It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

kermit-3 In about 1972, Jim Raposo wrote a song made popular by Jim Henson singing as Kermit the Frog, ‘It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green’ and such words were never more true than in the world today for some who consult with international organizations and are painting whole countries green! Kermit, apparently has begun to understand the dangerous times in which we live. It is a shame that some of these consultants are not as kermit-2well aware. When I say it’s a shame, I mean shame in the most Asian culture seriousness of the word. Perhaps an allusion to another time in our country when being green was a euphemism for being a novice, inexperienced and in capable of functioning on their own, particularly in dangerous situations, is the best way to understand the color.  

I enjoy allusions to cinema and when those illustrations also include John Wayne, so much the better! In El Dorado, John Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a gun hand who refuses to go against his old friend who is the sheriff in the middle of a range war. Instead, he comes to his aid. The sheriff, J.P. Harrah, gets very irritated at a new friend of Wayne’s character, named Mississippi (James Caan) and turns toward him, gun drawn. Thornton (Wayne) says, “Now wait a minute J.P., he’s a little green…” el-dorado-1

Like an unripe fruit, he was not ready. In this case, he was not ready to be on his own in a dangerous situation.    

What does this have to do with this consultant advising this international agency on security and using the color green? The plan, apparently, was to review the security needs of every country in the international organization’s wheel house. They would then color code them as to the level of security training necessary. There were four categories, red being the highest risk and requiring the most training, orange, yellow and then green. Thirty-four out of sixty-five areas of responsibility worldwide, 52.3% were rated as GREEN and were considered LOW RISK. The most heinous part is that the LOW RISK countries required NO TRAINING. Some extremely basic 3 hour introductory videos are shown to everyone but beyond that – No Training!

Low risk countries included all of Europe; including Germany, France, and Spain and we all know how safe those places are today. Ukraine, recently invaded by Russia with war still prevalent in the eastern cities only rates a YELLOW – two days of training!

Although Eastern and Western Mindanao were considered separately, the Philippines was listed as GREEN, no training needed. Western Mindanao is RED and Eastern Mindanao is only YELLOW – requiring just 2 days of training! I could continue; but, you can imagine that if over 50 percent of an organization’s countries, or areas of responsibility, require no supplemental training at all, what is the level of situational awareness of the people working in those countries?

Let’s take a further look at Mindanao. The company divides it into Western and Eastern as we described earlier. Those were the names used before the emancipation. The correct name for Western Mindanao is the Zamboanga Peninsula. Remember, it is shown as RED and the remainder of Mindanao or what was labeled as Eastern is YELLOW – requiring only two  days of training so near to one of the most hateful bunch of Al Qaeda factions out there. Now, realize that all of Mindanao is only 37, 654 square miles. That is less than the State of Ohio which is 44, 825 and can be traversed easily in a few hours. The Zamboanga Peninsula is only 572.74 square miles, which is comparable in size to New York CITY which is 468.90 without its suburbs! So, here I am in Ohio saying that in NE Ohio I’m okay, only a yellow; but, if I travel a few hours to near Cincinnati, bang- I’m in red territory.

Let’s jump off the island of Mindanao and consider the rest of the Philippines which is GREEN – no additional training needed. Manila, the capital city is about as far away from Mindanao as you can get and still be on the archipelago.  By air it is only 561 miles to Manila from Mindanao and 1040 miles by land and boat. Forty two hours travel in the latter and only 59 minutes in the former. Plus, the airfare currently is only $91 one way. Employees of this company living in Manila are GREEN and require no additional training while they are only $91 and 59 minutes from some of the worst Al Qaeda terrorists in the world.

The United States is listed as GREEN yet shootings, stabbings, kidnappings are on the news almost every night. Should not every American have some understanding of how to be situationally aware enough to protect themselves? Apparently the employees of this organization do not require it. The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

No doubt, those involved in this organization went about their task in good faith and put a great deal of stock into what they were being told. I would really like to know what kind of a grid was used to determine the levels of risk.  I would also like to know how, any group responsible for the lives of their employees, and, due to their diverse spread across the world, their employees’ spouses and their children, can consider any of them to not require any real training.

Sadly, if I were to hazard a guess… a deciding factor was cost. To the organization’s credit, they weren’t specifically trying to save themselves money because the brunt of the cost of the training would be born by the employees themselves. That is the way this company is structured. You could say, that a company that was bearing its responsibility correctly, (or  I believe the argument could be made to carry their responsibility morally), should be providing the training at no cost to the employee; but that is not the way it is currently for most of these contract-type employees. 

Over fifty percent of this organization’s area (and probably an even much higher percentage of their actual employees and families) are living in GREEN areas. Very seldom in writing is there an opportunity to use this word, so here goes, I am flabbergasted!

If you could see me right now you might think you were intoxicated or had a head injury because you might just see two of me… because I am simply beside myself on this one!

I truly believe that the organization involved here is attempting to do their very best; but, internally they have almost no expertise by which to filter what they are being told by outside consultants. I have no idea the credentialing of these consultants. Maybe, in many areas they are considered experts. However, it is this one person’s seasoned opinion that they are very wrong in the way they are directing this organization.  I urge any group that decides to depend solely on the opinions of someone or some group from outside their own agency on how best to protect their own people to use the very utmost of caution.

One last movie analogy, in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, the malefactor must decide which chalice he believes to be the cup of Christ. If he picks the right one, he receives immortality, the wrong one brings death. As the Nazis villain decays into a pile of dust, the ancient crusader left to guard the cup says very simply, “He chose poorly.”crusader

 

 

Who Knows?

Central & Eastern Europe I have been wanting to write this particular story for quite some time. This is an amazing story, to which I cannot do full justice because it began a lustrum, at least, before I met this amazing man and will probably carry on long after I have the ability to write intelligently. (Yes, I know some argue that even now my faculties are slipping just a bit! I appreciate the reminder!) I have my first book due to be published by year’s end and in it I quote, Brad Collins. I list him as a Canadian Hockey Coach but that is just the tip of the ice (hockey ice that is). The quote I use in the book is very short and I have used it here as the title of this piece. Whenever confronted by one of life’s major questions, Brad would turn to look at me, usually as he was driving the van…  because while in Bosnia we seldom slowed down for more than a chance for coffee and then it was ‘on the road again’ and Brad would simply shrug his shoulders and say, “Who knows?”

Brad was not being flippant  as if the question was not worth pondering; but more that he had become resigned to the fact that for most of the major issues in the world, he had not been consulted by God as to how he, Brad, might handle them. Therefore,  Brad was more than content to allow God to take care of whatever it was.  Also, it was less of a question than it was a reminder as to Who it was that really KNOWS!

Brad first entered Bosnia during the war between the Serbians and the Bosniacs in the 1990’s. The plight of the refugees, particularly the children, touched him deeply and he knew then that God would return him to Bosnia to work with these children. And work he did! Beginning with a few used hockey sticks and even less money; he began putting up flyers around Ilizda and soon some boys began to watch this odd game that involved knocking a puck around with a stick and slamming it hard into the net to score a goal. That was something they had never seen and a sport they had not yet mastered. The growth was slow but over the years the Lord blessed the ministry and the Bosnia Herzegovina Sports Foundation sent young men to play in the International Floor Hockey Championships and Brad and his senior players were hosted on Hockey Night in Canada The teams were visited by John Vanbiesbruck in Sarajevo, and the NHL Players Association provided them with equipment and training the likes of which they had never seen. Tough love was what welded the hearts of these mostly Muslim, but some Serbian, boys to Brad’s and over the years through tough times and good; the boys became men and they taught a new generation of young players and not just in one city but in three. I would guess that easily a thousand kids have been touched by ‘Coach’ and he was touched by every one of them.

Not very long ago, God provided an amazing help-mate for Brad. Bethany, his wife came alongside and has been an inspiration and  breath of fresh air to the musty old locker rooms normally the site of much of Brad’s life lessons! Bethany  can now work with the girls and those who like music, love to sing and play musical instruments. It took a host who just kept inviting and a blizzard that kept her from fleeing; but it truly was God that brought she and Brad together.

Some tough days are ahead for Coach as he is back in Canada now, waiting in a hospital in St. John’s New Brunswick for a triple by-pass involving the major vessels of his heart. He has another serious blockage in his carotid artery as well. I expect to be with Brad and Bethany in a few days and I know, without a doubt, if I would look at Brad and ask him what he thinks the outcome will be, he would say, “Who knows?” He really is saying that he knows Who knows and that is quite alright with him. As long as God has charge of every detail, there will not be a single detail missed.

I’m going to challenge Brad with a video I saw just recently. It is a hockey goal I want Brad to master while he is recovering from his cardiac surgery. A young boy standing on the far side of a pond with a hockey stick and a puck… the pond is not frozen, in fact it is the middle of summer. He slaps that puck and it goes skimming across the pond, up the bank on the far side and striaght into the net that he has set up! I know Brad will have to practice it quite a bit so, just to make it tougher, I’m only going to give him one puck. If it sinks while he’s practicing, he’ll just have to go get it!

There are few men on this earth that I consider very dear friends and brothers. Brad is one of those I cherish the most. Join me in saying some prayers for Coach and for his bride, Bethany as they go through this week together. How quickly will Brad be able to send that puck across the pond and into the net after this tough surgery… Who knows?

Brad and Bethany

Brad & Bethany