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Job Interview

Kenneth Chmiel Jr.

Bible Pusher

By David Boyer

Tattoos run up and down his arms. He looks more like a bike messenger than an avid churchgoer. And while you'll probably never see Kenneth Chmiel Jr. in suit and tie, selling Bibles door to door, this twentysomething Tenderloin resident does sell them at the Western Christian Book Store on Market Street. DAVID BOYER caught up with him recently in the bookstore on his day off.

David: "So, Kenneth, what's your job?"

Kenneth: "I sell Bibles, and I sell books on theology."

David: "And do you like it?"

Kenneth: "Yeah, I love it. It's an opportunity to read all day because the store's pretty slow--there aren't a lot of Christians in San Francisco. And I have a degree in theology and I'm immensely concerned about theological issues, so it gives me an opportunity to make money and read at the same time and really help people. There have been times when people have come in here hurting and just needed someone to talk to or pray with. It's happened a lot of different times. So, I look at it as a ministry also."

David: "So, how did you start?"

Kenneth: "I graduated from Bible college in Southern California and came to the City to work for a church as a missionary. I lived with the pastor for two months, and he asked me to be an assistant pastor. I started teaching "College and Career" and I came to [the bookstore] looking for a commentary on the gospel of John. And I started talking to a girl, Anna. I didn't need a job at the time because I was working for a low-fat restaurant to pay the bills and I was an assistant pastor. And then a lot of different stuff happened. Anna moved away, and I kept a rapport with [the bookstore] and her. She moved away and they just asked me if I wanted a job. And I came down here and I got her job."

David: "How long have you been doing this?"

Kenneth: "About a year."

David: "What's the most popular item sold here, something you just can't keep on the shelves?"

Kenneth: "We always have Bibles in stock. Probably books on brokenness, about broken relationships. There's a book by T.D. Jakes, Woman, Thou Art Loosed, about how women have been hurt in relationships. That's pretty popular."

David: "Do you hang out with the people you work with outside the store?"

Kenneth: "Well, I live with one of the guys who works here. But no, not really."

David: "If you weren't working here, what might you be doing?"

Kenneth: "I'd be back in school, working on my master's in theology. That's what I plan on doing in about a year. Or possibly teaching in a church or being a missionary overseas.

David: "Favorite movie you've seen in the last six months?"

Kenneth: "It's a battle between Anna Karenina and The Game."

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From the November 1997 issue of the Metropolitan.

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