I met Mary Naidoo at her stand — ‘The Jesus Business’ — at a recent Christian Expo in Durban.
Intrigued by the dazzling array of Christian paintings, nativity scene models, and scripture-themed household items that she and her team were displaying , I asked her if I could interview her.
Little did I know what I was about to hear!
A supernatural journey
“With The Jesus Business everything you are going to hear is supernatural,” she said.
This is Mary’s story.
She grew up in a Christian family in Durban. She says her mother was a great intercessor and her 87-year-old grandmother is “one of the greatest intercessors living on the face of the earth”. Her granny taught her to pray and she was passionate about God as a young girl.
But she drifted from her roots and in 2012 was divorced, living alone — and far from God — in a flat in Overport, Durban.
At 5am one morning she went to her prayer room (she had always had a prayer room) but felt unable to pray anything and was wondering what she was doing there.
“And then the entire atmosphere in the room changed. I knew not to turn. There was a [clearly audible] voice that came to me and said: ‘You will leave work, and you will work for me.’
The voice, which she realised was God’s, also said: “Fashion show”.
“The same night I dreamt that I was in a fashion show. Then I was backstage behind the curtain and I saw all the models walking on the catwalk.
“The next thing I noticed was these women were not ordinary women. I started to cry because I noticed that some of these women were crippled, some of them were burnt. I cried and said: ‘Lord what are these women doing on the catwalk?’
“The next thing I see is that in front of the catwalk where these women were walking I saw huge white
wings spread out both ways and I just saw light in the centre of the wings, and I saw a white gown flow
from underneath the light. I could not see a face or a figure. And I saw arms wide open from there — onto the catwalk.”
She asked God what He was saying to her. Having come from a very broken life and marriage she felt strongly that she did not want other women to go through what she had experienced.
Then God gave her a tagline — “It is not how beautiful you look in the eyes of man but how beautiful you look in the eyes of God”.
A fashion show for broken women
And then she understood she must stage a fashion show for broken women.
God said the show must be in two months. She had no money at the time.”But in two months we
pulled a show together for broken and abused women and the Lord provided every cent. I did not ask anybody for money. People — most of them not Christians — just came and asked: ‘Is that the cause? It’s done!’ ”
During that time she felt as if the Holy Spirit was in charge while she stepped back. She felt physically and mentally stronger even when she was not getting much sleep.
One day walking out of church after a service she obeyed a prompting of the Holy Spirit to invite a woman she had never previously spoken to, to model in the fashion show.
“The woman froze and asked me if I was trying to make her out as a fool. I thought that she thought that I was joking and the first thing that you would think is that she maybe did not have a good figure or something.
“She told me to really look at her and at that moment scales fell off my eyes and I saw that the woman was burnt. When I looked at her now she was in tears and she felt mocked, and I said to her: ‘Then it is not me that is asking, it is God that is asking you to walk the catwalk in victory.
“She said that she did not even know me but ‘I am going to trust you’ and she took my hands and I said to her ‘I will design an outfit for you where no one will ever see your burns.’ ”
It turned out that the woman had survived Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare, life-threatening disease in which the body burns from the inside out. She got to walk the catwalk in victory.
Mary said the Lord showed her a green-eyed woman in a dream who He wanted in the fashion show. She asked God where she would find such a woman as there was no one like that in her circles.
But that Sunday morning outside church she saw the lady from the dream getting out of her car. She told the woman her story and she agreed to be a model in the show.
Mary said the dream woman seemed so confident and beautiful that she didn’t seem to fit into the broken women category.
“But that night at 11:45 pm I was fast asleep and an sms came through [from the dream woman] and she said that she just wanted to tell me something: ‘If you had not asked me today to be a model in your fashion show I had a full plan on how I was going to take my life. Today was my day and I was going to drive off a cliff. She said that I had saved her life and I told her that it was the Lord that saved her life ‘because He loves you, I don’t even know
After the fashion show she began a community upliftment and discipling ministry, Women of Worth (Wow), that reaches out to broken woman. It is still active.
But there were more adventures with God to follow, leading up to the birth of The Jesus Business.
A month or so after the fashion show she was lying on her bed with her pen and notebook, making plans for Christmas — guests, the menu, gifts, etc. as was her custom at that time of the year.
“Then there comes this Presence in the room again and this voice said to me: ‘Drop your pen.’ And the voice was Jesus and He said: ‘Whose birthday is it?’ ”
She says Jesus then asked her why she had organised parties for many people but had never given Him a birthday party, even though He was her best friend.
“At that point I completely understood the whole picture and I went into repentance mode and apologised saying: ‘Indeed you do have a birthday.’ ”
A birthday party for Jesus
She says she then started telling people she was having a birthday party for Jesus. She and her friends prepared a table in her flat, organised a cake and a crown. She invited only two neighbours from the block of flats where she lived because most of the others were not Christians.
Then, before the birthday party for Jesus the party group set out for the King George Hospital with gifts for staff and patients. A Muslim lady who had heard about the hospital visit had approached her and asked if she could join them dressed up as Santa — and so she did.
“The Lord said to me that I must not just go to the section [of the hospital] with children but that I must go to the section where the children are dying. There was a multitude of people who wanted to assist.
“We went to the hospital and fed the staff and doctors, we fed the children, told them the Christmas story and gave them gifts. One of the doctors came up to me and said: ‘Thank you for doing this. Churches come every year but
no one has come on Christmas day and these kids have never had Christmas day.
“From there we went to have the party and people were there from all over — even sitting on the stairs. Even though they couldn’t see the party they just wanted to be there. And then there was a Muslim lady
that I had never seen before, a very rich lady, who came and sat and I had to go past her to get to the
kitchen and she phoned a friend at that moment to tell them about the party she was at.
“When we were ready to cut the cake I gave the opportunity for someone to come up and it was the
men of other religions that were most eager to step up to cut the cake. There was just such a Presence [of God]
at that moment that they could not hold a knife because their hands were vibrating. We had to pray over
them to console them because something happened at that point. The same thing happened with the
candles,” she says.
Mary says before the wealthy Muslim lady left she told her she had been driving on the main road when she heard people at a stop street talking about a the birthday party for Jesus. She said turned her car around because she needed to see this thing. She said that in her view Christians did not live like Jesus or talk like Him and yet they claimed He was the biggest thing in their lives. She commended Mary for demonstrating her love for Jesus by going out of her way to please Him with a party.
The next year she organised a party for Jesus on a big scale at a local hotel. They had a praise celebration and got children involved in the preparations and made sure that all the hype of the day was focused on Jesus. The Christmas day birthday party for Jesus had since become a tradition, helping to counter the ignorance of many Christian children about the biblical Christmas story. The nativity sets on sale at The Jesus Business are also aimed at getting children and families to focus on Jesus and scripture at Christmas.
And that brings us to the story of how The Jesus Business was started — the question I asked Mary early in the interview but which needed the stories of the fashion show and the birthday party for Jesus in order to be better appreciated.
Some time after these events, Mary woke up early one morning and sat on her bed with her cellphone in her hand. She remembers looking at her phone and that was her last memory until an hour later when she realised she had gone onto the Internet (something she rarely did) and downloaded masses of pictures including Bethlehem nativity scenes and lots of decor images.
She asked the Lord what He was saying and approached her friend, Pastor Margaret Pillay. In the process of seeking to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, Mary and Pastor Margaret arranged various functions for which they arranged the decor — but confusingly it just didn’t work out.
Getting the gospel into homes through decor
She sought God earnestly asking what they were supposed to do. He spoke audibly to her again, asking what she had in her hands. She replied she could make things. God then told her she was going to get the gospel into homes using decor.
“And then I understood we were going to start a business. But I never knew how deep it was,” she says.
God dropped the idea of bible story paintings into her mind and she started wondering what name to give the business.
One morning as she sat on her prayer mat waiting on the Lord she was stilled by a deep silence, and then, in a vision, saw herself standing on a sandy beach. Then the water and the sand changed places and the sand started to move in waves. Frightened, she began to turn to run but then she saw a bright light surrounded by a white gown — similar to her first fashion show vision — and a voice came from the light, saying: “Fear not, for I am with you.”
Immediately she felt at peace and then she noticed the sand forming into giant letters — TJB. And then the water in which she stood turned back into sand, the sea returned and the bright light vanished.
After three weeks of searching the bible for a clue to the meaning of TJB she found Luke 2:40 and experienced a WOW moment.
“At twelve years of age, Jesus boldly said to His parents, that He was about His Father’s business. What business was He about? He was teaching people about the Kingdom of Heaven. He preached the gospel.The business that Jesus was about, was people and not money. TJB = THE JESUS BUSINESS.”
The Lord showed Mary that they should not release the things they made without first praying extensively over them. She came to understand that her biblical paintings and declarations were supposed to infiltrate the world system bringing light and life into homes where darkness and a spirit of suicide had entered through artworks and other influences.
Mary shared more amazing stories about how God led her and the Jesus Business first to a big yellow house in Durban and later, this year, to a castle in Amanzimtoti where she and Pastor Margaret currently run the business. Many people have given their lives to the Lord through the business which is about people and not about money, she says. A church now meets in the castle on Sundays and The Jesus Business, which is a registered NPO has started moving forward on a vision to establish an orphanage to feed and house children, provide them with skills through an institute and position them in a house of God so that they will be well-equipped when they launch out into the world.
“I want to thank God for the life he has been leading me in. To have a divinely purposeful life and to walk in it every day is bliss,” Mary says.
You can find out more about The Jesus Business by visiting its www.thejesusbusiness.co.za