The following is contributed by a B4T coach who retired from business in the USA and is now living in the Middle East to coach B4T businesses.
Being a B4T coach and moving overseas to do that has been a terrific experience. I have had time to think and reflect on the earth that God has created and my responsibility as one of His children. Additionally, I have had time to enjoy being with my wife and to marvel at this region of the world with some wonderful people in it. I am very thankful for this unique opportunity to contemplate while exploring. Having time to ponder while being thrust into a very different culture, I have walked away with 5 things that I feel very passionate about.
1. The need for sound, involved parenting
My wife teaches in a local school and has a class with 22 amazing 6 and 7 year old’s. Her class is remarkable in many ways but one of the most is the personal sacrifice that the parents are making to provide a solid education to their children. These kids are being taught in English, they study French and their language at home is Arabic. Will they have an advantage in the shrinking world of tomorrow? Will our kids or grand kids in the USA come home some day and say they lost out on a scholarship or job opportunity to some kid who speaks 3+ languages? Positive involvement in the school and providing advantages beyond the average is critical to assist our offspring and their kids be competitive. While our kids are out playing sports, these kids are being educated. Arab parents set a high standard.
2. The need for adult parenting
Once upon a time I sincerely thought that parenting ended when our kids left home. Boy, not only was I wrong but frankly I was selfish! Parenting not only never ends but it should not end. However, it does need to change. I reflect on how my wife and I were really struggling with some major financial issues due to business problems during the Great Recession. My dad, who was almost 90, and I spoke by phone. He asked how we were doing and I told him our reality. He sent me a large sum of money the next day which bailed our business out. This was the first time I ever mentioned a need to him, and he responded in the best way that a loving father with the means to help could. Stay in touch with your children and be in tune to their needs as you both age. They likely need your involvement far more now than a large check (or bills) upon your death.
3. The need for personal responsibility
- “The devil made me do it.”
- “Keep your government hands off my Social Security.”
- “Life is not fair.”
Of these three, the only one that I can agree with is that “life is not fair.” I was born in the United States. I was already on base when the game started, all I had to do was steal a base or two to get home. My parents and their three sons were on welfare when I was young. Government surplus food cans and bags filled our cabinets. Powdered milk and eggs were a staple and that was miserable. Seriously, spam was a highlight. In retrospect, we know we had it great compared to the folks that I have met in Kakuma, Kenya who for 25 years have been living as refugees. Life is not fair. Watching the refugees make the best of a very tough situation is frankly inspiring.
Just because we live in the States, for us to assume that means we have the right to or are entitled to being better off than 90% of the world is naive. Looking to improve ourselves, our children, and their children to deal with the technological, cultural, and spiritual forces impacting the world must be something we are vigilant about, and working to be on top of. Do we think this is purely the government’s responsibility? To assist us, yes, but to insure it happens? Sorry, wrong planet. I see a lot of people here who are willing to take advantage of Americans lack of taking personal responsibility. Not in a violent way but through striving to get better through education, working harder and smarter, and having clear goals for themselves and their families. Life is not fair, so it is imperative that we look for and find ways help our families and their children deal with it.
4. The need to help others
I like the story of the Good Samaritan. The wealthy, religious, right living, pious people skirt around the person they see who is in desperate need. Christ makes us think in a profoundly different way about who our neighbor is. Fortunately, I have not been as desperate as the man on the road at any point in my life. I can say that since moving overseas, there are some folks that have really come to my aid when there was no personal advantage to them. In their mind, it was just the right thing to do. If Christ was to tell that story today, what group would He use to represent people who are not viewed as equal but who might go out of the way to help their neighbor? From what my wife and I have experienced, He would name the Arab’s or the Bedouins, or some other maligned group who have shown both of us, more about being a neighbor than we have experienced (or done) anywhere, including in America. May I be more like the Good Samaritan, or Good Bedouin, or Good Arab, or Good Refugee that we have met. We need to learn to help others that are down when there is no advantage for us to do so. Looking past skin color, language, rituals, ancestry, history, social status, finances, customs, fears and generalizations to what is in the person’s heart is so critical for us to find, and then to love our neighbor.
5. The need for hope
We live in a region with little, maybe no hope. It is at times frightening to me to see this large number of young men and women who see no way out of the economic situation they have inherited. When you cannot see a way out or you have no one to act as a mentor to help you find another way, the impact upon you can be devastating. In the States, every 2 or 4 years, we have the ability to throw out the bums and start afresh. In all the countries I am currently working in that have Kings and military leaders in power, there is no way to let off the super-heated steam. The pressure grows until it bursts out. Creating systems to allow for economic, political, and class mobility for all segments of our society is critical for all the countries to rise again and for all the people to feel they have a voice and a chance. I am thankful I was raised in a welfare family, yet had the ability to sense and experience hope for a better tomorrow. I sincerely pray that my children’s children and the young Arab men and women have similar chances. Whether in rural brown, white, or black America, huge cities like Cairo or Casablanca, refugee centers across Africa or the inner cities of Europe, I am convinced that the world will be a lot safer and calmer if people know what it feels like to have hope.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.