(Please note this is transcribed using AI, and edited as time allowed.)
Kathy: [00:03:06] Good morning, Tony and Felicity, I am so happy to see you this morning and especially to hear about your story, which I don’t know a lot. I tried to dig around and I, uh, found out a little bit of information, but I’m really looking forward to hearing your story today. To get us started. Tell us a little bit about where you are now, how long you’ve been married, what your family looks like.
Felicity: [00:03:33] Okay. Well, uh, we live in Austin, Texas now, just outside Austin. We have been married for 49 coming up.
Kathy: [00:03:44] Congratulations.
Felicity: [00:03:46] Thank you. And we have four kids and 11 wonderful grandkids.
Kathy: [00:03:51] Oh my goodness. What a full and wonderful family. How long have you guys been in Austin?
Tony: [00:03:59] We moved over here from England, uh, to Austin back in 1987 so that’s what, about 33 years ago now.
So I guess we were just getting towards the end of our honeymoon when we left England, where maybe 20 years of marriage at that stage. Okay.
Kathy: [00:04:22] Just getting over your honeymoon at 20 years. I love that. Well, let’s, let’s go back to the very beginning with 49 years. There is much to your story, I’m sure, but I want to just kind of hear a little bit about, um, how did you guys meet and where.
Felicity: [00:04:41] it.
Tony: [00:04:41] Well, I’ll jump in and I’ll, I’ll let Felicity fill in a very important part of the story, uh, from her perspective. Uh, but we actually met, uh, on Felicity’s first day at medical school. It was the beginning of my second year and the beginning of her first. Uh, I won’t bore people with the complexities of the British medical system that actually in the same year, uh, because I’ve done some, uh, extra stuff at the beginning.
Uh, and, uh, I guess it was almost love at first sight. Um, certainly because there were so few Christians and to both of us, it was important, uh, that we would find someone that we shared our faith with that naturally threw us together. Uh, and, uh, very quickly we did become best of friends and found ourselves involved in all sorts of things.
So the medical school.
Kathy: [00:05:38] Wonderful. So how long did you date before you got married?
Felicity: [00:05:43] Probably two. Two years. I mean, it was probably three years off and on, but two years, probably 18 months. You mean before marriage, but it was dating at a distance because after the, at the end of Tony’s second year, the end of my first year, he left medical school and went to Bible school for two years distance away.
So our dating was long distance. Well,
Kathy: [00:06:08] that’s not easy.
Tony: [00:06:11] Rather like the current covid crisis where everything happens by phone or in this case by zoom or less. Uh, I, uh, in those days you have to pay for long distance phone calls. Uh, I’m guessing that many people listening now can barely remember the time when a long distance phone call might be expensive.
And in England back in the, uh, uh, sort of early seventies, uh, it was very expensive, uh, and I could only afford to call her typically once a week. Uh, and I had to count the pennies literally. Uh, to make sure that we didn’t run out.
Kathy: [00:06:49] Oh my goodness. So you were both in medical school, then you left Tony to go to Bible school, then came back to medical school, finished.
Tony: [00:06:58] I, I did. Um, uh. I guess you would have to understand what was going on in the journey. Uh, my family are missionaries. My father is a missionary doctor. Uh, his father actually before him was also a missionary doctor. So I grew up in a very strong Christian environment and a very strong medical environment.
Uh, now, you know, I wasn’t one of those kids who had planned to be a jet pilot or, you know, uh, no. I, uh, the only thing I ever really wanted to do is to be a doctor. So much of that here as I’m entering the beginning of my second year of medical school, God is actually really working on my heart. Uh, and I didn’t realize that of course, meeting Felicity there, uh, right at the beginning of my second year, her first, uh, uh, and, you know, beginning to fall in love with her.
Uh, but also saying lower the most important thing in my life is to follow you. And what are you asking me to do? And to my shock and horror, the Lord’s found a way to speak very clearly to me. And to tell me I was to leave medical school. Uh, so that was a huge challenge because medicine was the only thing I’ve ever seriously considered deterring and now felt like God was calling me into something else.
Uh, and I struggled with that for almost a year, but God’s leading was so clear, uh, that finally just shortly before my third year was due to start. Uh, I reached out to the, the Dean of the medical school and explained that, uh, I was going to need to resign. Uh, uh, to that I had other things that I had to do.
Uh, and so I did, I went away, uh, for two years. I didn’t know I was only going for two years. Uh, I knew I was going away to Bible school. It would take two years, uh, but near the end of that time, uh, aside again, praying about what I should do next, again, an equally clear ways, because for me, medicine had really been a kind of an idol.
Well, I think anything in our lives, whether it’s marriage, whether it’s, whether it’s medicine, whether it’s money, uh, whatever it might be that comes in between us and God is really a type of an idol. Uh, and so God was using those two years to begin to shape me for many of the things that subsequently we would find were absolutely, uh, really crucial in our lives.
Kathy: [00:09:35] Wonderful. So you. Ended up getting married. And what, what did, um, your plans for the future look like when you first married then? So it, it, there had already been some shifting a little bit in terms of, at least for you, Tony, what you thought your direction was going to take, but by the time he married, what w what did the future of your work look like?
Felicity: [00:10:02] We didn’t know all in you is that we wanted to follow the Lord. Where it actually led us was into early at that stage, the poorest area of London, where, because I graduated first, um, I became, uh, a family doctor in that area. Very, very poor and socially deprived area.
Tony: [00:10:22] And of course, by then I had gone back to medical school in a very dramatic way.
Uh, I mean, very dramatic way opened up the door. Maybe I could tell you one tiny little snippet
Kathy: [00:10:34] of it. I’d love to hear that.
Tony: [00:10:36] Yes, I, I, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t surrendering back to my old idol, if that’s the right word. And so I said, Lord, if this is for real, I’ve never heard of anybody. We went to our medical school, it was st Bartholomew’s hospital in London or its full name.
Yeah. The Royal and ancient hospital at st Bartholomew
Felicity: [00:10:58] 1123 to put American history in perspective.
Kathy: [00:11:02] Exactly. Yeah. That’s a long time standing.
Tony: [00:11:06] It was founded to take care of people who were falling sick on their way to the crusades. Uh, but, uh, anyway, I’ve never heard of anybody. It’s a real snot medical school.
It’s like saying you went to Harvard or John Hopkins or something. Uh, I’ve never heard of anybody who had quit in the middle who had ever gone back. So I reached out to the, to the Dean. It was still the same Dean that I’ve had to tell him that I was leaving two years previously. I reached back to him.
Uh, uh, but in, in my sort of praying, I felt like, Lord, because I want to be a hundred percent sure this issue. Uh, I can picture a situation where, uh, when I asked, they might say, well, if you will do that, that first year, it’s complicated. A second year, it was my second year of Felicity’s first year. It’s a very important year in the medical training.
Uh, if you’ll do that year again, I could picture him saying that maybe they would then let me come back. Uh, but I said, Lord, you need to do two things. Uh, if they asked me to do any of it again, I’m going to tell them no. That they really should accept me exactly the way I am. Um, the scholarship I had that was taking care of my expenses.
Lord, I need the scholarship to be given back as well. Lo and behold, I get, uh, you know, I call him up and say, I think I’m ready to come back if you’ll let me. Uh, and he hummed in out a bit, but he said, well, you know, Tony, you were a good student. Well, come and see me and let’s talk about it. And as, as we talk, uh, he says at one point when he says, uh, Tony, uh, he says, I’m inclined to let you come back.
But, uh, obviously you’ve been away for two years. Uh, and I think that means you really need to do the first year all over again, because that’s such a heavy academic year. So it was exactly as this situation in my mind, it unfolded. Uh, and so I was trying to think more. How do I answer that? I felt like the Lord gave me what maybe the Bible would call a word of wisdom.
Uh, and I, I said to him, uh, I said, well, sir, do you remember, uh, that three month break between, uh, the first year that you want me to do again in the beginning of the second year, uh, in your life? And he said, Oh, yeah, I remember it really well. I don’t know. I said to him, I’ll bet you’ve forgotten most of it in those three months in much the same way you’re thinking, I’ve forgotten, and it’s a bit in the last two years.
And he laughed and he said, absolutely, I did. Uh, and uh, so I said, well, how about I just agree there’s four or five months before the new school year begins. I’ll work hard in my spare time. I’ll go over everything again. Uh, but I don’t think I should do any of it. Uh, I shouldn’t need to do the year. Yeah.
And he said, uh, on those terms, he said, I’m happy to accept you back. Oh my goodness.
Kathy: [00:14:01] Wow. What a, what a story of persistence, right? You had a very clear direction and you just hung with it.
Tony: [00:14:11] Well, the Lord certainty. And of course, uh, we then actually got married shortly before, uh, I started back there, but now meant that Felicity was two years ahead of me.
Kathy: [00:14:24] Okay. So you were out working already, Felicity?
Felicity: [00:14:27] Well, no, I still have a couple of years to do
Tony: [00:14:31] medical
Felicity: [00:14:31] school. Okay. It did mean I graduated a year early. With all my hospital work
Okay. So you married while you were both still in medical school, quite challenging.
Felicity: [00:14:44] Yes. Yes, we did.
Kathy: [00:14:45] Okay. All right. So you weren’t sure where the direction was going to go.
You were concerned and, and just your desire was to follow the Lord and where that led. So fast-forward then too, you came to the U S you said in 1987 so tell us how that came about and what, what you came to the States to do.
Felicity: [00:15:14] Well, uh, we had been very involved, not just in medical work for Tony, but I had kids by that stage, but also in church planting in the East end of London.
And, uh, as well, we were very involved in an organization that taught. Uh, doctors and nurses, how to bring their Christian faith into their professional lives. The how to pray with their patients even, or God had done a remarkable work, uh, not just in England, but in various other countries around the world too.
And, uh, Tony and I had been ministering in the States in California, and we were on the flights on the way back to England. And we turned to each other and said, well, has the Lord shown you anything? Well, we’d be in the way and to both of us had said the same thing. And that was that we would move to the States.
Which came as something of a shock to us. Um, and, uh, you know, again, how do you know that that’s, that’s the Lord, or is it just that you’ve enjoyed, you know, being on mission in the States?
Tony: [00:16:12] Right?
Felicity: [00:16:14] So, um, within 24 hours of coming home, or Tony had said, there’s just one person I would want to take over leadership of this organization that works among doctors and nurses.
And, uh, but, you know, he’s a very, very busy doctor and I don’t think he’d be available, but within 24 hours of getting home, uh, we’ve got a surprise phone call from this doctor’s saying, you know, I had, uh, some, somebody came up to me in church yesterday and told me that my life was about to change, and I don’t know why, but I thought you might have something to do with it.
And sure enough, he became available to take over leadership of that organization. So that was a real confirmation that we were supposed to, uh, to be a B over here. And so I’m, about five or six months later, Tony and I are four kids and are about 12 of the largest cases the airline would allow. We arrived in Austin, Texas.
Not knowing anybody. We did have somewhere to live, but we didn’t know anybody. But what it felt like when we arrived or after we arrived, I guess, was it the Lord got on, I got along the next plane back to the States because everything,
Tony: [00:17:28] I
Felicity: [00:17:28] mean, back to England. Yeah. We’ve come here for just nothing works out.
We fell flat on our faces and, uh, the doctors over here weren’t interested in the same ministry. Mmm.
Tony: [00:17:45] You know, for a number of different reasons.
Felicity: [00:17:47] I think the sort of, the legal political situation over here for doctors is
Tony: [00:17:51] much more threatening
Felicity: [00:17:53] than it was back in Europe. Hmm. Mmm. And, uh, nobody wanted to employ to unlicensed positions.
Um, we really didn’t fit into the American church system very well. And worst of all, it seemed like God had stopped speaking to us. We couldn’t hear his voice any longer. We couldn’t get new direction. And so basically it was very much of a wilderness, backside of the desert types situation, which lasted for nine very long.
Very painful years,
Kathy: [00:18:28] nine years,
Tony: [00:18:30] nine years.
Felicity: [00:18:31] Yes. I think it was just stubbornness on our part that we didn’t go back to England where at least we could have, you know, living as physicians.
Kathy: [00:18:40] Right. Go ahead. Sorry. Well, I was just curious about the licensing process were you’re not able to get licensed here.
Does someone have to sponsor you or how does that work?
Tony: [00:18:53] No, you don’t have to be sponsored, but we were very clear that the Lord had led us here for. Uh, something other than just clinical medical work. Uh, you know, our British licensing would cover us in those British Commonwealth countries. We could have gone to parts of Canada, you know, could have gone all sorts of places all over the world, but not here.
Uh, and, uh, we looked into licensing would have taken about four years, have to do everything from our medical final. So our specialty boards, again. Uh, but w we had no peace, uh, that that’s what God had brought us here for. We, we knew he brought us here for something specific. And the fact that what we thought we were doing, I starting this Christian medical organization over here, that, that did not work, uh, just sort of drove us to our knees to say, well, then, Lord, why are we here?
But we didn’t want to disobey him by taking the easy route, which was just back into medicine.
Kathy: [00:19:55] And just to back up one step, how, how did you move to Austin?
Tony: [00:20:02] Yeah, that was, uh, I mean, all of these are stories in their own right. No. Uh, I don’t want to take any more time than you want us to take, but. Uh, we, we didn’t have a clue where in the States we should move to.
Uh, but again, in prayer, uh, I’m sure that’s coming through the, we really believe that Jesus meant it when he said, my sheep hear my voice, and we’ve been praying and asking the Lord, and again, in an equally unique way, uh, he spoke to both of us independently, uh, in such a way that when we compare notes. Uh, that we realized we’d be going to Texas, but we did not know one living soul in Texas.
Uh, but again, in God’s economy, uh, we were back in the States on a conference. I met someone. Uh, who knew a pastor here in Austin. And since we knew we were coming to Texas, you know, ears pricked up with the idea of Austin. Uh, and they suggested that we fly down and meet you. And we did. And this pastor offered a space for this ministry.
We were going to start within their church facility, uh, and through one of their church members also got a place for us to rent. Okay. So the doors opened and so we came to Austin, Texas, not actually knowing anybody,
Kathy: [00:21:22] my goodness, with four kids. And how old were your children at the time? They
Felicity: [00:21:26] were, the oldest was nine and the youngest was three.
Kathy: [00:21:31] Oh my goodness. Okay. So for those nine years, um, what did you do for work? How did you support yourselves and where did it go?
Tony: [00:21:42] I would say with great difficulty, we supported ourselves. Um, when we came over, we brought what money we had, so we had some savings. Um, and, uh, you know, that tied it as over the first year or so.
Mmm. We, uh, we’ve, uh, found out, it turns out subsequently, probably mistakenly. Uh, but we were led to believe that we would be allowed to earn money, uh, in working for ourselves. Uh, actually, technically we probably weren’t. Uh, but, uh, we got invited through friends into, uh, Amway, which many people weren’t familiar with.
Uh, and so. Uh, this experience doctor tried to figure out how he could sell and he was hopeless at it. But, uh, and actually, uh, we were able to just about sustain, uh, but it was getting near the end of this nine years that we’ve described, and all of a sudden something changed in the way that business ran.
Uh, and everything that we had built disappeared almost overnight. Uh, and, uh, now by now we did have green cards and all of that stuff. You know, we were now on the road to citizenship and we’re allowed to work. Uh, but again, nobody will hire you. Basically. They say you’re, you’re overqualified for anything.
And we know it. As soon as you find anything better, you’ll go to it. So we couldn’t even get me on jobs, let alone insignificant jobs. Uh, and we really were desperate, uh, as we were getting near the end of this, we didn’t know it was the end, but God knew we were getting near the end. And we, we gave God an ultimatum, and we said, Lord, either you clarify what we’re doing here and what we’re supposed to do, or.
Uh, we’re going to go back to England where at least we can pick up the pieces. Uh, I was very well known as a physician there. It would have been easy to go back into practice. We’ve maintained our licensing, uh, and, uh, we, we said Lord end of ’96. We’re going back to England if we haven’t figured out what we’re doing here.
This was in the spring of 96. Well, all of us, almost immediately, things began to change. God, began speaking to us again and said, basically, I’ve been preparing you for another move of the Holy spirit, just like you’ve already seen in England. You’re going to see that your lives are going to be just as fruitful out here.
Uh, and at the same time as he was speaking to us about that, I injured my knee, which was the genesis about starting a, the first business that we started the Karis group. Uh, which was to help, uh, people learn how to negotiate and navigate, uh, the difficulties and complexities of the American medical system.
And so, Karis grew out of that injury and my own experience of negotiating my own bills. Of course over the years since then, carious has negotiated billions of dollars of bills and out of Karis grew Sedera, uh, which we’re now trying to transform. Oh, healthcare. It’s paid for, uh, in the United States by showing people the power of the sort of voluntary cooperative movements rather than the insurance model with all of the problems that it has.
Kathy: [00:25:08] Wow. What a story. I’m trying to think where to go back to. I had one question about that nine year time. That’s a long time, and especially when you both feel so certain that you had heard the direction to go. But we are human. And I’m wondering if there were times when in your marriage that. Became challenging and how you handled that in your marriage where maybe one of you got discouraged or you know, thought maybe we just dreamed this up or something.
I think that’s always the hard thing about walking with the Lord is we pray and we seek and we seek his word and the counsel of other believers and just because we step out in obedience. Doesn’t mean everything goes well or as we would define it or in our timeframe. So did you have times where, you know, you lost patience or maybe got frustrated with each other or questioned?
Did we really hear the Lord? I’m
Felicity: [00:26:25] sure we questioned it a lot. Did we? Did we hear the Lord? But we kept going back to the sources. Uh. The incredible way that God led us to the States, and it wasn’t as though we didn’t enjoy living here. We love living here. It was just that we couldn’t make ends meet. And you know that for us, a real challenge was the church situation to where we just did not fit in to the typical
Tony: [00:26:52] American church very
Felicity: [00:26:53] well.
Kathy: [00:26:55] We didn’t either.
Tony: [00:26:59] Uh, so some of the struggles, uh, and I think interestingly enough, I would not say the struggles that we experienced were really with each other. Um. Uh, and I think that was part of God’s grace and maybe part of the foundation on which we had built our marriage. Um, we, we had talked, uh, from our earliest days, uh, probably, I’m not a hundred percent sure, but probably even in our engagement before we were married, uh, that, uh, for us, uh, the idea of divorce would never be an option that would ever happen.
We were making a commitment before God and before man. Uh, literally till death do us part. Uh, and the, uh, we just wouldn’t consider divorce. Uh, and so, you know, by God’s grace, and obviously we’ve had tough times like anybody has, we’ve had lots of tough times. Uh, but we, we’ve never let that interfere with the fact that there’s a commitment to each other.
Uh, now. Uh, that again, that doesn’t make it an easy road. So just like those nine years weren’t easy right? There are all sorts of things tied up with marriage, including in those nine years. Uh, when, you know, things were a real struggle, the finances. Got desperate. Yeah. Uh, on many, many occasions. I mean, we still remember it and sort of nowadays laugh about it with the kids, but, uh, we remember the time we brought them back from school and we said there’d be no more stopping at seven 11 to buy a drink on the way home.
We, we couldn’t afford it. It’s a family. Uh, and, you know, watching our kids go without, when we’re both doctors and it should be so easy, you know, back in England, even though we’ve worked part time, because, uh, we had so many other sort of ministry commitments, we could still make plenty of money. And so those were the sort of struggles.
Uh, and I’d say my struggle wasn’t so much with Felicity. Maybe she would say opposite, but my struggle wasn’t with Felicity. It was with, I would cry out to him literally crying sometimes in the car saying, God, why? Why is it so difficult.
Kathy: [00:29:19] Yeah, and I get the sense that, um, I would say there are three types of marriage.
There’s traditional, which as Christians is typically more the, the man is the head of the home. He makes the decisions. Um. Just everything that you would think of that would follow a traditional path. There’s a complimentarian where maybe both people have equal, um, they have different roles, but equal importance.
And then there’s egalitarian,where. Both people are fully partners, and I get the sense that you are very much a team, that it wasn’t you Tony saying, we’re moving to America and we’re, you know, this is what God told me because in, in our many years of ministry, and just. The work that we have done also, and in my work as a marriage counselor, um, and always makes the hair on my neck go up a little bit when typically I think it’s the husband that says, God told me that’s.
So we need to do this, and the wife isn’t there yet. And so that probably is more the situation where there’s some resentment if, if both people are not there fully. So I would see that as one of the real cornerstones of. Your long marriage is that you are equal partners and, um, you appreciate each other’s intellect and spiritual development and friendship.
So, yeah. Okay. So what, what was that Felicity?
Tony: [00:31:05] We’ve been incredibly
Felicity: [00:31:06] blessed in that way.
Kathy: [00:31:08] Yes, yes. Yeah. I think that’s just a beautiful picture really. You know, that is the whole picture when both people are equally valued. So Tony, you, you had injured your knee. And so tell us a little more about how this first business, so your first business, what is it called?
What does it do? How much did the two of you talk about starting that first business?
Tony: [00:31:38] Well, you’re absolutely right to describe our marriage in the language you did as egalitarian. Uh, we absolutely believe that a husband and wife are partners. Hmm. Uh, even the, the, the word, uh, that is often used in a slightly derogatory sense, uh, of, you know, the wife is a help mate, uh, in the biblical use of that word describes God as ahelper.
God is my helpmate. In times of trouble. Psalm 46 in verse. Woah, uh, you know, so, uh, there’s no way that any of us are on equal partnership with God, but he’s prepared to describe himself as our helper and husbands and wives are there to help each other. Uh, so, uh, yes, this fortuitous accident, uh, which led to the founding of the Karis group.
Uh, happened because for much of those nine years, uh, Felicity and I had been praying, uh, into this whole area of, well, Lord, how should we be making a living? I, and we had specifically prayed through Deuteronomy eight, uh, where it teaches, it says, for it is God who gives the power to create wealth so that he may fulfill his covenant throughout the year.
And we’d been praying and saying, Lord, you know, give us the idea, shows what it is that you want us to do that can enable us to make a living and to be available and have our time and resources and energy available to you. Uh, and I injured my knee and I negotiate my own bills down, uh, dramatically. And Felicity
is given the idea by the Lord. Do you think the Lord is using this to show us something we could do? And she said to me, why? Why don’t you call the people, uh, who were going to share in the cost of that bill? It’s actually one of the Christian ministries, Christian, uh, uh, care, Medishare. Lots of people know it as Meda.
Share that here I’ve been focusing on the radio, on the like, uh, and since, uh, Christians around the country, we’re going to share it. Well, she said, why don’t you call Medishare and tell them what you’ve done to bring these bills down and see if they’d like your help. Uh, and within 48 hours of us telephoning them to say what we’d done.
I had actually begun negotiating bills for them. Uh, and that was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship, saved them and, you know, they’re their members. Enormous sums of money over the next five years, uh, before we basically taught them and handed it over to them to take care of their own members.
And we then began helping the other ministries and, uh, the company began growing in other ways.
Kathy: [00:34:33] Okay. So the Karis group began. In 97 96 okay. Yeah. And so was it just you, Tony? Were you working in it together or what? What did that look like at the beginning of the business? Well,
Tony: [00:34:53] what I jokingly say Felicity has nearly all the ideas and then she very wisely hands all the work off to me.
Yes, it was me and my laptop and a tiny little room beside our, our kitchen in the house we were in in those days. Um, for any who might be technical, my laptop was so pathetic in those days. It had a 40 megabyte hard drive windows onto your computer. Uh, so yes, me and my computer and an Excel spreadsheet on the computer.
And we began negotiating bills, but very quickly, the Lord began blessing, uh, and I began hiring others to come and work with me.
Felicity: [00:35:38] They moved into the
Tony: [00:35:38] garage.
Kathy: [00:35:40] You got an upgrade.
Tony: [00:35:43] We probably were breaking the zoning laws, but we grew so fast that we then had to grow up, grow out of the garage, and moved into a larger place in an area where we were allowed to work out of our hub.
Kathy: [00:35:56] So how did you get, how did you get reimbursed? How did you make money negotiating the medical bills?
Tony: [00:36:03] Um, well, what I arranged, uh, with, uh, this first client, uh, was that, uh, we would take a small percentage of anything. We saved them, so that way they, they have no risk. Uh, but if we save them a hundred dollars, you know, they would let us keep $10 of what we saved them.
Okay. Uh, no, it was, it was about that. Yeah.
Kathy: [00:36:26] Okay. So,
Tony: [00:36:29] you know, once you begin then saving millions of dollars, your, uh, you’ve got enough that you can be paying for your staff and facilities and doing everything you need
Kathy: [00:36:38] to do. Okay. So did you have a business plan when you started this, Tony? Or it sounds like it just started as, I think I can do this and.
So at what point did you or did you ever, you know, formulate a business plan and perform a growth strategy?
Tony: [00:36:59] I had no business plan. I knew nothing about business. Uh, a British doctor is, uh, trained within a socialized system. And so I really have very limited business experience, even from my medical practices.
Um, uh, no, we, we, we literally, uh, I guess with throwing mud on the wall and seeing what stuff, uh. Okay. We have a lot to learn. Uh, but, uh, I, I love learning. Uh, in fact, as I look back, I, I mentioned in those early, you know, nine difficult years, uh, for six or seven of those years, we supported ourselves here, our Amway business.
Uh, I actually learned a lot about business.
I didn’t mind meeting people. I got used to doing all sorts of things that were. Beneath the dignity of a, of a doctor. Uh, but God was not at all interested in my dignity. He was, uh, so, uh, you know, out of this, uh, came a background of saying, yes, we can make this work. And Felicity has just always been incredibly supportive.
Kathy: [00:38:14] you part of the business Felicity, did you have a role in that?
Felicity: [00:38:21] I have it various times, uh, had to role. So yes. But I’m, no, mostly, thankfully it’s been Tony. Who’s done the work.
Kathy: [00:38:32] Yeah. What, what was one of the hardest times that you both remember as you started this business and it grew.
Tony: [00:38:45] 2000 months in, in 2001, uh, we had a very major client who, uh, completely unexpectedly, uh, that actually been asking us to do some expansion work for them because of things they were going to do. And, uh, we had, you know, over the previous six months, spent quite a bit of money into this expansion. Uh, and then all of a sudden this client decided that no, it was going to be better for them if they, uh, if they took the work in house and did it themselves.
And so we lost a massive part of the company income. Uh, and, uh, that was extremely difficult cause we had, you know, a number of employees by that stage and, uh, uh, and, you know, office space rental, all of this type of stuff. Uh, and, um, well, that definitely drove us to our knees. Uh, and so in that context, um, and this will be one of the ways that Felicity has always been incredibly solidly behind the business.
Uh, we began to pray, and you might want to describe some of that.
Felicity: [00:39:57] So we had this, uh, this little office building, and, uh. No, no. I think we let all our employees go at that point. And, uh, because we’d signed a noncompete, uh, we couldn’t even sort of do any sales work really. We were just there with, you know, various expenses obviously were ongoing.
No family expenses as well as, um, keeping the office. And I wonder if we kept any employees.
Tony: [00:40:29] Yeah,
Felicity: [00:40:29] it doesn’t matter. Anyway, but we spent our time praying. We marched up and down this little building, praising, worshiping God, claiming promises, binding the enemy, doing anything and everything. When you day after day after day, it became our way of life for probably about a year.
Wasn’t that before we began to see breakthroughs.
Tony: [00:40:50] It did. It took almost a year before, uh, we were able to land another client of that size. Uh, and begin to build things back up again.
Kathy: [00:41:01] Wow. Were they pretty much your only client or did you have some business still to do that? You were able to do
Tony: [00:41:08] a little bit of other business, but really not much.
Uh, because of the contract that we had signed and it was a company that was growing very fast and we were glad to grow with them. Well, we were glad to, to focus on them, but uh, yeah. In retrospect, that of course was a very poor decision.
Kathy: [00:41:28] How did you make it through that time? Financially I, that’s so hard when you have to let employees go.
Felicity: [00:41:38] Basically God’s God showed up. I remember one one month where we had no money for the mortgage or anything else. And the car went into a tree, uh, just immediately outside of our property. So like
Tony: [00:41:53] I said, fence
Felicity: [00:41:56] and the insurance company came and looked and said, Oh, this tree is worth, you know, several thousand dollars.
We’ll pay for this tree, which was still standing and stood for several more years. And they just gave us the money. And you know, that, uh, for another month or two.
Tony: [00:42:14] It was month after month for probably, yeah, nine months to a year or Lord. I don’t know how you’re doing it. Uh, but, uh, but he, he showed us ways where we could gather enough money each month to keep things together.
Kathy: [00:42:34] And that was how far into the business. Oh, you said that was 2001 so it’d been about five years. Okay. And I know from what I’ve read, especially you Felicity, you, um, while you both were working with house churches, was that during the same time.
Felicity: [00:42:56] Yeah, so that, that’s I’m saying in 1996 that’s when we began our first house church people that we’d been working with in those nine years, all of them non Christians, we, we pulled them together for a time of studying finances.
I think it was on business principles. And so we had a dozen non-Christians meeting in our living room and we looked at the book of Proverbs together. And over the course of a year, all of them became Christians.
Kathy: [00:43:27] Oh my goodness.
Felicity: [00:43:28] Yeah. And at that stage, we were going to, we were taking them to a church that met in central Austin.
We live in South
Tony: [00:43:36] Austin,
Felicity: [00:43:36] but that church then moved to way North Austin, and it was, it would have been probably 50 minutes to an hour journey. And so we went and we, we spoke to the pastor there and said, well, what do you suggest. And he said, well, why don’t you start something? You’ve started churches before, which we had in England.
Why don’t you start something? And so, so we did. Yeah. Uh, yeah, we’ve got our, we had that stage that, you know, the, the kids still at home. So we suggested that they invite their friends to what we call the breakfast Bible study, which we held on a Sunday morning because we wanted to reach the non-Christian kids and we figured the Christian kids would be in church during that time.
And the kids from the neighborhood started coming and, uh, we cooked a huge breakfast for them. We have seeing a Bible study. And they started becoming Christians, and then their parents wanted to know why their kids were changing. And they started coming too. And so, uh, so at that stage when we pulled together the, the business people from the first group and the Christian, maybe.
The kids and their parents. From the second group, we had about 55 people meeting and our very average size living room at that point, we had to decide, but what are we going to do? Uh, you know, the traditional thing to have done would be to go rent a hole and get bigger. But we just had nine years of thinking about church and what church really was.
Uh, we, we thought back to the days when we’d started churches in England and how the most vibrant and
Tony: [00:45:16] exciting times, or when they were
Felicity: [00:45:17] small and in homes. And we were also hearing stories out of countries like China and India, where God was obviously multiplying the small. And so we decided to go that route and not my, the small, rather than getting bigger.
Kathy: [00:45:31] That was the name of one of your books, right?
Tony: [00:45:34] It’s
Felicity: [00:45:35] small. Is big.
Kathy: [00:45:36] Smallest. Big. Yeah. You know, it’s so interesting because maybe it was just me and Mark, but we didn’t think of ourselves as entrepreneurs when we went to California. After Mark went through seminary, finally finished. It took him forever. But, um, we didn’t think of that in entrepreneurial terms.
But I’ve come to realize that people that start churches, whether it’s a house church or a more traditional setting, there’s just, there’s a little bit of a restlessness, isn’t there? Okay. So that was all going on at the same time. So 2001 you go through this very tough time. And how does that turn around?
Tony: [00:46:23] Well, uh, out of these months of prayer, uh, where literally every day we would take hours down at the office cause we had nothing else to do. Uh, I mean, yes, of course. I was also making phone calls, trying to get land, new clients, et cetera. But none of it was getting anywhere. But we were learning how to take serious the promises of scripture.
I mean, I remember us, uh, marching up and down, not literally marching, but we like to walk when we pray. Uh, and so, you know, the two of us would be there and we’d be praying together and, uh, we would say, Lord, you know, your work talks about how you’re going to send people from the North, from the South, and the East and the West, uh, and we believe, or that you’re going to send contracts to us from the North and the South and the East and the West.
No little did. I know. You know, in those days, one or two companies would have been nice now, but between our companies, we probably have contracts with a thousand plus companies. Uh, so you know, God, God was preparing us so that we would really trust him with the business. And then finally we land another really large contract.
Uh, with an entity that we still look after 18 years later. Uh, and, uh, you know, I’ve done huge amounts of medical discounting work on their behalf over the years. Uh, so, uh, for us it was very much a growing time. Uh, but he turned it around suddenly. Yeah. It, it took nine months, maybe a year. I’m not exactly sure of the time frame.
But when we landed this new client, then again, that was enough that we could get moving properly. Then we began landing more and more clients, uh, in, in rapid succession.
Kathy: [00:48:12] Okay. And it, it’s clear to me again that, um, you know, it wasn’t like, well, Tony, this is your business and Felicity, you were like, just go take care of it.
You were very much in it together. And I have found that, um, I’ve had other entrepreneurs tell me that, that makes a big difference in the success of a venture is whether or not the spouse is on board. Um, and they don’t feel so alone. You know, being the lone ranger is, is a very difficult place to be. And so, um, I just love hearing that about your story that.
This was our business because the business provided the means for you to do the other work he were wanting to do with the house churches, and like you said, have time to spend time with your neighbors and kids, friends and that sort of thing. I’m also mindful that, you know, Seth Goden talks, he has a little book called The Dip and how it’s hard to know when a new business or venture.
When it dips, it’s like, is it a dip or is it a cul-de-sac? Hmm. Did you, was part of that months of praying, wondering if, if it was the end, if you needed to do something else, or did you know that this was the direction you were to continue?
Tony: [00:49:44] That’s a really good question. Um, um, I, I’m trying to think, you know, in terms of what our thought process was at the time.
So don’t forget, we’d have the nine years that were really difficult. Uh, and so now watching the Lord, no, let something grow and be blessed and, you know, for five years here, one, making a wonderful living, able to help other people going out on mission trips cause we could afford it all over it. And then crash.
Uh, I don’t think it really crossed online that that was a change in direction. It was more like, okay, Lord, you’ve allowed this. We need to see it through. Uh, and I think, I think we had a confidence, uh, that that job would take care, uh, and that we did not have to panic. Uh, it wasn’t like. That’s something else was what we were supposed to be doing, but we needed to learn how to hold onto here.
Even for a business. We had held on to him for ministry things in previously. But now we have to learn to take these lessons into the business world. Uh, and, uh, certainly, uh, now, whatever, 24 years, uh, on him to the business lie, uh, we, we see the power of that perseverance. And, and you mentioned Seth Godens book, you know, the Dip uh, I’m, I’m a great lover of his books.
He’s a very, very clear thinker. Uh, and yes, that has a tremendous, not just business sense, but I think a remarkable moral sense, importance of, uh, really knowing what true North is for a business. Uh, so yes. Uh. For us. We knew it was a dip, not a culdesac.
Kathy: [00:51:41] Okay, so where has the business progressed since then and at what point did you start this second business?
Tell us about that one.
Tony: [00:51:58] Okay, well, the business back then, so 2001 through, let’s call it 2010. As it regrew and re-established and became profitable again. Um, uh, that was a fairly slow, steady, uh, you know, build it faithfully. Uh, but in our thinking, what we were doing was the business was a form of tent making.
Uh, if that’s a biblical term that people are used to, that we could do tent making, rather like the apostle Paul there so that we had time and money, uh, to do Christian ministry. We weren’t really in those days thinking of the business as the ministry. We were thinking of it as a tool for generating money for ministry.
Kathy: [00:52:54] But
Tony: [00:52:54] yeah, and it did. So we were very grateful for that. But by 2010 we’d been watching what was going on with his house, church movements all over the world. We, we have been involved in movements that had. I guess literally saying tens of thousands of churches, beginning very small churches, you know, small things, multiplying through homes.
Uh, but, uh, these were very powerful movements that were touching large numbers of people, both in this country and elsewhere. Uh, and, uh, but there was a dissatisfaction of some sort emerging. Now again, this is kind of typical of the entrepreneurial journey. Uh, most entrepreneurs, uh, rather, like you described your, your husband before the podcast.
I prefer looking at the 30,000 foot viewpoint. They’re not that interested in all the details, right.
Kathy: [00:53:52] The day to day, they get bored.
Tony: [00:53:55] That would be exactly the word. I often say to people, you know, I love getting something started and then I’m bored with it and I want to hand it over to people who will do it better than I will.
Uh, so I was beginning to feel that about how churches and praying about that and saying, Lord, what are you really preparing us for this? Uh, and at that point he was round about 2010, might’ve been 2009. I don’t remember the exact dates. And my CEO at the Karis group with whom I had a buy sell arrangement.
Uh, so that by 2018 he was going to take over the company. Uh, but 2010, he came to me and he said, Tony, I really liked to accelerate our agreement and you’re involved in all this Christian ministry. How about I just buy you out now? Uh, and. I thought that’d be a great idea. I love that idea. Then, you know, we have a few million million dollars or something and pay enough money to live on the interest and uh, we can do where our hearts really are, but as Felicity and I began to talk and pray about that, which is not sure, and so we decide to go away.
Felicity: [00:55:07] Well, it started a little bit before that, so. Oh, one night in the middle of the night, our pool alarm goes off. And, uh, so we, you know, we get up, obviously we’re wide awake and we go and check and there’s nothing there. It was just one of those
Tony: [00:55:24] foibles of our pool alarm system, I guess.
Felicity: [00:55:27] And so, uh, we can’t get back to sleep again.
So we decided to get up and pray. And earlier, um, within the previous 24 hours, I’d just, I’d asked Tony where does that verse
Tony: [00:55:41] come from?
Felicity: [00:55:42] Where it says that you’ve put your money into a pocket filled with holes, cause such a little bit how it felt at the time. And he said, well, that comes from a book of Haggai.
Yes, I got it. Right. And so I say to him, well, you know, this is three o’clock in the morning. Why don’t we read the book of Haggai. And so we start reading it and as it goes on and we’re reading a fairly modern version, it gives, it starts getting dates and one of the, we get to the beginning of chapter two and it says something like, on October the 15th such and such happen.
And I turned to Tony and I said, Tony, what is today the date? And he says, well, it’s October the 15th
Kathy: [00:56:26] Oh my word.
Felicity: [00:56:27] Then we really start reading Haggai. Probably over the next few months, we’d go over it again and again and again together, and also the book of Zechariah. God starts speaking to us in extraordinary ways and tells us basically that we’re not to, not to get out of the business that we’re to where to bring it to a, to a finish.
It talks about how Zachariah puts the capstone on the building and that we had not yet put a capstone on the building. And so that’s, that’s, you know, when we stop, um,
Tony: [00:57:03] so all of a sudden our focus is switching from building house church movements to saying, Lord, how does that apply in the business world?
And he saying Psalm 24 in verse one, the earth is the Lord’s in the fullness there. All the world and all who dwell there in. And we’re thinking he wants us to build kingdom within business. Take all the principles we’ve learned about house churches, about the power of small groups, uh, and take it to where the people are will in America, where the people are is in businesses.
The vast majority of non Christians have zero interest in church anymore. They’ve already, they voted with their feet. But they all go to work or nowadays they don’t even go to work with maybe like zoom calls like this. Uh, and, uh, the Lord was saying all of these principles you’ve been learning are adaptable into businesses, go and disciple people in their businesses.
it also gave us a whole new lease of life to, to expand our vision for Karis. And it was very shortly after that. That the Lord gave me, uh, the ideas of well, of what would become Sedera of how we could take the, uh, Christian healthcare share and methodology and find a way to take it out to the world.
Why, why would the sharing organizations. only take care of Christians. Why have we got a godly principle that works well? Wouldn’t we as Christians, willingly give it to a world that desperately needs answers in how to handle medical costs? And so that became the genesis out of which Sedera was formed, uh, and to the glory of God.
Uh, last year, the Austin business journal, uh, told us that, uh, Sedera was the fastest growing small company in Austin. Wow. Even by the time they told us, we now don’t even qualify as a small company anymore, we now fit within their large company category. That is,
Kathy: [00:59:16] yes, yes. We talk so much about healthcare reform, but the things that are suggested.
Well, we could do a whole nother conversation on that. So I love, I love the work you’re doing. And that’s profound because Austin is, I mean, there’s so many businesses there and they’re growing like crazy. I love, love that story. Tell me. Because you know, so many people when they marry, they, they want to get to the point that you are.
It’s clear that you enjoy each other and, um, have a great friendship. What is it you’ve done over the years to maintain the fun, friendship and intimacy in your marriage? There might be several things you do, so I would love to hear. But do,
Felicity: [01:00:12] it’s just so much a part of everyday life. It’s hard to go down to specifics.
Tony: [01:00:19] I mean, I’d say we do lots of things. We are entrepreneurial, both of us. So, you know, Felicity writes book, she starts groups. She’s been very involved in all sorts of ministry. Uh, sh shall we say in her own right. Nothing, you know, tied up with me. Uh, so, uh, but we also deliberately, I’ve chosen to do everything we can together.
So whether it was, you know, it’s very helpful that we’re both doctors and so we understand each other’s work. Uh, we’ve always been involved in ministry together. Uh, you know, as, as I think about a Christian ministry, you mentioned in terms of traditional structures, there are many true Christian movements where a women very much take a second place, some where they’re even asked to be silent.
Uh, you know, so, uh, in, in Britain back in the seventies and eighties. Well, I would say in the vast majority of Christian churches, women were taking active part, but they weren’t allowed in leadership positions or, or let’s just say they didn’t get into leadership positions even if they were allowed in them.
Uh, but we began to feel no, this is so contrary to what we see in the word of God, that we’re going to actively work towards that. And so we made a choice that even if, if I got invited somewhere. Uh, I would tell people I’d love to come, but Felicity and I always do our teaching and preaching together. Uh, so, uh, you know, are we both welcome or are you only inviting me?
Uh, and, uh, it’s amazing when you tell people that you’re not gonna come unless your partner is allowed to be a part of it. Uh, how they begin to, to change and to open up. And so. We, we have gone out of our way to choose, uh, to, I guess, experience what it means for the two to become one. Uh, and you know, when, when you do that, it impacts every part of your life.
Kathy: [01:02:27] Now you have four children. Are they married? Well, yes. You have 11 grandchildren, you said. So how many of them are married.
Tony: [01:02:36] Uh, well, uh, all of them are married, let’s call it the usual use of that word. One of them married in, uh, in the legal sense. Uh, but, uh, they all, uh, have wonderful spouses. Uh, they have, uh, all of them have children.
So our 11 grandkids are spread out for two, three, uh, and two, between the kids. Um, uh, that they are doing all sorts of fascinating things. And for us, one of the most enjoyable parts of watching that process unfold. But again, this, this has been deliberate, uh, is that. Uh, we still bring all the kids and grandkids together.
We do a lot of our financial planning as a family together. We’ve trained all of us together. Uh, and it now means that, uh, our at all kids are our best friends. Which is so great,
Felicity: [01:03:48] right? Yeah, yeah,
Kathy: [01:03:51] yeah. I, we feel very fortunate also that, uh, you know, if our kids weren’t our kids. We would still want to get to know them, but I was curious.
So when they married, what kind of advice did you give them? Um, and probably not, you know, like the night before they got married, but I’m sure there are things that you. Uh, shared with them along the way about what it means to have a healthy relationship. Clearly you all have a very healthy marriage, and we can’t assume that our kids watching us know how to do that.
Did you take some intentional steps to. Um, to talk to them about healthy marriage along the way. Can you remember any of that?
Tony: [01:04:46] Quite
Felicity: [01:04:46] a while ago now. So I think, um, he talks about the importance of marrying your best friends. I think all of them have done just the friendship is key to their relationship.
Mmm. Yeah. And, and the, the obviously the importance of putting the Lord first. If you put the Lord first in your marriage, you know, the Lord’s up here and you’re getting closer to the Lord, you’re getting closer to each other to
Kathy: [01:05:17] absolutely
Felicity: [01:05:18] talk around that kind of thing.
Tony: [01:05:23] We’ve been intentional. Uh, both practical relationship areas and things like finances for, for many, many years until there were quite this many grandchildren where I’m trying to figure out how to resurrect this a habit, but we would bring all the kids together and any children, they have a once a year for a long Easter weekend together.
Uh, and we would rehearse together. The things that the Lord that’s spoken into their lives. Uh, and so, uh, we would remind them and they would remind each other, no. There’s a story in the old Testament when the children of Israel cross the river Jordan, uh, the Lord tells them, Hey, pick up 12 stones from one side and use them to build a Memorial on the other.
So that when your children say to you, what these stones, you can tell that. And we’ve deliberately built that into our, our sort of family history. So for us, the idea of building and intentional legacy very much includes these types of, let’s call them almost rituals, where we have anchors on which people can build their lives.
Kathy: [01:06:41] And one of the things we know. I say we being in my field of marriage and family therapy is that rituals are a very important part of healthy marriage. How we start the day, how we end the day. But I love that. And especially given the long periods of time that you all experienced where
Felicity: [01:07:03] you know,
Kathy: [01:07:03] you just, you felt like God was silent.
It felt like it was a dis, a desert. And then you’re. You know, you begin to watch your kids and they go through tough times also. And so how important it is to be able to remind them of how God was faithful in your situation and how he will be faithful. And there’s so powerful. Man. I love that. Anything else you would like to share with our listeners?
Um, any word of wisdom or advice about business or marriage? Um, maybe something you would say to your 30 year old self.
Felicity: [01:07:48] Sure. The importance of putting the Lord first in everything. But he, even when the tough times come, he will get you through those
Tony: [01:07:57] times. Mmm.
Felicity: [01:07:59] So that sort of
Kathy: [01:08:01] thing. Okay.
Tony: [01:08:04] Yeah. And then in that context, um, I think maybe because we’ve been talking about it just now with you, um, encouraging a familiarity of reminder of what God has done and of what the family made.
Well. So from a very young age, we, we would talk about, you know, my parents and their parents, and the fact that there’s a family legacy here. It’s not, it’s not an accident that you’re in this family. So let’s expect that God is going to create his opportunities and, uh, his purpose. And if you like that, he’s going to paint this broader.
Uh, landscape, uh, this picture of what it is he wants to do through each one of us. And that brings incredible meanings into a life.
Kathy: [01:09:00] That’s so wonderful. Well, I want to thank you guys so much for sharing your story and your wisdom. And, um, if someone wants to reach either of you, what is the best way for them to find you?
Tony: [01:09:15] I will, they can certainly find easier either of us online. So, uh, if they went to FelicityDale.com, I think they would get to
Felicity: [01:09:28] my email.
Kathy: [01:09:30] Okay, great. I’ll put that in the show notes.
Tony: [01:09:32] Uh, and um, they can get hold of me through either the Karis Group, or Sedera without any problems.
Kathy: [01:09:39] Fantastic. Thank you guys so much and have a wonderful day.
I’ll let you know when this goes live.
Tony: [01:09:48] It’s been a delight.
Kathy: [01:09:50] Thank you. Bye bye.
Felicity: [01:09:51] Bye bye.