“I went from praying for a great quarter-end to praying to hear God and how I can best serve the Kingdom.”
Tom Cooper was surrounded with challenges early in life – living on his own by age 16, a mother with severe mental issues, his own substance abuse struggles and living a very un-Christian life. Tom was fortunate that his mother, even in her toughest times, followed Jesus and he could witness the power of God in the saving of his mom. Through God’s will and plan Tom turned his life around, graduated from college and landed his first corporate job.
Tom started climbing mountain after mountain, creating success for himself and the companies he represented. Tom’s professional roles have ranged from several high-tech executive positions to taking small companies public. He was addicted to the adrenaline rush of the corporate world.
At the pinnacle of his career, while taking a rapidly growing high-tech company public, he felt God tugging at his heart. For many years he’d been promising God that he would do more for the Kingdom. God was saying that now was the time.
“I kind of went cold turkey!” Tom exclaims, as he explains his decision to leave his corporate role abruptly. He left behind a great position, the professional status he’d enjoyed for so long, and significant money on the table. Some of his friends thought he was crazy to make such a dramatic change so quickly, but, Tom calmly recounts, “God was after me – it was there in my heart.”
After Tom’s resignation, many people expected that he would take an executive role with the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS) organization. He had been a long-time Board member and a Big Brother as well. However, Tom felt anxious and depressed. That was when he picked up Bob Buford’s Halftime, which he had read once before, and read it again.
Tom decided to enroll in the Halftime Institute program and was immediately assigned a coach. During the initial call with his coach, Rod Stewart, Rod asked, “Isn’t your potential move to BBBS just like you taking a new job? Could you be repeating your same “success” pattern, one that might not really reflect God’s call?” His coach suggested he take time to decompress, focus on life balance and listen to God. Ultimately, Tom did not take the BBBS role.
Part of the Halftime process is learning about your personal strengths and gifts, and how to leverage and live them. Although Tom had always believed that he should serve on the front-line, possibly even in a foreign country, Tom learned that he’s a “behind the scenes” contributor. This means he’s in his personal sweet spot when he can be the builder versus the leader. He also wanted more balance in his life. “I kept climbing the mountains, reaping financial rewards, at the same time trying to balance my life with my wife and daughters. I also had a strong need to be more aligned with God’s principles.” Through the Halftime process, his time with his coach and with a Christian counselor, Tom finally found peace and put his future in God’s hands.
During Tom’s time in the Halftime program, he created his mission statement, “To serve at-risk kids and single mothers.” Tom’s wife Nancy read the Halftime book as Tom participated in the Halftime program, and together they refined the mission statement, which is now their joint mission statement. But how could they make that mission statement come alive?
While on an extended road trip, God led Tom and Nancy to the couple who founded New Horizons of Southwest Florida (NHSWFL), a non-profit in Florida that reaches into selected schools to provide a faith-based after-school mentoring program to at-risk children. Tom and Nancy immediately started volunteering and saw that NHSWFL offered a way to help paint a new story and bring Christ to children in need.
After thoughtful prayer Tom heard God say, “This is your calling and you need to take this program to North Texas.” Nancy felt the same way. “We had known we wanted and needed to do something together,” adds Nancy, “and both of us were compelled to work with at-risk children.”
Tom worked with the NHSWFL Board to create an affiliate structure, and in 2015 launched the first New Horizons affiliate: New Horizons of North Texas (NHNTX). Three years later NHNTX is serving over 70 children in Dallas, Texas with a goal to grow each year, and to continue to show children a different picture – one of hope, love, inspiration and a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Tom credits his Halftime coach with the guidance he needed as he walked his journey. “Rod had been through his own Halftime journey, so he could relate to the anxiety I felt coming out of the corporate world,” notes Tom. “He provided encouragement, helped me forge a closer relationship with God, and kept me from falling back into old patterns.”
In addition, his coach helped him set parameters for considering new opportunities that arise to go back into the high-tech world, finding ways to accept short-term positions to help stabilize or turn around new entities without making long-term, path-altering commitments. “I want to help my friends, and yes, I like the adrenaline rush again! But now I know how and when to say no so that I don’t forfeit my involvement with New Horizons and the other things God has planned for me.”
Tom encourages other busy executives like himself to just slow down. “You’re so busy – you have no time to listen,” he says of himself, adding that he was only able to embark on his Halftime journey and embrace his second half calling once he truly took the time to listen and put his life in God’s control. “Yes, lose control! God has been with me all my life and I just needed to listen and put my life in His hands. If you look at my life and the formation of NHNTX it is His plan.”
Today, Tom and Nancy are equally thankful about God’s call for them to serve together. “I am so blessed to walk this journey with my husband, seeing the difference NHNTX is making in the lives of children,” Nancy remarks with feeling. Tom concurs, and is grateful for his life balance – fully enjoying his relationships with Nancy and his daughters, consulting in the marketplace, and involvement in both BBBS and New Horizons. Says Tom emphatically, “I thank God He wanted to use me.”