the legacy.

Image

“Chaz, thanks for coming. It makes the day go by quicker with good company.” – Grandpa Oswald

As I hugged my grandfather goodbye in the hospital room Friday evening, these were the last words that he shared with me.  I wrote them down and tucked them away, so as to not forget them.  Somehow I knew they would be the last words I would hear from him.

It was Sunday morning at about 1:30am when I received the call that he passed away.  Though I had intuitively expected that he would not have much more time, I still found myself in shock, as the night before I was told that he was recovering and was expected to make a full recovery.  So I threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater and made the hour drive to the hospital where I visited him just 36 hours earlier.  My family gathered in the waiting room to share in memories and share in tears.  Reflecting back on this experience, I realize how special and intimate this moment was.  The hospital allowed for my grandfather’s body to remain in the room so that the family could gather and mourn the loss.

When I first saw his lifeless body, I could not control the tears that ran down my cheeks.  My grandmother embraced me and then lovingly placed her hands on either side of my face so that I would focus on her words.  Looking me unwaveringly in the eyes, she said, “Son, it is alright.” Then she pulled my face close to hers and she kissed my cheek.

Though the tears did not stop, the love I felt was incredible.  With the tremendous support of two pastors who were ministering to my family, we sat around my grandfather’s body in prayer, reciting Scripture, and singing together some of his favorite hymns.  The intimacy of the moment was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  The hospital’s silence was broken by our rejoicing, as we did not mourn like the world mourns.  We grieved for the loved one we missed, but we were comforted by the hope that this is only a temporary separation.

Though my grandfather no longer is physically with us, the memory of him will certainly remain.  He was a decorated Korean War Veteran whose bravery earned him the Bronze Star, which is the Army’s 4th-highest individual military award.  He earned this honor, along with the Purple Heart (among, many, many other medals), for his bravery in battle when he rescued a friend by trading places with him on a land mine.  He then jumped off the land mine, which caused him to lose both legs from the knee down.

In his personal life, it was evident that his faith in Jesus Christ was his highest priority.  He embodied the fruit of the Spirit as he led a life that was loving, gentle, patient, joyful, good, and faithful.  He and my grandmother had 65 amazing years together.  They were so in love, even until the very end.  I remember how he looked at her.  I remember how he treated her.  I remember how he cared for her.  I remember how they held hands.  Their relationship, which was built on the foundation of Christ, was to be admired and sought after.

Some of my fondest memories with him include playing Rook, watching University of Michigan football (Go Blue!), and sharing in laughter – lots of laughter!  He was a man of character and integrity.  And he will always be remembered by the smile that graced his face.  My hope, now, is that grandpa’s passing will provide opportunity for my remaining family, who currently have no hope in Jesus, to experience the comfort that can only comes from the Living God.

“And He said to me, ‘It is done!’ I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give the fountain of water of life freely to him who thirsts.'” -Revelations 21:6

Advertisements

return.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge. – Psalm 73:28

My grandmother asked me if I had been ill.  I asked her why she thought that I had not been well.  And she said that my eyes gave me away.  I tried to play it off, but she was adamant and determined to understand what my heartache was from.  Part of my exhaustion was for the very reason I found myself in conversation with my grandmother that friday evening.  My grandfather had had a heart attack early that morning.  Though he was in stable condition when I had visited him, the situation weighed heavily on my heart.  Sadly, his health quickly deteriorated and Sunday morning he was whisked into the arms of Jesus.  I have certainly struggled with his passing, not because I lack hope, but because I truly miss him.  He was one of the most godly men I knew and we were very close.  In fact, I was named after him.  Though I intend to detail his life and what he meant to me later on this week, to honor his memory, there was a another situation that very same friday that truly shattered my heart, partly because of the close proximity of who it involved and partly because of its topical relation to all that I resolutely abhor and have been writing about as of late: the sex slave trade and abuse of children.

A Fox News article on sex trafficking details how this week marked the eighth week-long operation to terminate such crimes in the United States.  There were “168 children rescued from the sex trade… [and] 281 pimps…arrested during the same period on state and federal charges (2014).” This sex-sting was concentrated in 106 cities nationwide and was coordinated by state and federal officials from Homeland Security and the FBI.  But what makes this story hit home is not merely that fact that “these are not faraway kids in faraway lands,” as FBI Director James Comey stated, but the fact that one of the predators was a colleague.  It should be noted that I have purposefully omitted the word, “alleged,” as following his arrest friday, John Balyo confessed to raping a 12-year-old boy.

John, who was host of a widely popular Christian morning radio show in West Michigan, was attending and live-casting from a three-day Christian concert series – Big Ticket Festival – in Gaylord, Michigan, when he was arrested.  The radio station, which has since (appropriately, I might add) cut ties with John, is affiliated with the Christian university with which I am employed.  With shocked, disgusted, and humble hearts, the university staff and faculty gathered this morning to lament, pray, and seek the Lord – first, for the victims that have been terrorized, and, second, for the depravity of the human heart.

Though I might never be able to make sense of, or even fully process, the horrendous acts John committed, I think it appropriate to declare that he in no way acted in representation of authentic Christianity, nor in conjunction with the Person of Jesus Christ.  John deserves the full condemnation of the law that governs the United States of America, including the full extent of the consequences as a result of his actions.  My hope and prayer is that he is brought to justice.  Furthermore, I pray that his heart be truly shattered and that he seeks true repentance, for Christ withholds forgiveness from none that honestly seek it.

In addition to discussing John’s situation, I want to briefly discuss the media’s attention to this story, along with the saddening internet comments from every self-righteous “Joe Shmoe” with a computer and an opinion.  Certainly John Balyo committed gruesome atrocities and is deserving of all criticism hurled his way, however, I am also disgusted by lowly individuals who are using this situation as a platform to score political points by raking Christianity through the coals.  It is not Christianity that is the cause of such monstrous and destructive acts, so much as it is the sinful human being, imperfectly striving to live a Christian life (or maybe even lying about living a Christian life). Many call this hypocrisy, and it certainly is.  But the message of Jesus is not that those who are Christians will not mess up or act hypocritically, it is that despite our shortcomings, despite our inability to do right, God’s grace and love and mercy is greater than the wrong we commit.  Additionally, I find it appropriate to point out that despite the vast number of Christians caught up in such hypocrisy and sin, there are tens of millions of secular people caught up in the same acts.  This means that this is not an issue solely to be focused on the Christian, but rather on the whole of humanity.

So what is the lesson to be learned? Likely John Balyo, just like many other sex predators, did not intend to ever get to the point where he would rape the innocence and future of a child.  Instead, it very well likely began with a glance.  There could have been explicit material he stumbled upon.  For a while it satisfied.  But to retain the high, his tastes began getting more perverted.  And as more time was consumed with perversion, more opportunity began to present itself, until finally it led him to the sickening situation he found himself in, which has ultimately destroyed his life – rejection of his family, loss of a job, and loss of a future, as likely he will spend the rest of his life in prison.  So let this be a wakeup call in your life, just as it is a wake up call in my life.  If there is something you are dealing with, even if it is just at the onset, I urge you to end it.  Do not let the potential embarrassment of your honesty and candidness keep you from asking a friend, a counselor, or a pastor for help.

As I conclude, I ask that you pray for the victims of these predators.  They are our children.  And their lives have been marred by physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse.

Return Lord Jesus, return.

all i can see.

IMG_2633

Before setting out to explore the Holy Land in March of this year, there were two books that I decided to read in preparation of my trip overseas. These books included Dr. David Livermore’s Leading with Cultural Intelligence and Dan Senor’s Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. This journal serves as a testament to the key concepts, principles, and ideals that were most striking to me as I prepared to journey to Israel.

Leading with Cultural Intelligence

Having traveled to more than thirty different countries, I have had the privilege to experience customs, colors, smells, foods, and peoples around the globe. Sadly, there have been times when I have allowed myself an attitude of arrogance in thinking that I am well versed in travel and thus have nothing left to learn. Some of this arrogance stems from accolade I have received while overseas as I have been told on multiple occasions that I am different than many foreign travelers. The difference is often cited in the sense that I have a deep appreciation and respect for the customs and cultures I am immersed in. This often is portrayed through a willingness to try and do everything and anything put in front of me. I have a personality that is adventurous, relaxed, and confident. But while I enjoy finding myself absorbed in a new journey, I am often humbled by the fact that, despite all my experiences, I have a great deal to be educated on. This rang true even as I prepared for the trip to Israel by reading Livermore’s Leading with Cultural Intelligence.

Livermore’s book, though relatively short, had a myriad of advice regarding travel preparation and cultural planning. The premise of the text is that the world is flattening and we are finding ourselves interacting with people who represent a plethora of cultures and countries worldwide. For example, at my university, I not only work with students who live in the United States, but I also have the privilege of working with international students from as many as forty other countries. There are days where I literally could be answering an email from a student in Turkey, Skyping with a student in China, and having a student visit from Guatemala. Certainly with as many students I work with from diverse backgrounds, the ability to understand each culture could be overwhelming, especially for someone with little international experience. Instead of feeling overcome though, Dr. Livermore explains, “cultural intelligence is an ability uniquely suited for the barrage of cultures faced by most contemporary leaders. Rather than expecting individuals to master all the norms of the various cultures encountered, cultural intelligence helps a leader develop an overall repertoire and perspective that results in effective leadership (or interaction),” (Livermore, 2010). In other words, the point of cultural intelligence is not to know and understand every custom of every culture, but to have a framework to intelligently interact with people across the cultural spectrum.

Beyond this initial premise, Dr. Livermore developed his book on the Four Dimensional Model of Cultural Intelligence, which includes an individual’s drive (motivation CQ), knowledge (cognitive CQ), strategy (metacognitive CQ) and action (behavioral CQ) in order to reap the benefits of cross-cultural interaction. The initial principle, CQ drive, which “includes three sub-imensions: intrinsic motivation -the degree to which you derive enjoyment from culturally diverse situations; extrinsic motivation-the tangible benefits you gain from culturally diverse experiences; and self-efficacy-the confidence that you will be effective in a cross-cultural encounter,” is the concept that stands out to me to the greatest degree (Livermore, 2010). Just like Dr. Livermore, I am completely energized in cross-cultural environments. To some degree, I would argue I am comfortable and invigorated in a diverse environment because I was raised in an extended family that is biracial, both in terms of marriages and in terms of children that have been adopted from all around the globe. As a result, I grew up celebrating ethnic, racial, and cultural differences. Arguably my motivation or cultural drive is a combination of nature and nurture, regarding this area of strength in my cultural intelligence.

While motivational CQ might very well be my strength, strategic CQ could very well be my weakness. “The three subdimensions of CQ strategy are awareness, planning, and checking. Awareness means being in tune with what’s going on in ourselves and others. Planning is taking time to prepare for a cross-cultural encounter-anticipating how to approach the people, topic, and situation. Checking is monitoring our interactions to see if our plans and expectations were appropriate (Livermore, 2010). The most significant area of weakness for me would be during the planning stage of strategic CQ. I think the issue is twofold. First, since I have done a fair amount of traveling, I find myself feeling as though my general knowledge is suitable for every situation. Thus I find myself asking the question as to why I would spend a significant amount of time preparing when I am confident in my abilities. This certainly can be a prideful and arrogant excuse. Second, I think there is a part of me that can be so relaxed that it could almost be considered laziness. Obviously I am not perfect with every cross-cultural interaction and there could very well be times when I have ignorantly treated someone inappropriately because I was too lazy to aptly plan. But reflecting on this stage, and knowing I need to improve in this area, I think there are two areas I can specifically develop. These areas include preparation in understanding a cultures history and learning more of a country’s language. Too often, for example, I find myself dependent on either translators or nationals knowing English. And there have been occasions when that language barrier has placed me into some difficult or challenging circumstances. An instance where this occurred was when I was last in Thailand. After flagging down three taxis, I finally found a driver who knew enough English to navigate me to my hotel on the other side of Bangkok. But after roughly a thirty-minute drive, I found myself in front of the wrong hotel. Fortunately, I have always been good at charades, so after fifteen minutes of gesturing, the driver finally understood where I needed to be. Of course this scenario was somewhat a part of the journey or experience for me as I can be a bit of an adrenaline junkie. But if ever a situation were to turn sour, I could have really been caught in a terrible bind and knowing at least a bit of the language could potentially ease some of the tension.

The final concept I want to highlight from Livermore’s book is the importance of food. Growing up in the Baptist denomination, there has always been a high priority placed on food. I remember many of my Sunday evenings included gatherings around potlucks, or finger-food-fellowships, as I like to affectionately refer to them. Scripture is not silent on the topic of food either. For example, Christians remember Christ’s sacrifice through the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine. While the Last Supper is certainly symbolic and vital to the Christian faith, Dr. Livermore notes, “In most cultures, eating together has far more symbolic value than simply ‘grabbing a bite to eat.’ Sharing a meal together can often be viewed as a sacred event,” (Livermore, 2010). The first time I truly understood this concept was when a friend I met in Singapore had invited me over to her home to have a prepared meal. Prior to my visit, I found out that her mother had taken the entire day off of work to cook an authentic Chinese meal, complete with stingray, black chicken soup, rice, broccoli, and many other dishes. When I arrived for dinner an entire feast had been prepared. I certainly noticed the sacrifice this family made to have me for dinner, as they were a family of very modest means. To them, this dinner was very sacred and meant for social interaction, not the typical dine-and-dash that we are so accustomed to in the United States.

Overall, I felt that Livermore’s book was an eye opening read that has challenged me to become a more thoughtful international traveler. My overseas experiences have vaulted me forward in my cultural intelligence, but there is a great deal that I have yet to be educated on.

Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle

Having lived in both the United States and Singapore, I have become very familiar with countries of economic strength, noting that the might is often derivative of the nation’s business industry and capitalist policy. When it comes to start-ups though, my attention is immediately directed to Silicon Valley, which is known for the billions of dollars in tech start-up investments that flow through the San Franciscan city.

Before reading Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, I would have never had guessed that the tiny Jewish nation would have such a vibrant business industry with an economic climate that incentivizes and stimulates innovation. Certainly some of my ignorance stems from former knowledge that Israel is a country that is not much bigger than the state of New Jersey and that Israel literally has no natural resources. So it has always seemed to me as a country with very little economically to offer. Combine that with the fact that they are constantly in a state of war and one would ask how anything could be accomplished in such an oppressive environment. Despite these negative valuations though, Dan Senor does a masterful job assessing the nation’s tech savvy and inventive culture.

The astonishing success of Israel’s start-up industry, according to Senor, is based on a number of factors. One of these factors is in regards to the requirement of all citizens of Israel to gain multidisciplinary military training, whether male or female. Of course one of the reasons Israel requires military training of its citizens is due to the fact that the country is surrounded by nations on every border that would like to see the nation completely wiped from the map of the earth. But despite that obvious implication, the mandatory military training provides an excellent and disciplined skillset for the people of Israel. Second, from a cultural perspective, the Jewish people embrace the ideal that failure breeds education. In other words, the culture within Israel leaves plenty of room for individuals to learn from their mistakes. And another observation made by Senor is in regards to the diverse history of the people of Israel. Since Israel was not officially formed, in modern history, as a nation until after World War II, the Jewish people were spread around the globe in countries such as the United States, Russia, and Ireland. These people immigrated back to their homeland, bringing with them various degrees of higher education, diverse cultural perspectives related to the countries they once lived, and even a great deal of financial capital, which is a result of their innate ingenuity.

Speaking of ingenuity, one example of the nation’s start-up industry, more in terms of innovative spirit, is in regards to our MBA group visit to the Golan Olive Oil Mill. It is no surprise that Israel is known for their olives and olive oil industry. Even in ancient times, olive oil was produced in Israel. But for thousands of years, the pulp of the olive, which is what remains after the oil has been meticulously extracted, is left to waste, often-discarded back into the environment. Unfortunately, the remnants of the olive after production can lead to poor environmental impacts, such as polluting valuable water supplies. So in an effort to waste less of the olive and eliminate the harmful affects of olive waste, the Golan Olive Mill found alternative uses for the whole olive, which include the development of external application skin-care products. And it is this resourcefulness that resounds throughout Israel to make them known as a start-up nation.

Overall, I found Senor’s work to be very educational. As I noted previously, I had little understanding of the business environment, let alone the innovative side, of Israel. And I think there is a lot to be learned from Israel’s people and their economic environment, especially as it relates to the future vitality of the United States.

References:
Livermore, D.A. (2010). Leading with cultural intelligence: The new secret to
success. NY: AMACOM. ISBN: 978-0-8144-1487-3

Senor, Dan. (2011). Start-up nation: The story of Israel’s economic miracle.
NY: Twelve. ISBN: 978-0-446-54146-6