The white dust suspended in the air looks like a gentle snowfall, though it's actually the floating residue from Hiucif Rahim's relentless sanding. He slowly slides his hand along the plank lying on the bench in front of him, then buffs the Styrofoam surface clean.
Gustavo Mariante stands at the door of the cinder-block room watching his best friend and business partner. He's seen Rahim run through this process hundreds of times and still marvels at his skill.
"Hiucif is a master at shaping surfboards," Mariante says. "He has incredible eyes and hands. He can tell by touching it where it needs work. He's one of the best in the world. Some people think he makes magic boards."
Surfing, no longer just a theme for Beach Boys' songs, is now a highly competitive multi-million dollar sport complete with endorsement contracts, television broadcasts, and international stars. Amazingly, nearly half?20 of 44?of the world's top professional surfers use boards crafted by Rahim. He and Mariante, both Brazilians who've relocated to Spain's northern coast, have every right to brag about their success but choose to view their business from an eternal perspective.
"We know that God has given us this chance to do something we love very much," Mariante says. "He is blessing us. If all this were taken away tomorrow, he still has a plan for us."
For now, business is booming. Their shop went from selling 50 boards per year to 500?a 900 percent increase?in four years. Surfers around the world are asking for custom-made boards. More important, opportunities to be salt and light have increased as the business has grown.
"We share the gospel with nearly everyone who buys a board from us," Mariante says, and adds with a smile, "Right now our boards are very much in demand."
From partners to brothers
Not long ago both Rahim and Mariante were mired in lives that appeared beyond salvaging. Neither had a particularly happy adolescence. Rahim became clinically depressed after his parents divorced and was treated with drugs, which he eventually abused. Mariante immersed himself in the surfing culture but considered life meaningless.
They never knew each other growing up in Brazil, but God's providence brought them together as adults. Rahim, 38, accepted Christ during his mid-20s and became active in his church. His skill increased as a surfboard shaper, and many Brazilian surfers were winning competitions with his boards.
Mariante, 42, left Brazil to open a surf shop in Gijon, Spain. Business was booming, but the emptiness continued. On a trip back to Brazil to buy boards for his shop, he met Rahim. The two became fast friends and Mariante invited Rahim to join him in Spain. After a trial period, Rahim moved his family to Gijon.
Rahim and Southern Baptist missionary Doug Williams talked about Christ with Mariante over a period of time, and he became a believer four years ago.
"I could see that he was going to become a Christian," Rahim recalls. "He asked many questions about God. He was looking for a relationship with him."
How boards open doors
Gijon is a coastal city in Asturias, one of the most beautiful provinces in Spain. Plush green hillsides plunge into the cool water of the Atlantic Ocean. Everything is readily accepted here, except the gospel, which is usually rejected.
Spreading the good news of God's love is a challenge, but being one of the world's leading surfboard authorities opens some doors.
"We don't hide the fact that we are Christians," Rahim says. "We try to treat everyone the same. Everyone needs Jesus but we don't force it on them. We have one guy who has been coming out to our shop for two years. At first he didn't want to hear about Jesus; six months later he asked us to pray for him. Now, he has come to church. They are small steps, but they are steps. He is asking questions like Gustavo was before he became a Christian."
Rahim and his wife, Tania, thought God was leading them to be missionaries among Muslims in the Middle East. That door closed, but Rahim believes much of what he and Mariante do has a missionary spirit.
Mariante traveled last summer to the Canary Islands with 50 boards. He sold every one, but counted the trip successful because he had many witnessing opportunities.
"Guys there are very resistant to the gospel," he says. "But they are curious about the difference they see in me. I shared the gospel because they may never hear the gospel unless we tell them."
Both men are active members in Evangelical Church, the Baptist church where Williams ministers. Both men have a passion for leading people to Christ.
"God is our priority," Rahim says. "I want people to see God in my life. People know we are Christians, and they watch us closely. That's okay. Sharing what Jesus has done in our lives is something that is a part of who we are."
"People here are very empty inside and they are looking for something," Mariante adds. "We want to see more people come to Christ for the glory of God."
Condensed from The Commission (February 1999), 1999 chris Turner. Used by permission.
1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine (formerly Christian Reader).
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