Story: Christian Barber's Decade of Social Service

The sign of "good"
The sign of "good" (photo:
By Esther TianSeptember 15th, 2022

Mr. Peanut has deep eyes and a slim figure. His hairstyle is the most noticeable feature - a fashionable mushroom head for men. Each strand of his hair is delicate and meticulous. His bangs are nicely layered and look refreshing. And the name, Mr. Peanut, has friendly and down-to-earth connotations.

After my inquiry, it turned out that his previous occupation was a professional barber. Even though he has left the profession for nearly a decade, his pursuit of fashionable and sophisticated hairstyles remains.

For the past ten years, Mr. Peanut has transformed from a barber to a seasoned social service worker.

His volunteer services began in 2012. He quit the barber job in 2014 and has been working as a full-time employee of a non-profit organization until today. In the past ten years, Mr. Peanut has served many groups, including patients with various diseases, the injured, the disabled, the elderly, the depressed, urban migrants, and children in poverty-stricken mountains.

He has provided a variety of services, such as haircuts, makeup application, counseling, hospital visits, as well as photo shoots for weddings, families, ID cards, and more. He has served in diverse communities, hospitals, and many places in poor mountainous areas.

"The idea was simple in the first place. I'm a Christian and wanted to imitate Jesus. Being a barber, what could I do? Perhaps I could serve the Lord through my profession," Mr. Peanut recalled what happened in 2012. A church hosted two missionaries from out of town. "I trained them for free on how to cut hair. As they moved on, they were able to provide haircut services for people. What they did inspired me to offer haircut services."

During the Ya'an earthquake in 2013, Mr. Peanut and several partners volunteered in the villages impacted by the earthquake. "Because I had haircut tools with me at that time, I offered services to those in need... I styled hair beautifully for girls and gave boys nice haircuts." That was how his journey of volunteer services started.

After serving in various places, Mr. Peanut realized that what one person could do was very limited. To collaborate and leverage, he volunteered to train barbers. For the first time, he trained a total of more than 10 people. Then every one of them began to serve those in need in the community.

With a pure heart, Mr. Peanut traveled to different places. Seeing the needs of many, he decided to quit his barber job to provide social services after careful consideration. Because he learned that one individual's ability was limited, he joined a non-profit organization to work full-time.

"We first offered haircut services in the community and visited those who were ill. Later, we unintentionally developed the service of shooting wedding photos for special groups." This expansion derived from an unplanned encounter.

"One year, probably in 2017, when I served with a brother in Christ, his mother suffered much pain from breast cancer. She lived on a mountain top, and we accompanied the brother to visit and pray for her every week. One of us asked her one day if she had any unfulfilled wishes. She said it was a regret that she didn’t take wedding photos when she was young. I was moved to take pictures for her upon hearing that. I had the skill set and also learned how to apply makeup."

"So I borrowed a few wedding dresses from a sister in Christ who ran a studio and made preparations. I invited the lady over on Mother's Day. After applying makeup to her, I took pictures. The lady was very happy and touched. In August of the same year, she rested in peace."

"This might be an ordinary event, but I felt that what I did at the time could make up for some people's regrets." Thereafter, Mr. Peanut and his partners started a new "business" - makeup and photography training. Every Double Ninth Festival and Mother's Day from then on, they organize photo shoots for marrying couples with disabilities and for families with single parents or children with cerebral palsy. In 2019, we started to offer ID photo shoots for the elderly, including memorial photos. Some elderly indicated that they would like to have a decent portrait for memory after they passed away.

"Most people we serve experience real difficulties. We have the financial pressure and need to find support from the corporations that care. We also seek support from the government and other non-profit organizations. Various fundraising events are another way to raise money. But there is still a great financial need."

The financial situation has caused pressure in Mr. Peanut’s life. He admitted frankly, "I have wavered indeed. Financial stress is inevitable when it comes social services. However, I am attached to my work emotionally. When things got tough, a voice in my mind told me not to give up. Whenever I wanted to quit, there were good reasons for me to keep going. Sometimes my volunteers made me stay. Sometimes it was the touching moments in the process of serving that kept me going. Other times, I stayed because there was a breakthrough or a new direction at work at the time when I wanted to give up. "

"There was always something that kept me moving forward when I wanted to quit. Definitely, I am grateful to my family, who supports me, especially my wife. She also worked full-time for three years and takes care of our children at home currently. Without her support, I cannot move on with peace of mind," he added. 

"A sense of insufficiency in what we could do prompted us to involve more people through training programs. We have organized three rounds of volunteer training and found that it is feasible this way. Training volunteers has expanded the scope of our services, from which more people have benefited. Many who received our services have become volunteers. Lots of volunteers have involved their families to serve alongside the team," stated Mr. Peanut. "Today, there are volunteers who have completed our training program in the community we serve. Through the training mechanism, we hope to make our community more heart-warming."

"Volunteers cannot take their services lightly. We guide them to experience with their heart and to serve authentically. For example, we take the trainees to experience tactile paths, wheelchairs, and more in the training. These experiences help them walk into the world of the people they are going to serve. They are not just helpers anymore. Rather, they are able to empathize and put themselves in the shoes of those receiving services. "

"Serving is actually a process of learning." Mr. Peanut spoke from experience, "I have gained more than what I have given in these services. It is more blessed to give than to receive. I believe that we build each other up in love."

- Translated by June I. Chen

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