One of the most memorable moments of the Catalyst conference I attended in October was (briefly) meeting Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes and author of the new book, Start Something That Matters
. During his on-stage interview, Blake mentioned a pain point of TOMS which set my head spinning. He has experienced difficulty maintaining a solid corporate culture as staff are becoming more culturally diverse and spread out across the world.
|Click to learn more about TOMS.
I decided to write Blake a note telling him that I have experience in multi-cultural community development and would be glad to help. I gave it to him in the autograph line. Although he hasn’t followed up (yet) the idea took root in my mind. If TOMS is experiencing inevitable culture clash as they work with international leaders in developing markets are other companies struggling with similar issues?
Turns out, according to business journals, news reports, and conversations with business leaders, this is a very common issue in business today as companies look to emerging markets for talent (no longer just labor).
My dad and I had already been working on how we might create a feasible model to provide requested leadership training to indigenous leaders in developing countries. Might a One for One model like TOMS’ work for us too? Could we work with multi-nationals in emerging markets and then provide a pro bono or low-cost training to ministry or leaders of community development initiatives in the same area?
This was the initial catalyst for Anda, the business idea my dad and I have been working on for the last several months. It’s a business with a heart of service helping local leaders in emerging markets positively impact their societies to the largest extent possible by providing character-based leadership training. Anda also seeks to help these leaders effectively work with those from the “developed” world who have a clearly defined set of standards and ethics which may be understood differently in the emerging market cultures.
I’m taking one step at a time with this and am not sure where it will lead, and in the process The TOMS story encourages me. My dream is that we will help leaders impact their own cultures by creating great businesses and great ministries which will create wealth where there has been poverty and healing where there has been brokenness.
If you’re interested in this idea, check out our web site. Let me know what you think. I’d love suggestions of any kind.
And finally, check back Wednesday (the 14th) for an opportunity to win the book Start Something That Matters.
After just a week, I am still basking in the lovliness of being home after almost a full year overseas. This week I have had meals with many of my closest friends, seeming to slide back into normal life here in Maryland. Last night a good friend made a dinner and about ten of us shared our hearts as we caught up on what we have learned thus year — how we have seen God at work, and our hopes in our next steps.
As I have been away I have come to understand the ugly side of how America is perceived. I realize that I needed to learn to see my culture through the eyes of outsiders, and am interested in how I might be led to share my findings.
But as I talked with my friends during our evening together, sharing for hours about the situation in Israel an Palestine and our implication in the conflict, I was extremely encouraged as I experienced some of the most beautiful qualiies of my people. I was met by openness, love, a desire to learn, question after question, and unsolicited commitments that these friends would share the things they had learned.
My friends are action people who know their influence and desire to do right. We are all ignorant about many things, but when we seek to understand and when we look to act on what we learn, the ambitious American spirit is a beautiful thing.
At camp a few weeks ago the kids could choose what to learn during one of the time slots each day. While I was doing “circus skills” others were making this movie. I thought you might enjoy it.
“I love this camp,” a pre-teen girl told me as we played in the pool, “I love everything it stands for and everything it’s about, and it’s so fun!”
This attitude was echoed throughout Musalaha’s Israeli-Palestinian summer camp by the seventy Palestinian and Israeli believing children and both local and foreign leaders.
For me, after six months in the Land, this camp gave me real hope
like nothing else I have experienced. There was hope in the Bible studies, in the competitions, in the craziness and laughter, and in the worship. There was hope as the children were creative with their crafts and reckless in their play. There was hope as they were just being girls and boys – having fun, making friends, getting a break from the pressures of their everyday environment.
The fifty leaders arrived on Saturday afternoon to begin a run-through of the camp activities. We were quite a mix
– the Musalaha leadership team, Israeli and Palestinian young teens who were junior counselors, Palestinian and Israeli college-aged counselors, and an American team visiting the country to serve us and the children. Over the course of the two days of preparation we got to know each other, and when the children arrived on Monday, we were ready!
When they arrived, many of the children found friends they had met at last year’s camp. A group of two Palestinian and three Israeli girls negotiated to be in the same room. Upon receiving permission, they pulled five bunks together to make one huge bed where they could sleep together.
During my time here, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying who is on which side
– quickly profiling everyone I meet. It’s usually unconscious, automatic, and often seems necessary. When I get on a bus, I need to remember what kind of bus it is so I know if I should greet and thank the driver in Hebrew or Arabic. When I see a group, I notice which side they are from. When I talk to people, I want to know where their sympathies lie so I don’t say something terribly offensive.
At the camp I realized that I wasn’t noticing who is Israeli and who is Palestinian. I saw my brothers and sisters from both sides of the conflict demonstrate a love of Christ and each other above their love of sticking with their side. Leaders cared for kids, loving and instructing them regardless of where they are from. We were all there as believers in Jesus, and as should more often be the case, during camp no other identity really mattered.
One day after craft time, a Palestinian boy from the West Bank proudly pulled me aside to show me his pencil case. On it, he had painted an Israeli flag. I am not sure how his parents will feel about it, but it showed me how much more simple this situation is for the children. He loved his new friends and leaders and therefore had fond feelings about the place they are from.
As my coworker Tamara and I reflected on the camp, she said, “Innocence breaks down all this hatred that we have around us. You love the good things that you see in the other side. Like Jesus said, we should be little children.”
The reality is that the conflict will probably get harder for these dear young ones as they get older. They will be pulled and they will likely have experiences that will confirm what their communities teach about the other. The conflict is real and they will likely come face to face with it before long.
But that thought is followed by remembering what I saw in the young adults who helped to lead the camp, many of whom have been raised as a part of Musalaha. They are
pulled, but they do not forget their friends. For them, the “enemy” will never be faceless, inhuman, or distant. For them, the situation will never be easy or black and white. That is good. With open eyes they can help bring change. They are the hope.
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:1-3
Saturday I attended the weeding of some friends of mine in Bethlehem. I sat across from an Israeli and a Palestinian friend. They were getting along great. I kept hearing, “I love you sister!”
Eventually, the conversation turned to Musalaha, where they concluded together: “This is the real Musalaha.” Sitting at a table, doing life together, enjoying each other.
|My beautiful friends.
I’m thankful that the work we do is laying the groundwork for these relationships to begin. May more continue beyond our programs and into normal life.
It is my hope that someday these friends will not have to wait for permits and special events to see each other.