Starbucks Scandal

Starbucks Scandal

I’m not sure if the Starbucks Tax Scandal has made the news in the States, but it is a big deal here in the UK. It won’t surprise many of you that Starbucks comes up in my conversations fairly frequently (since I love coffee and like Starbucks a lot). So, for the last six months, every time it comes up I have heard a little more about the scandal. I actually don’t know tons about it, but apparently Starbucks took advantage of a tax loophole and has not been paying income tax in the UK. There have been protests and boycotts. It’s big news.
What my siblings and I call the “Green Circle of Pleasure,” just the sight of which gets the serotonin flowing!
My immediate question the first time I heard this was, “So wait, did they do something illegal?” to which the answer was, “No.”
Americans think very differently about taxes than Brits do.
This difference is something I am convinced is deeply true, and this is just one small example. American companies’ first obligation is to their stakeholders, particularly their customers, employees, and shareholders. They are, obviously, bound to obey the law, but I don’t think many Americans would consider it immoral to not pay taxes which are not required by law.
In England, though, this is a very different thing. In the UK, taxes are used for things which people highly value, like the National Health Service (NHS) and benefits meant to create equal opportunities. There is an expectation that the State can and should care for its citizens and a high value for government programs.
We (typically) feel so differently about this in the States. I realize that I come from a conservative background in America, and I also realize that I live in a particularly liberal part of the UK. But even with this acknowledgement, I think that there are longstanding cultural value differences stemming back to the founding of our various nations.
In a monarchy, there is an expectation for the king or queen to take care of his/her people. My theory is that this translates much more easily into a state with large and strong social services, because whether or not it works perfectly the people have a value system which allows for this. And because the system is relatively consistent with the values of the population people feel comfortable making it work. Paying taxes is a huge part of making the system work. Starbucks, therefore, seems to have committed a moral wrong in the perspective of the British value system.
However, we Americans have a very high value for individual achievement and we tend to distrust large structures, especially the government or those mandated by the government. I think this goes back to the American Revolution, the outcry against “taxation without representation,” and the entire political system that developed out of that. We tend to think more about keeping it in check than in making sure it gets its dues. If there is a tax loophole, we all want to know about it so we all can take advantage of it. I think this is why tax accounting is such a huge business. We figure that it is the government’s responsibility to close up the loopholes (we probably would consider if immoral if they don’t). I have every expectation that the companies I invest in are not paying taxes that they don’t need to. I would be very unhappy if they were.
I find it interesting that a company like Starbucks, which has a reputation of taking the high moral ground on issues like health insurance for part-time employees and etc, has ended up in this scandal. I think that it is a very interesting matter of cultural value mis-match. I am guessing that they never saw the public outcry coming.
For me personally, it is another reminder of the difficulties of cross-cultural living. There are phenomenal opportunities to have our values and expectations challenged. Maybe what I’ve always thought isn’t actually right after all. Or maybe what I thought was an absolute is actually more a matter of opinion. Or maybe my culture is right on this thing or that, and I need to remain committed to it even when it’s not popular in another context.
It’s kind of nice to know that massive companies commit cross-cultural faux pas too. Somehow, it makes mine feel a little more understandable.
I love the Yorkshire Dales!

I love the Yorkshire Dales!

This weekend, the Global Cafe team went into the Yorkshire Dales near Harrogate and had a really nice time together. The drive up was difficult (for the drivers) because the fog was so thick you could barely see a car length ahead. The picture below were from when the sun was thinking about breaking through. I hope you can get the idea of how dreamy it is up there!



I had a great two-day trip to London for a conference on “Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Africa” on Saturday. I wend down via coach (bus) early Friday morning and then walked the 4.5 miles to my hostel. On the way I found a massive discount store called Primark, which was a great place to explore and buy a few things. I got to the hostel in the late afternoon and chilled/caught up on email and had an early evening.

Saturday morning I had breakfast at the Hostel and then jumped on the London Underground for the trip to my conference, which was at the University of London. It was a fantastic conference, not large but attended by journalists, dignitaries like government ministers of several African countries, and many business and development people. I am so glad that I made the trip.

I walked back to the Victoria Coach Station after the conference ended, enjoying the three hour window to see more of London and eat dinner near the station.

I love the buildings in London. This conference provided the opportunity to see parts of the city I haven’t seen on more touristy trips, and here are some pictures I took along the way.

I thought this building was so pretty.

Just a typical street in (a nice area of) London.

I was so impressed by these women. They are high level leaders in the governments of Ethopia, Rwanda, and Kenya. The fourth lady was the moderator. It is so exciting to hear about what governments like Rwanda are doing with their “Vision 2020.”

:-)!! This was so beautiful in the flesh.

A sight very unlike an American street.

Coventry 2

Coventry 2

I thought I’d share the report I did on the Coventry Conference and some pictures from the professional photographer who joined us. It really was a great time. I am hoping we’ll do a conference in the States sometime before too long!

The beautiful Coventry Cathedral was a wonderful location for the conference

On May 20th and 21st participants from the UK, other European countries, and America gathered in the iconic Coventry Cathedral to join Musalaha for our first international Reconciliation conference.

Musalaha was invited by Christian leaders in the UK to share first-hand experiences and lessons learned in reconciliation with the wider body of Christ – whose members have increasingly felt the need to choose sides as they consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The powerful story of the Coventry Cathedral was meaningful to our participants as they heard testimonies of reconciliation in the place dedicated to forgiveness since its devastation during a war-time attack in 1940 and rebuilt as a testimony of faith and hope.

Salim Munayer and Evan Thomas
Speakers included Palestinian and Israeli leaders such as Salim Munayer and Evan Thomas as well as other leaders. We also worshipped in Hebrew, Arabic and English and heard powerful testimonies, including some young Nigerian leaders in reconciliation.

Participants were very encouraged by testimonies and teachings from Musalaha’s ministry partners. We were joined by Cathy Nobles and students from YWAM’s School of Reconciliation and Justice, Tanas Alqassis and Rev. Joseph Steinberg from the Church Mission Society, Rev. Gilbert Lammerts van Bueren from Near East Ministry and representatives from the Baptist Mission Society.

We were excited to have approximately 150 participants representing a wide variety of churches, organizations, and communities.

Insights following the conference made one thing clear: the message of reconciliation is not only relevant for those of us living in areas of conflict. It is the call of God for all believers.

Here are some quotes from participants:
The variety of speakers, insights, demonstration of faith in action! Very exciting ministry that challenges everyone’s thinking.

I realize now that as a Christian I am involved… I should be a peacemaker.

The quality of the speakers was absolutely first class!

The respect that the team shows each other also witnesses to the power of your message. Insightful.
Great Britain is in need of this message, especially within the church.

The conference was everything I had hoped it would or could be. I feel better equipped with all the excellent teaching and sharing… to take Jesus’ way of the cross through the middle, without being swayed by the rhetoric or fears of either side in the Body of Christ in the UK.

All of us have been inspired by the teaching and especially by the high quality of testimonies and the way Salim Munayer and Evan Thomas have answered questions: sincere and with a sense of humor. It was not easy to keep out of politics and at the same time remain relevant to the situation which you as Israeli’s and Palestinians have to face. For those of us living in the west, it was humbling to witness how you are forced to identify with Christ more fully because of the conflict. A true encouragement to all of us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.

For more information, please visit Here are some more pictures of the event:
Thank you so much for your prayers for the conference. We felt the presence of God and are thanking Him for a wonderful time.



Last week I had the opportunity to go to the UK for a conference we (at Musalaha) organized. The conference was to share about what God is doing in reconciliation here in the holy land, and elsewhere in the world. I hope someday we can do a similar conference in the States!

Here are a few pictures:

Me with my friend and coworker, Ronit, in the beautiful Coventry Cathedral, which we called  home for three days.
The crowd.
With Diana and Ronit, two Messianic Jewish Israelis who shared their testimonies at the conference. It was fun to have the English and Middle Eastern worlds I know collide!

Class This Week

Hi Friends!

It has been a long time, I know. Since I’m now living in England, it’s hard to think of good things to write that would be interesting for you guys. My dad and I were talking and he suggested I share a few of the stories I told him about teaching this week, so here goes. I will try, also, to do some posts in the coming week — during which six of my very good friends (OK, I will be meeting two of them here but am confident we’ll become friends) will be adventuring through Ireland and England, celebrating Thanksgiving, and doing some other fun things. But first, some stories about classes this week.

First, I was at Bible English on Wednesday where a group of us teach mostly asylum-seekers (called refugees in America) English and use the Bible as our text. It is an interesting class with a wide spectrum of English levels and abilities. I ended up with an Afghani lady who has a lot of trouble understanding in the class. It is doubtful that she has ever had formal schooling and it is really difficult to help her understand basic concepts. I admit feeling frustrated as we went through our lesson and prayed that I would have help to love her better.

As the lesson wound down, she started talking to me out of the blue, and was able to communicate quite a bit in English. She told me about the difficult situation her family is in because they are not allowed to work here and the money they are given by the government is not enough for her to buy coats for her three children. It is cold here so I understand this would be a major concern! They can’t go back to Afghanistan and don’t have much hope for getting different papers any time soon.

The next day, I was at the other English class I help with. This one is a general TESOL class and is made up of about 20 ladies, mostly Pakistani, who live in this city. Many have been here for over ten years and don’t speak much English. They are wonderful and enthusiastic learners, and a joy to work with.

For the first time, my friend Elizabeth and I were asked to take a group of the more advanced students upstairs in the church we use for the classes to work on the computers. We were to start making a CV (like a resume) with them. I knew in my head that they didn’t know how to use computers. But I wasn’t prepared…

When we got up to the room and each lady sat in front of a computer. I asked if they had ever used computers before, and they all said no, NEVER. One said that her family has one, and she has never used it.

I started working with one of the older ladies who has lived here for over 30 years. She speaks English very well but is just learning to read and write. She worked in a school in Britain for 25 years as a lunch lady. This was clearly her first time working on a computer. It was amazing to teach someone what a mouse is — it seemed as difficult to her to learn how to maneuver it as it would be to learn to drive a car! And things like how long to push a button to make it register once, not 8 times, were terribly difficult.

Anyway, these experiences this week have me thinking more about the immense need within the refugee and immigrant communities all over the world. I also realize more how difficult it is to be a teacher (I admire my teacher friends so much), and how blessed I am to have had opportunities for education. To be able to read and write in itself is a blessing I take for granted all of the time. And it is wonderful to get to work with these incredible women who, although they have not had the same opportunities, are fun, loving, proud of their families, and have amazing life stories.