June 23, 2005
[article reprinted in entirety with permission]
Leaving a Lasting Legacy Among Asian Americans
Paul and Alice Chou are training Christians to lead with character and courage.
Interview by Ted Rodgers | posted 06/23/05 at ChristianityToday.com
The Chou Family Foundation, also called L² , specializes in developing leaders among Asian-American Christians and enabling them to leave a legacy behind that will encourage and strengthen the church. The foundation also oversees a ministry in China that trains students in business schools and classrooms, emphasizing the importance of character and ethics in the marketplace. We interviewed Paul and Alice Chou, who live in Raleigh, North Carolina, about their role with L², and where they see God taking their ministry in the future.
Can you first just tell me a little bit about yourselves? Were you both born in the U.S., or did you emigrate here with your families?
Alice: I came as a college student and have lived in the U.S. most of my life. Paul was born into a Christian family that came to the U.S. in 1955. Paul started his own computer software-testing business in the 1980s, then sold it in the late 1990s. That’s when we established our foundation.
Why did you start L², and what does it stand for?
Paul: L² is simply short for “leadership” and “legacy.” We want to encourage leadership among Asian-American Christians and help them leave a lasting legacy for the next generation. Many Asian-American Christians are successful but “silent people.” You’ll find them in major universities or working professional jobs as doctors or lawyers. But are they really engaging with American society? Some of them do, but the majority just do their job. We want to see them begin exercising leadership in all aspects of our society.
How do you empower people to take positions of greater leadership?
Alice: We first identify major churches, organizations, and individuals who have proven track records. Then we put together a list of Asian-American Christians whom we feel are leading in their spheres of influence, and we bring them together through conferences we host. We have at least one leadership-focused forum for a younger audience and one “legacy” gathering for the older generation.
Paul: The first couple years we did this, young people consistently said the number one need they had was mentors in their lives. So part of the legacy program—which is totally new to the Asian-American community—is to help the older generation make a major impact on the younger one by leaving something that is meaningful and valuable behind.
In these “legacy” conferences, we ask them how our foundation can help them achieve God’s calling on their lives. We try to get a good understanding of their needs and what vision they feel God has called them to. Many of these people are middle age or older. They’ve built their wealth through high-tech jobs and working hard. But now that these Christians have reached the pinnacle of success, the question is, what kind of legacy will they leave? We coach them to think through what they want to do and how to do it.
Do you find people are receptive to this idea?
Alice: In most Asian cultures, wealth is usually kept in the family. People pass their money on to their children. Very rarely do they look into philanthropic projects or give money to people whom they don’t know. So we’re swimming against the current on this one. But Christ has called us to share with others who are in need. We say, “Let’s look at the community and see what we can give back to others.”
I understand L² is also active in China. What are you doing there?
Paul: We have a program that teaches young people about entrepreneurship, and in the process we expose them to a market-driven economy. I believe Christians should not only get involved with making disciples of all people, but also to be excellent in all they do. To contribute to a society like China, we need to be concerned not only about people’s souls, but also teaching people marketable skills that will help them in life. Not only that, we build into our curriculum an emphasis on business ethics and character development. We want to instill in them good values that will inform whatever they do in the future.
Alice: We offer this to the school system and use volunteers to teach in the schools. We train Chinese who are already in the marketplace in mid- to upper-level management positions.
Are the schools receptive to your program?
Alice: It’s really a timely program for the Chinese because their economy is opening up to globalization and students really want to be involved in international programs. So schools see us as complementing what they want to do. And they love our emphasis on developing character, strong values, and ethics—in addition, of course, to the core educational curriculum.
Paul: Other institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania or Johns Hopkins go to China to engage with high-end schools with one view in mind—to make money. But we’re there to say that character really does matter. We’re there to help elementary school, junior high, high school, and college kids to understand the importance of character, leadership, and creativity development. We encourage volunteers from companies to come in and serve as mentors and role models.
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