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From India to North Dakota

Photo of Prakash Mathew smiling

Values and God’s calling guide Thrivent client Prakash Mathew.

When Prakash Mathew traveled from India to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1971 to pursue his graduate degree, he had no idea that it would later become his home.

Mathew grew up as a Christian in India. During his undergraduate program in Agricultural Studies in 1968 in India, he met Pastor Ross and Peg Robson from Fargo, North Dakota. Unbeknownst to Mathew, the Robsons began raising funds for his travel to and graduate tuition at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

Mathew, a member of the board for the Thrivent Member Network—Northland Region, believes it was God’s calling.

After earning his degree, he spent his career at NDSU. He retired as vice president of Student Affairs in 2014.

Mathew and his late wife, Sandy, raised two sons, now in their 30s. Twin granddaughters joined the family in 2019. And this past May Prakash married his wife, Jane. He’s also author of the book We are Called …to do the Right Thing, coming out in early 2021.

What’s your first memory of money?

I came to this country with a suitcase and the few Indian rupees I had in my pocket. On the way to the U.S., I had to stay in a London hotel. When a hotel employee brought my bag to my room, I looked for money but had to apologize that I didn’t have any. I felt so bad. While I’m still not rich in money, I am rich in the ways God has blessed me.

How did you first learn about Thrivent?

My late wife’s parents were Thrivent members in Fosston, Minnesota. When we’d visit the farm, I’d see newsletters and ask them about it. They were proud to be part of Thrivent. Most meaningful to me is that we are a membership organization of Christians.

What are your guiding principles around money decisions?

It starts with the belief that everything I have is a gift from God. I want to be wise with how I use the money I’ve been given, and generosity plays a significant role. I believe we need to give as we’ve been given.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?

Live with what you have. Don’t borrow money you can’t afford to pay back. Stay within your limitations.

What’s your favorite volunteer activity?

There are several. I enjoy serving at the emergency food bank, Churches United for the Homeless in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and the Samaritan’s Feet project. I also support a mission project in Kenya, where Thrivent has played a major role in helping build schools and other projects through financial and voluntary help.

How do you define values?

They are our compass. These are the firmly held beliefs and convictions that we support and nurture. They also define our character. What you do every day should reflect your values so who you are as a person helps you identify your beliefs and values.

What’s your new book about?

We are Called…to do the Right Thing is about values and principles, and the application of them in our daily lives, both personal and at work. Coming out in early 2021, it’s filled with stories of learning these values and principles from my parents, but also includes lessons from 30-plus years of work in higher education, including how I developed and used the 80/20 principle at NDSU and in life. My inspiration for the book is from Micah 6:8.

What is the 80/20 principle?

The fit between your values and your employer’s values is shown as a predictor of job satisfaction. I really developed the 80/20 principle to help employers and employees determine if it’s a right fit for both. If your values conflict with a perspective employer’s values more than 20% of the time, you will be uncomfortable and stressed at work. However, it’s nearly impossible to find a 100% match.

Who was the most influential person in your life?

My father. He was a pastor for more than 40 years in a Protestant denomination in India. His life was a true testament to me and others. He was a true servant leader.

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The client’s experiences may not be the same as other clients and does not indicate future performance or success.

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