Serving Brings Happiness

Over the past 22 years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching English to immigrants on a volunteer basis in both California and Utah. I’ve also been able to donate hundreds of my multicultural/bilingual picture books to refugee and other charitable organizations for language learning. While I’ve been the teacher, it’s been an education for me. Students from Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, China, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, and Syria have enriched my world. These people are so grateful for the privilege of living in the greatest country on earth. (If you don’t yet know that the United States is the greatest country, find a way to live abroad–not simply visit tourist capitals.) While their language abilities vary, they want very much to master English and contribute positively to the community. Some of their stories are too intense for human consumption (and yet these humans have lived them). Sacrifice and struggle seems to be the price to come here. These people are generous with the little they have and are always grateful for help with perhaps the most difficult language in the West. If you can make time to help newcomers, I promise you, it is the cure for self-focus and “the world is going to heck” thinking. Find service opportunities in your area by typing your zip code in the following site: JustServe.org. You will be happier than you are today.

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Folk Tale Shows Kids How to Earn

Adults get business and money-making tips too

WHAT:  “The Bridge of the Golden Wood: A Parable on How to Earn a Living”

The illustrated go-to resource for the budding/aspiring entrepreneur (and families)

WHO:  Multicultural author Karl Beckstrand (some illustrations by Yaniv Cahoua)

WHEN:  Official hardcover release August 2017, ebook is available now

WHERE:  PremioBooks.com Amazon/Kindle, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Brodart, EBSCO, Flipkart, Follett, iBooks, Ingram, Inktera, Kobo, Mackin, OverDrive, Oyster, SCRIBD, txtr

MORE INFO:  Publisher Karl Beckstrand finds that many people haven’t had instruction on how to earn a living. Beckstrand’s books feature black, white, Hispanic & Asian characters. Comes with ideas for businesses; money-making activities; and online resources on finding customers, managing money, and moving up in an organization (for ages 5 and up). PremioPublishing.com, LCCN: 2016949820, JUV009090, JUV006000, JUV012060, BUS025000, BUS012010, BUS060000, paperback ISBN: 978-1536889864, hard ISBN: 978-0985398811

STORY:  MIDVALE, Utah, Feb. 22, 2017 – Doing things for free doesn’t sound like a great recipe for earning. But a new picture book shows how a child with a knack for solving problems helps some hungry fish and finds a treasure.

“The Bridge of the Golden Wood: A Parable on How to Earn a Living” (for ages 5 and up) came to author Karl Beckstrand after he had visited many schools, observing almost no curriculum on earning money.

Beckstrand, winner of a 2016 International Book Award, says that earners start young—with no expectation of reward. “Doing something for nothing, not only helps you feel good,” says Beckstrand of his 18th book, “it gives you experience, a good reputation, and sometimes, money-making ideas.”

“Many children and adults lack confidence that only comes through experience,” says Beckstrand. “We get experience by finding and filling needs, solving problems.”

Beckstrand’s first job out of college was as a technical recruiter in Silicon Valley. “I met a lot of people – some with great ability and egos, some with no ability and great egos, and some with no egos,” he said. “The latter group had the best chances because they were open to learning.”

“Trying new things is a great education,” says Beckstrand – who wanted to be a rock star, not a writer. He worked in fast food, quality assurance, security, delivery and transportation, sales, customer service, hospitality, and human resources before publishing his first book.

“I did get to sing professionally,” he said, “even if our band was basically a wedding band. The point is, by trying lots of things, I learned what I like and developed skills that help in any industry.” He also learned what he didn’t like to do.

After a couple of books through other publishers, Beckstrand now runs a publishing company in Midvale. Premio Publishing specializes in multicultural mysteries, biographies and language books for families. “They’re not about race or ethnicity,” says Beckstrand. “They simply happen to have characters of color.” They have also received awards and raves from national publications like School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book’s blog, and ForeWord Reviews.

Even after getting a master’s degree in international relations, Beckstrand noted that none of his school courses taught earning or managing money. He says his most valuable education has come from running a business and living abroad.

Beckstrand has included tips he has learned in “The Bridge of the Golden Wood,” written in dyslexic-friendly font and available in hard cover (pre-order) and ebook via major distributors, Amazon, and PremioBooks.com.

Me, Inside & Out

People often ask me how I—a South African, Scottish Swede—came to speak Spanish. I also get quizzed about being so thin. Both are the result of my LDS mission to Viña del Mar, Chile. Actually, my mom was an enthusiastic student of Spanish, so she spoke broken Spanish to us while we were growing up in San Jose, California (she used to call me Carlos).

If they are physically and mentally healthy, and if they meet the standards of worthiness, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the privilege of serving a volunteer mission when they reach eighteen to twenty something years (also at retirement age). I was healthy, but I’d made some choices that were less than worthy. I remember at 18 going to a room alone and declaring—not to God, but to the devil—that I would qualify to serve a mission no matter what! While my determination was admirable, God knew I could not do it alone. It would be years before I realized that it was Christ’s grace that qualified me.

After submitting an application, having ecclesiastical interviews, medical exams, and my wisdom teeth pulled, it was a thrill to bid my friends and family farewell, get some training, and fly to Santiago, Chile. I LOVED the country, the people, and the language. I got sick almost monthly, and learned what real service was (from the people I had come to serve).

We missionaries saw thousands of people embrace the gospel of Christ and receive the blessings of following God’s plan of happiness. I learned that God’s love is tenacious. I witnessed miracles (especially when I could first understand the fast-speaking people). I gained an appreciation for U.S. freedoms while living under a dictator. I distributed food, helped build a house, and got in-person training from a prophet and apostles. I gained life-long friends with some of the most generous people on earth (we mission associates—gringo and Chileno—still gather whenever we can and marvel at the extraordinary things we were able to be a part of). Mostly, I had a profound and personal assurance that I was doing the most important work on the planet. It’s hard to describe that joy.

What I didn’t realize is that a double course of antibiotics (after having my wisdom teeth pulled) had sent me defenseless into an environment of microbes my body had never known.

At first I only had occasional discomfort once I was home. As the years passed, stomach stress became constant and often painful. Despite visits to Stanford Medical Center and countless other doctors, no one has yet identified or remedied the problem. I soon lost confidence in my ability to control my body. This began to impact my social life. While I’ve dated more women than I can remember or number, each date was first stressful, and eventually became a major effort. Soon, I would return from short dates completely wiped out.

Today my diet is severely restricted—as is my energy. My social life is paltry. I struggle to maintain even a runner’s body weight, and my gut remains inflamed. Please believe that this is not typical for a missionary who gets sick. Most I’ve met have found remedies. (Don’t fear travel, it’s perhaps the best education you’ll ever get—especially if you get away from the big cities.)

Still, I’ve been able to do nearly everything on my bucket list. My Spanish has proven helpful in my work and in countless other spheres. The following isn’t to brag (more to enumerate my blessings) —there’s a point I want to make at the end. In addition to gaining a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a film certificate, I have:

  • Been a commencement speaker for college graduation
  • Taught at a university
  • Sung in rock bands
  • Signed Legislation in D.C. (staffers do it all the time if the rep. is away)
  • Visited 4 continents, 12 countries, and 35 states
  • Created and headed two businesses
  • Volunteered at Stanford University Hospital
  • Helped found a Silicon Valley high-tech organization and handled their PR
  • Published 17 books (many award-winners and Amazon bestsellers)
  • Kayaked in whitewater
  • Lectured to large and small groups
  • Worked for IBM, Intel, and Marriott
  • Piloted a plane (not take-off or landing)
  • Hired hundreds of people
  • Been to an Olympic hockey medals game (my favorite sport to watch)
  • Performed for thousands (even alongside the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
  • Water skied, snow skied
  • Been a Spanish interpreter
  • Acted in radio, TV, film
  • Been published in magazines & The U.S. Congressional Record
  • Had my scripts selected in competition (one produced on radio)
  • Repelled on and jumped from high cliffs
  • Been an ecclesiastical leader / served on a high council

My point is this: Even with my illness and the impact it has had on my life (I have yet to have a family of my own), if I had to choose between the experiences from my mission or those in the list above, without hesitation I would keep my treasured missionary service. Some might wonder whether I would do it again—knowing beforehand how it would change my life. I wouldn’t give up those changes for anything. If they called me to serve again today, I’d be the skinniest, weakest, happiest missionary on earth. My passport is still current.

Perpetual Education

In April, 2001, then President, Gordon B. Hinckley, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in the church’s 171st annual (world) General Conference that the church was going to establish a Perpetual Education Fund for young adult members whose access to education and job training was limited by cost or other circumstances. The program was to be modeled after Brigham Young’s Perpetual Emigration Fund of the late nineteenth century, which helped bring 26,000 Latter-day Saint converts (mostly from Europe) to Utah Territory (Utah was not made a state until 1896) (Deseret News).

President Hinckley was concerned, as he visited members in various parts of the world, that many of them (including returned missionaries) were unable to fill their potential—or even adequately meet the needs of their families—because the cost of education was prohibitive. “We don’t want to give away money and make people weak,” he told the program’s future director (LDS Church News). “‘Where there is widespread poverty among our people, we must do all we can to help them to lift themselves, to establish their lives upon a foundation of self-reliance that can come of training” (LDS Conference Report).Since LDS ministers are lay clergy (non-paid), even these must have gainful employment outside their church service; and the standard of living in many states where the church operates was not conducive to job training or learning.

The educational loan fund was to be established initially by volunteer donations (which quickly poured in from all over the world), the interest of which is loaned out and then replaced as employed graduates paid back their loans into the fund. Early Mormon converts whose immigration was facilitated by the Perpetual Emigration Fund worked to restore monies into the Fund to assist other converts in their journey. Today, Perpetual Education Fund loan recipients work to replace what they have used so that others may benefit.

In 2001, the year of its creation, the PEF was offered in Mexico, Peru, and Chile. “The potential for failure might have loomed as the PEF’s newly appointed leaders rushed to begin providing loans by autumn of 2001, as President Hinckley had directed. Outside of the prophet [Hinckley]’s inspired outline there existed no business plan, no detailed proposal. The program was organized using the text of President Hinckley’s conference talk as its charter. Hundreds of loan applications were flooding into Church headquarters even as directors were being called and the basic structure of the program was being formed.

“But miracles were already taking place. Within the first year, millions of dollars had been donated to the program. Several individuals whose backgrounds made them uniquely qualified for the work of the PEF were immediately available to serve as volunteer directors. The infrastructure necessary to support the PEF globally had already been laid in the form of Church Educational System’s institute programs and Church Employment Resource Centers [around the world]. Things fell into place quickly, providing the program with what President Hinckley reported in April 2002 to be a ‘solid foundation’” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Education has always been a paramount objective of the Latter-day Saints. After building temples, the church has typically sought to establish schools as its next highest priority. Church founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. taught, “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18). LDS scripture also instructs, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). “In part, this means that Mormons recognize a kind of learning that incorporates both intellect and spiritual insight. They also acknowledge that these are not unrelated: spiritual understanding, for instance, is necessary to give rational inquiry its ultimate purpose. Moreover, Latter-day Saints affirm that faith and reason are not fundamentally hostile to each other” (LDS Newsroom).

Brigham Young taught that Mormons embrace truth regardless of the source. “It is our duty and calling, … to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church … to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion” (Discourses of Brigham Young 1940,248).

In the ten years since its inception, more than 50,000 people in 450 countries have received PEF loans. “As of February 2011, 90 percent of those who have sought work after completing their schooling have found employment. Some 78 percent of those now employed say that their current employment is an improvement over what they had before receiving schooling, a figure expected to improve with time. The average income after schooling for PEF participants is three to four times greater than income prior to schooling, representing a vast improvement in economic status” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

“Today the program is made up of 47 percent men and 53 percent women. Of the men, 80 percent of the participants are returned missionaries and 82 percent of all participants work while going to school. On average, education and skills training takes 2.6 years, and the average total loan for one participant is about $1,800” (LDS Church News).

As more people donate to the fund, it expands to more countries. And the loans impact many more lives than just those who receive education. Rex Allen, PER Director of Training and Communications, explained: “As each participant marries and begins a family, the number of people blessed doubles, triples, and continues to multiply into the hundreds of thousands” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Loan recipients are able to give time and means to other worthy endeavors—including sharing the blessings of education with others.

“‘This program is growing very, very rapidly, and it really is quite a challenge to keep up with it,’ according to Elder John Carmack, PEF Director. Each area in the Church has its own committee to screen PEF applications. More than 98 percent of the applications that reach PEF headquarters in Salt Lake City are able to garner final approval.

“Elder Carmack estimates two-thirds of PEF recipients are current with or have completed the payback of their loans. ‘We would love to have 100 percent payback,’ he said. ‘These are people most of whom never even had a bank account. They have never been involved in a business transaction or signing a promissory note. But they’re paying back better and better all the time. For example, those who just joined the program in the last 12 months, their paying-back percentage is something like 88 percent. These people are showing their integrity, and we keep working to move that up’” (LDS Church News).

Still in its infancy, the PEF has much territory to cover (the PEF currently operates in 45 of the 175 countries and territories in which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a presence). It is difficult to estimate how many of the more than 14 million Latter-day Saints have need of education assistance.

The LDS Church Welfare program, which focuses on people’s temporal needs and helping them be self-reliant, began as a resource for church members only (today, church membership is not a requirement). Additionally, Latter-Day Saint Charities regularly delivers food, clothing, medical and other disaster relief, as needed, around the globe. As the PEF matures, the day may come when anyone who desires to improve their situation may apply for such a loan.

REFERENCES

Deseret News. Perpetual Education Fund a Success, but with Challenges.www.deseretnews.com/article/705380579/Perpetual-Education-Fund-a-success-but-with-challenges.html?pg=2(accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Askar, Jamshid. 2009. Perpetual Education Fund is Making a Difference. LDS Church News, Sept. 11. www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57887/Perpetual-Education-Fund-is-making-a-difference.html  (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

LDS Conference Report, April, 2001. The Perpetual Education Fund.http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-183-21,00.html (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Perpetual Education Fund Fulfills Prophetic Promises. lds.org/church/news/perpetual-education-fund-fulfills-prophetic-promises?lang=eng(accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Doctrine & Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

LDS Newsroom. Mormons and Education: An Overview. newsroom.lds.org/article/mormons-and-education-an-overview (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Widtsoe, John A. Discourses of Brigham Young. Deseret Book, 1941.LDS Church News. Celebrating Ten Years of the Perpetual Education Fund.

http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/61195/Celebrating-10-years-of-the-Perpetual-Education-Fund.html (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

PEF.LDS.ORG.PEF Success Stories. pef.lds.org/pef/southafrica_shirley?locale=eng(accessedNov. 22, 2011)

See also: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASteMXNHN-8 

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Originally posted by Karl Beckstrand 2/7/2012 11:02 PM