THE AMAZING SUCCESS STORY OF A GOD-FEARING BUSINESSMAN
BY PAULO SÉRGIO GOMES
Descendant of Armenian emigrants who settled in California at the beginning of the century. XX, Demos Shakarian, who has always presented himself as a simple farmer, was used by God in a surprising way through the global ministry of evangelization made up of ordinary professionals and entrepreneurs – the “Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International.”
In his biography, written by the couple John and Elizabeth Sherrill, we began by learning about the suffering of the Armenian people in one of the most tragic genocides in history when the Ottoman Empire
invaded the oldest Christian nation in the world. Everything happened
already in the middle of the twentieth century, parallel to the First World War, but despite hundreds ofthousands of deaths, many were saved thanks to the prophecy of Efrim, an 11-year-old boy who in 1855 warned the Christian community to flee to the other side of America, the California.
Demos Shakarian’s grandfather, also called Demos, was part of that Armenian exodus that crossed half-world, corresponding to the catastrophic vision of the “boy-prophet”, delivering the family to the massacre. In 1905, he sold the estate and left for California with his wife, five daughters (Hamas, the youngest, the great-grandmother of the famous Kardashians) and the only son, Isaac, then 13 years old.
After his father’s death while working on the construction of the railway in the middle of the Nevada desert, it was up to Isaac to take over as patriarch of the family, not even allowing his mother to work. Such family duty could have cost him his life due to lung disease, which eventually led him to leave his job at a factory. At the time, there was a crisis of unemployment and, as in everything, he resorted to the Scriptures seeking a solution, finding it in Deuteronomy 28, and made this verse his guide. He invested his meager savings in buying a cart and a horse as he realized that local markets did not have fresh food, thus starting his new business: collecting fruits and vegetables from the farms around Los Angeles and going door-to-door, supplying the inhabitants of the city. So, in spite of the Great Depression, Isaac would thrive far beyond what it ever imagined.
By the mid-1930s, the Shakarian farm was the largest in California, but Isaac set a goal to reach 3,000 dairy cows, which he would attain by becoming the largest individual dairy producer in the world at the time. The business expanded into other areas such as dairy transports or fertilizer factories, but Demos and his father always applied their Pentecostal beliefs in the day-to-day management of the cow stable to negotiation with unscrupulous entrepreneurs.
This same stance led Demos and his wife, Rosa, to devote themselves early in the organization of evangelistic campaigns, from a picnic park to other Californian cities, inviting some of the most prominent preachers of the day such as Oral Roberts, Tommy Hicks, David DuPlessis or Charles Price. Shakarian shared with Price the dismay of seeing so few men attending the services, and the prodigious preacher prophesied that he was the one chosen by God to lead a great movement that would spread the Gospel through the four corners of the world among ordinary people who do not attend church .
And in fact, in 1951, in a very timid manner, a small group of businessmen began to gather at Clifton’s Restaurant every Saturday to share their walks with Christ, to pray for each other, and to invite friends of the business world to know the Gospel. Despite all of Demos’ commitment, the first year saw no growth in ministry and the end seemed the only outcome of his dream. Faced with the apparent failure of the idea, Shakarian was determined to close the association. On the eve of the last meeting, to which he invited his friend and talented evangelist Tommy Hicks, while sharing his disappointment something wonderful began to reverse the situation. After a night of intercession, Demos received direct instruction from God through a clear vision of the future that confirmed the continuity of the
From then on, that movement has continued to grow, reproducing up to 8,000 cells in 192 countries, always based on the voluntary work of professionals and entrepreneurs who share their faith with colleagues and business partners, leading many to to know Christ.
In spite of his modest humility and shyness as a farmer, and as a “helper,” Demos led the association to the end of his life, which led him to share his belief and ministry values with thousands of people, from the simplest citizen to the most illustrious and charismatic world leaders, like Fidel Castro, who confided to him to have enjoyed speeches of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts, while recovering in a hospital of Texas.
For Demos, “the important thing is that the Lord tells each one of us to go with the gift that He has given us, knowing that when we realize this gift and use it, whatever the condition of the world around us may be, we will be the happiest people on earth.”