Pop music plays softly through the speakers of Eternity Hair Salon in Hixon, a suburb of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Owner Van Nguyen stands behind a client, deftly working his scissors. At ease with Nguyen’s warm persona, the customer has opened up to him and is talking about the challenging circumstances in her life. He listens patiently and then shares his own story, each word marked by the inflections of his native tongue. A childhood in severe poverty. The ravages of the Vietnam War. An eventual escape to the United States. As he applies the final styling touches, he slips in a question as naturally as if asking whether the client wants product in her hair. “Would you like to go to church with my family?” he says. It’s the same question a customer had once asked him, changing his life forever.
Photograph by Audra Melton
With the Southern hospitality he experienced as a refugee, Nguyen befriends clients and strangers alike, extending to them the gracious welcome into God’s family that he once received. There’s a sense of a burden for time lost—of wishing he had become a believer sooner. He’s been a Christian for only three years, but growth is evident as he listens to Scripture and biblical teaching from In Touch. His favorite verse is Mark 5:19, where Jesus tells the recently freed demoniac not to travel with Him, but to “go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (NIV). With dreams of returning to Vietnam one day to tell relatives about Jesus, for now Nguyen is content to cut hair and share God’s love with whoever sits in his chair. And to play whatever role he can in helping everyone become a new creation.