Eldon Stoffel is a painter who lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
TWI: How have you developed your own sense of calling and theological language for your work? Are there any tensions or complexities that trip you up when you think about your work being part of God’s work?
When I came to the Lord at 50 years old I needed a reason for life or I was out of here. I was recently divorced after 24 years of marriage and it seemed as if everything wasn’t worth the effort. If life was just continuing to paint houses to pay bills and then die, then I was done.
Some friends and family members saw that I needed help and they convinced me to participate in an Alpha Course. Alpha taught me who Jesus was, what he did for me, and why he did it. During the retreat weekend I felt like the Holy Spirit personally introduced me to Jesus. Life has not been the same since.
I gave my life to Christ but I did not give him my business. I had been painting houses for over twenty years at that point and I was tired of it. There was no way I was going to be happy as a painter so I knew God was going to get me out of this business. I wanted a job that included traveling. A year went by without change I and was ready to give up on this whole Christianity thing if God didn’t have something better for me. How was I suppose to serve him as a house painter?
I was laying in bed one night a thought about Jesus being a carpenter and how he started his ministry at thirty. The number thirty hit me and I said “ you’re not getting me out of this business are you?” I thought about that and said “fine it’s yours.” But I meant it, I gave my business to God that night.
It took almost a year to oriente my business with Jesus in charge, because if it’s going to work it has to be done His way. I found this true in every aspect of my life that I gave to Him and as I saw the results of doing so I prayed and asked him to invade every aspect of my life and take control. As for my business the first order of things was to start tithing. I quickly learned ten percent is nothing compared to what He gives in return. You can’t out give God. The next step was to get straight with the IRS. Finally, the two other necessities of running a successful business are integrity and honesty.
It took a year to get the business in order, doing it His way, and then I found out exactly what He meant when He said in Matthew 11:30 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” For twenty years I feared the IRS. Now I’m not afraid of an audit. I only hope they send an auditor that doesn’t yet know Jesus. I have learned that having Christ in charge of my life that nothing comes to me that does not come through God and Jesus first What does happen happens for one of three reasons: to correct, direct, or perfect me. Nothing has happened to me that God could not have prevented. It is through God’s loving guidance that I “have life and have it abundantly.”
I stated earlier that one of the reasons, besides hating it, I wanted out of the painting business in order to travel. Well after that first year of Him taking charge I found my self painting on the Island of Nantucket, San Francisco, New York City, next door to the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South, and Jamaica. Indeed, “all things are possible with God” even a happy traveling house painter.
TWI: What makes a good paint job?
A good paint job is one that Jesus would look at and say well done. I had a client that called and asked for an estimate on painting the outside of his house. The house had an older wood siding layered with many coats of paint. It was at a point that all the old paint need to be removed before adding another coat; a process that is both time-consuming and expensive. I expressed this to the client and he assured me he wanted the job done right. I gave the client a price of between nine and ten thousand dollars for the job and he informed me of a lower bid from another painter. He was a contractor himself and proceeded to question how I was going to do the job. In fact he seemed to think he knew more about painting than I did. So I listened to his ideas and when I told him I planned to burn the old paint off and he asked for no burning to be done. I told him I could not do the quality of job I wanted to do without burning all the old paint off. He reluctantly agreed but continued to question other aspects of the job.
At this point I didn‘t even want the job, because I was not sure it would be possible for anyone to please this man. During the job I finally stopped him and said: “Jamie I want to be very honest with you, first of all I would like you to know that I am not one bit concerned about pleasing you on this job.” He just looked at me and said, “well I think you should be since I’ll be writing the checks.” I informed him that a few years ago I turned my business over to the Lord and I have to please him on every job. With this principle I find all of my customers are extremely happy at the end of the job, and he would be too. He looked at me and said “Whatever Eldon!” I finished the job, he was completely satisfied and referred me to all his friends and neighbors.
TWI: What specific instance of your work as a painter are you most proud of?
My favorite job is one I did for a great friend of mine who started a retreat center out in the Shenandoah Valley called Corhaven. I had the privilege of visiting there several times. Whenever I visit God meets me there. One weekend I was standing by my truck and just looking at one of the larger out buildings Bill refers to as the woodshed where he and I had spent some time talking and praying together and discussing what God might have in mind for this building. While just standing there looking at this building I had a vision of Jesus and myself painting the outside of this building. I had no idea when or who, if anyone else, might be involved, I just knew He and I would be painting the outside of this building someday.
I did finally paint the exterior and the roof and had a great time doing it, working side by side with the boss and at lunchtime we would spend time in the woods just talking.
TWI: Why are you proud of it?
At first I wasn’t sure how I could serve God on the job. But then being able to paint and help make Corhaven a little more beautiful for those coming there to meet with God made me proud.