor in International Business and in Japanese Studies. Over the years he has been active in various business organizations and service clubs, as well as in his local church.