I want people to reach their full potential so they will live life to the fullest instead of surviving
“Since I was a child, I knew my life would be different from that of my peers. I knew, deep down, that my life would go differently. I grew up in a family with a lot of troubles. I made a lot of mature decisions that children my age should not make. I am a social worker and during my education people said: You can do better. I knew deep down that I could be a leader. I did not know the word ‘calling’, but I did not fancy a nine-to-five job”, speaking is Thea Kok, co-owner of Leef Maatschappelijke Dienstverlening.
“As a social worker I recognized things other social workers did not notice. They were mainly busy taking care of their patient. The patient was not being reminded of their own strength. I have always searched for ways to change this structurally, I want a structural and sustainable approach. Do something good or don’t do it. That has been a big question for me, because someone lives a happy life when he or she is living in his or her destiny.
I also believe it is important to break the old patterns that are passed on from one generation to the next. It is my passion to stop these wrong patterns. It has to stop.
Transformation is a word that is being used in healthcare to indicate the change from welfare state to society participation. Less policy and decision-making out of The Hague and more room for local policy and decision-making. By trial and error this complex development is shaped. No more compartmentalized budget, instead see what is needed in a specific case.
So I was already familiar with that type of transformation in healthcare when Siebe en Volke Slagter (Transform Our World Nederland) brought me into contact with Transform Our World. Siebe was my business coach when I started my own company. From then on I heard about transformation from a Biblical perspective. All came together now.”
In the previous year’s Thea experienced transformation in both her work and her personal life. Thea was risen to a strategic management role at a big healthcare company and responsible for 100 employees with a budget of 2,3 million. She got run aground in what happened in mergers, restructuring, but above all in poor leadership. “I came to the point that I had to admit that I did not control everything and I could not do everything.” She became seriously ill and in the hospital, lying on her back, she sought out for God. “I was very hungry. Although my parents had a Christian raising, faith did not play a significant role in raising their children. For the first time in my life I could not continue in my own strength and this was the beginning of a period in my life where I had to let go wrong ideas of who God is and get to know Him as He really is. For example: I followed the Alpha Couse (1 year as participant and the next 2 years as team member) and I read a lot of books to understand who God is. I attended various courses to grow in my faith. During one of those training another participant got a vision for me of the Golden Gate bridge. At that time I did not know the bridge at all. But when I visited the conference of Ed Silvoso in May 2015 in Amsterdam, I saw the bridge life-size on the screen and I knew I was on the right path and God wanted me in San Francisco to go to the International Conference of Transform Our World (October 2015).
I found it very exciting to go to the international conference because I just started my own company Leef Maatschappelijke Dienstverlening (LeefMD) and I did not have a lot of assignments. But I took this step in faith. I learnt a lot of biblical principles for transformation and was impressed by the testimonies from all over the world led by the Holy Spirit. Words like ‘The Almighty’ became more meaningful to me.
I was not raised in church and what appealed to me was that Ed was also a business man and he shares what he found out about the Ekklesia and the marketplace working together. Because then the synergy increases. Ed said: ‘Transformation starts when pastors and business men work together as priests and kings and start praying together. Together they enter God’s presence and ask Him where to start to bring transformation’. He emphasized my role in society as a king. Afterwards doors opened for LeefMD and we experienced huge growth in our work, almost 200 families were assisted in big financial problems (buddies and legal experts who solve this complex financial cases) and we are classified as front-runner in the national project ‘Koplopers Clientondersteuning’ (Front-runners Client Support).
Transformation in the family
A few months after the conference Thea followed the ten week course The School of Transformation (TSOT) in Amsterdam. “Transformation started with me and after that also with my family. By all previous generations from my father’s and mother’s side there were problems with abandonment, addiction and sexual abuse. I am the eldest grandchild on both sides of the family and since I was a kid I got upset about that. I wanted it to stop. The only tools I got were: taking care of my younger brother and sister. I behaved like a lioness in taking care for them. I always was their safety net, even when they were living on their own.” The TSOT training taught Thea how to pull down strongholds and how through prayer she was able to get rid of all things that got in the way of her and her family which caused a clear vision on her calling. “Chaos and grief were replaced by joy and hope. One step at a time God showed me what to do or to let go to be freed from the inheritance of past generations. I once smashed an African sculpture on the ground, because it hold me hostage of a situation that was not good for me and by destroying this the stronghold was pulled down. You have to hit the ground running in spiritual practice. Otherwise your faith will not flourish. Don’t you think I am afraid? I found it scary to pray aloud in the small group of TSOT, but God asks us to get out of our comfort zone and to obey Him when He speaks to us. That is why I bless the place where I am. My meetings take regularly place in a restaurant where the atmosphere is not okay. Then I pray for a spiritual change in the atmosphere.
My siblings became beautiful people, loving and caring, generous and successful. My brother married a Christian woman and together they are active in youth work of their church. My sister is also married with a Christian man and actively growing in her faith. The worst case scenario for the three of us would have been that we would end up addicted, depressed and having physical and mental problems. In this regard you can say: mission accomplished. With other relatives the recovery is still going on. Siblings of my father and mother are more and more looking after each other instead of living the survival of the fittest. We see a growth of the family business and make more money. God is a God of restoration.”
Transformation at work
I have been wracking my brain how my company could cooperate with the church, but without result. The church is being overtaken left and right by civil society initiatives. The church missed something here. All my efforts failed. But God brought them to me. I just had to be available for God. I got this insight during the European Conference of TOW in England. The WHAT, my calling, was clear. The HOW (how to put my calling into practice) was answered by God. When you are available, God will open doors and bring people on your way.
Every Monday morning part of our staff has an office in one of the rooms of the church located in an economically depressed area where we work. Residents can come with their financial questions and volunteers and professionals will help them. This church has a strong bond with the municipality. There are church members who are employees of this municipality and church is used as a community center. Soon there will be to moments a week that people can come with their questions. I am known there, not only my face but also my name, because I visit this place regularly. Because they know me, I can cooperate easily with the elders of the church when they had a home visit and saw a disadvantaged situation where help is needed.
When circumstances arise where I can testify of what God has been doing or why I do this work, I will do so. Always with humor, like last week when I said to a client: ‘God is the best doctor, and His consult is even for free!’ I always tell my personal story and share that there is hope for change and improvement. When people want to know what happens in my life, I tell them about the miracles God has done in my life. Because I have always lived in the secular world, it is easy for me to get connected with people in that world. I know their language and I am able to connect and speak with them about God without quoting the Bible constantly. Mainly they are very interested. Everywhere I go I bring God’s presence.
My greatest talent is to connect people, to initiate and organize projects. I am good at acquisition of new assignments. All by myself I reach less people, so it makes sense to start an organization to cover more ground, but it is me that gives the instructions to our staff so clients will get the proper help. At this moment our focus is to fight poverty. The School of Transformations teaches different kinds of poverty. We help people to manage their money well, but also to connect with others, because social poverty is big issue in The Netherlands. The welfare state made people lazy in taking care of each other. Because they think that has been taken care of at a ticket office of the municipality.
I connect key figures around the client who needs help, from micro to macro. At this moment I am strategic partner of the municipality and we are busy identifying and preventing debts. The last months the assistance with debts decreased, so our efforts are beginning to bear fruit.
A perfect example of structural help: There once was a single mother who had a fulltime job and grandma took care of the children. The father was out of the picture. The grandma fell and the mother had to take care of her family and she reached the breaking point. Both mother and children were not doing well and their situation went downhill. The municipality they belong to let go of the official policy and contacted the employer of the mother and asked them to give her unpaid leave for a year with the guarantee that she could return to her job after that year. The municipality took the lead and the payment of social welfare was the same amount of money as her salary. By doing this they prevented her from the poverty trap and avoided that the children would end up with the juvenile authorities, which would bring more costs and above all emotional damage. They gave the mother a year to get her life back on track and to connect with more people so she would have a social network. Because the grandma is an elderly woman, she is not able to be a fulltime caretaker of teenagers. So in this case, they let go of the ‘normal’ policy and made sure that the best solution for the family was chosen.
My dream for LeefMD: to reach and help an endless amount of people. I want people to reach their full potential so they will live life to the fullest instead of surviving. We want to help as much people (with financial problems) as possible to help themselves. In their turn they can also help others. I would love to have our own building where we can organize more activities. And where we can also make money by having our own café or restaurant. With that money we can pay all activities.
I think that there is a lot of transformation going on in The Netherlands, but there are not many people that hook up with each other or cooperate. By doing things on our own we are less powerful and we achieve less. That’s why it is important to use the network of Transform Our World Nederland with its transformation groups where knowledge and experience can be exchanged. It is my desire to contribute to this.”