It is a beautiful sunny BC day and I am off to interview Manny Valoma, the parts and service manager for Burnaby Kawasaki, so naturally I am riding my motorcycle. It’s not a Kawasaki (it’s a Ducati Hypermotard 792), but in the motorcycle world brand often doesn’t matter so much; except to Harley owners. Just kidding.
I pull up to 7771 Edmonds St and pull up to the side of the building. It is a humble building that has housed Burnaby Kawasaki for over forty years. There are a bunch of motorcycles out back (some waiting for service, others belonging to the staff), but I walk around to the front of the building and enter the showroom. Kawasaki green jumps out at me from the motorcycles, accessories, and apparel. I feel very much at home as I wander around the showroom checking out the bikes before I head downstairs to the parts and service department.
Manny is busy with a customer when I arrive, and as I wait I watch the technicians in the service area which is in the basement under the main showroom floor. After helping the customer Manny gives me a tour of the building, then we sit down in a quieter corner to talk.
“I think when you start as a nineteen year old, you really don’t think too much about how faith and work connect. It was just work. It was just getting a job, right? Of course, as I’ve gotten older I’ve almost felt like, ‘Where I’m working, how does that look? What is that vision? How am I any different?’”.
Manny started his job with Burnaby Kawasaki in a rather interesting way. While he was going to college for Marketing with visions of changing the world ‘one ad at a time’ he decided he’d rather work in the motorcycle industry since he loved riding them.
“I had bought my motorcycle here, and I came here and I basically said to the owner who was in the office up stairs. I said, ‘I would like to volunteer here to show you how I work, and if you like the way I work, would you give me a job?’”
The owner agreed, and after two weeks of free work Manny was hired. He started do any odd job he could; sweeping up, assembling new motorcycles, etc. Then helped out some in the service department.
“The owner saw that my mechanical ‘speed’ was lacking and that my customer relations skills were maybe my stronger asset. So I was shifted and trained to work the counter, selling parts and answering service calls.”
For a long time Manny didn’t think about the connection between his faith and working in a motorcycle dealership. In fact, when he did think about it, he felt that maybe he should be doing something else.
“I thought, I should work in a hospital, right? Because that really is healing people, or taking care of people. But then I thought, I don’t really like hospitals. So that’s not going to work.”
Sometimes we have an idea of how our faith should show up. Maybe we assume that we should be talking about Jesus more. Maybe we think that we should be starting a Bible study. Maybe we think we should be using ‘holier’ language than we do. We’ve heard Peter’s instructions to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15), but what if no one asks?
“The biggest thing for me is that, out of all the full timers here, I am the only one who goes to church regularly. That makes it tough. Everyone knows I go to church, but no one will ask me about that. … Working in an environment where there really isn’t any faith, what can I do?”
As I sat there with Manny, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is something many of us wrestle with. How do we allow our faith to shape the way we work?
If there is one thing I have learned over the course of these interviews, its that God is often working through us in ways that feel pretty natural. In other words, the connection of faith and work doesn’t have to feel difficult.
This showed up as Manny was describing his role at the company.
“Everything in the basement is what I have to oversee. So, I have to make sure all the staff are taken care of. ... As a big family we are ten full time, and five or six part-time. Ranging anywhere from the age of 19-60. So that is our family, and for the most part there are two of us who take care of everyone here.”
Often we think of a manager as someone who supervises, instructs, or controls, but Manny views his role much more as one of support. He is living out Jesus’s instructions to use a position of leadership to serve rather than rule.
“Jesus called [the disciples] together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (Mark 10:42–45, TNIV)
This theme of taking care of others is a driving force in most of what Manny does. It shows up not only in his work, but also his volunteer time as he coaches softball and looks after baseball fields. It reflects the providential work of God where God provides what we need to do the things he calls us to do, and this is what Manny tries to reflect in his work.
“This is where church has helped me. In weekly lessons on how to live my life. I’ll never master that part, and I know that. I don’t go out each and every day going, ‘I’m going to really mess up in God’s eyes.’ But its always in my mind, ‘How in God’s eyes will this look?’ And really I do feel that I’m doing that in the work that I do to the point that customers can get in touch with me when they need help, and they know that I’ll help them. Even with this particular situation that is happening right now. My concern isn’t so much about the motorcycle. My concern is more about, ‘What do I need to do for you? How do I take care of you now that you’re here?’”
In this, Manny reflects the heart of God to those he meets. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all approached the people we meet this way?
How will you take care of those who connect with you today?