Monday, October 20, 2014

Breakfast with Glenn

In 2005, as the result of exploring what existing international connections our church already had, I ended up leading a student team to serve and work with Glenn McMahan who lived in Londrina Brasil with his family, there to serve and connect with university students. It was a fantastic experience based on the idea of a culture exchange - two cultures sharing around common cultural elements like film, games, food and such. Many elements of that experience are still paramount to us today including the culture exchange [which we just used this summer], persons of peace and hearing about the result of a decades long friendship [who later gave her life to Jesus], and how people can care about their communities despite differences in cultural context.

Glenn and I have kept in touch over the years and I would jump at the chance to work with him again. He's recently engaged in a new leadership role, helping to engage in both medical initiatives as well as business as mission for a global missions organization. I was thrilled to be able to interact with him this past weekend as well as have him meet two of our three current ProtoGuides. Our conversation included ideas such as:

- shipping containers used as medical clinics, like what we saw in Coney Island
- As an American, Glenn won't be the point person for anything but will be helping resource and support local leaders who are. The indigenous who know best are in charge.
- microbusinesses have a good amount of need for people that can come in and help with business plans, strategy and execution.
- Ebola and how that may change things. Liberia has a ratio of 1 doctor for 77000 people right now.
- We grow your kids to love the world and then we are surprised when they want to leave home...

I loved catching up with Glenn as well as having our ProtoGuides in the conversation. Ember thrives on setting up conversations and connections like these - a well experienced, Gospel centered cross cultural leader sharing some wisdom with passionate, interested emerging global student leaders. Sadly, we forgot a picture with Glenn.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Dear World, Let's Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor
Link [lots of people posting this lately]


::: What Plug Goes Where
Link


::: Yes, Our Pastors Get Paid to Pray and Rest
Link


::: "The West is not a secular society. It is a pagan society. Here is the most challenging missionary frontier of our time." L. Newbigin via JD Greear

Photo: Baltimore, Fall 2013. Ember partners with Wendy again later this month.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Instagram in Bathrooms

I've been having fun with Instagram for a few weeks now - it was birthed by someone who suggested an idea for Creative Revenue as well as me being intrigued with the platform after reading this presentation on the emerging global web. [And... yes you should check out the deck, right now.]

I'm always looking for someone who has gone from the transition from self->service->systems, an idea we talk a lot about with Ember people based on the book Toxic Charity. It's a helpful progression when we visit the ideas of better ways to help people in poverty, how to make our charity sustainable and giving dignity to those we serve. In essence, I'm on the lookout for someone who has created systems that have helped those less fortunate. And I have no doubt that someone is already doing this with a platform like Instagram.

It's another example of how easy it is to connect with others today [like Firn Howard County or this kid from the high school who sells shoes on it to over 25K followers.] Starting something from nothing is difficult work, but never been easier. Even better when someone builds a system to help others. Let me know if you know of something like this.

Photo: Brent Lutz, GCC middle school pastor, in one of my bathrooms.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mosaic LA - Hope in a Desperate Time

One of the best talks I've seen dealing with despair and depression and how to help yourself or your friends. As someone who grew up with mental illness in their household, lots of the stuff in this talk is extremely valuable. Your future is better than your present and it is not as bad as it seems.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Architects Propose Converting World Cup Stadiums into Affordable Housing
Link


::: The Newest Mission Field
How would you like to lead a team on mission to Mars?
In the mid 2030s the orbits of the planet Mars and our Earth will be so close that a voyage that could last years might be made in months.
Classic McManus. Link


::: What It Costs to be a Tourist Across the US
Link


::: McDonalds has the fastest public WiFi in the US.
Link

::: I'd rather be an effective imitator than a stupid innovator. - @RickWarren

Photo: Ember 2014-2015 ProtoGuides [2 of the 3] and spawn. Dream Year Pitch Night, Leesburg, VA. August 2014.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Learn Another Language Or Two

Almost exactly 30 days after we returned home from Ember 14X, we gathered our team to do a little decompression. I am huge on wanting to walk students and teams through their experiences in order to help them process it but it never easy - after the experience, people get busy, you can't always get everyone and human nature tends to drift.

Our time together was great and we even skyped in our peeps from Austin and San Fran. Although we probably should have talked more about 'what are you going to do this school year?' we did talk a lot about our favorite memories and what experiences marked us and if anything about us will change. Sometimes 30 days in enough and sometimes not. And sometimes people will have great thoughts and other times, not so much.

I specifically loved what one of our team said though. She told the group that she was going to pick up a language in college because she understood the idea of being multilingual and how that could be really strategic for a cross cultural future. This is the kind of thing that we thrive on - expose a high school student to the way the world really looks and they can make significant decisions for their future. That is marking human history.

Monday, October 06, 2014

YCombinator and Missional Imagination

I absolutely love this list from YCombinator [one of the top startup incubators] called Request for Startups. It represents an amazing smattering of possible ventures all with a potential that could impact the future of humanity. Just like most global missions initiatives today, there is room for all kind of career possibilities with each one of these. And we love to tell students that you could find yourself involved in cross cultural service with almost any field of study today.

Some of my favorites include:
At some point, we are going to have problems with food and water availability.
If we can fix education, we can eventually do everything else on this list.
We want to fund companies that have the potential to create a million jobs.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world are getting their first computing experience (a smart phone) and entering the middle class.

This is some serious missional imagination.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday Burn

::: How to Say Hello in 21 Different Languages
Link via Dennis


::: Teaching Overseas - Loving Italy's Poor Little Rich Kids
For cultural reasons, this class of people tends to be separated and entirely cut off from any other gospel “movements” happening in the city amongst the other classes. They are an unreached people group that is unreachable by current trends in mission strategy.
Link


::: Housing First
Utah, though, embraced a different strategy, called Housing First: it started by just giving the homeless homes.
Link


::: More people are learning to speak English today in China than all the English speakers in N America. Gospel opportunity. - @JDGreear

Photo: ProtoGuides, pizza truck. Aix, July 2014.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What Pavillion Vendome Means to Me

This might look like a dead end. At least to me, in the summer of 2013, my first time in Aix-en-Provence, it did.

We were told to meet at a little park at the end of this street. I saw this from this vantage point and decided that we had gone the wrong way. Being a little directionally challenged, I take lots of U-turns and I thought this was just another one. Instead, Katie and I traversed all around the outside of this park for about an hour. She thought it was an adventure and I was annoyed. Alas, we should have gone all the way to the end of the road.

I'm reminding myself mostly, take the opportunities all the way to their end.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Benchmark of 5 Years

In my first iteration of student missions, five years seemed to be a significant milestone. After five years, leaders had emerged from students, some significant things became important in our culture and it seemed like momentum had multiplied.

Ember is at that same five year milestone around now and there seem to be a lot of the same indicators. I'm excited about the past few years of students that have gone on to university and are leading and forging new and exciting initiatives and opportunities. We have some momentum that didn't take pulling teeth to capture.

Let me implore you - if you work with the emerging generation, recognize that five years is a significant milestone. Work hard at it for five years and then take a look. What you see might surprise and delight you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The One Phrase You Should Not Use After You Return from Africa
"They are poor but everyone seemed so happy."
Link


::: Developing a Sending Student Ministry
Link
Give Us Two Years... We challenge all of our students to give two years of their lives to the mission of God somewhere strategic.


::: 13 Little Known Facts About Change That Too Many Leaders Miss
Link
9. Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.
12. Transformation happens when the change in question becomes part of the culture.
13. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.


::: The Time I Tried to Figure Out How Teenagers Use Twitter
Link


::: Consider this...Many tribal cultures don't have a word for "boredom" - @DavidLivermore

Photo: Bandol, France, July 2014.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Notes - The Happiness of Pursuit

I loved this book from Chris Guillebeau and just like his two previous books [The Art of Nonconformity and The $100 Startup] it's filled with fun stories, great personalities and the sense that life is an adventure to be lived.

In this book, Chris unpacks the idea of a quest and gives us some compelling examples of people that have pursued something quests: something with a clear goal and a specific endpoint, a clear challenge, sacrifice of some kind, a sense of calling or mission and something that requires a series of steps. Along with telling us about quests, he inspires us by visiting the big ideas as adventure, personal vision, risk, courage and personal growth.

Probably my favorite part of the book talks about what happens when people are done with their quests - they gain independence and confidence, they mature, their vision seems to grow, and they are empowered for more. I've seen this first hand as the organization I work with has tried to send as many young people as we can on some kind of quest or adventure. Time and time again, those experiences have helped grow people along the lines that Chris has outlined.

Here are a few more quotes I loved from the book:
Discontent is the first necessity of progress. - Thomas Edison
He had decided to live forever, or die in attempt. - Joseph Heller
The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud. - Coco Chanel
When you've given everything you have in pursuit of something great, it's hard to toss off a few quick sentences on "what it's like."
Why pursue a quest? Because each of us in our lives is writing our own story, and we only have one chance to get it right.

The Happiness of Pursuit is a great read and even though all of us could probably stand to read about more adventure in our life, this might be the motivation to get you to actually take the first step.

Disclosure - I was provided a copy of this book for free.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2013 and 2014 Summer Improvements

Like every year, we spend some time at the end of the summer looking to improve on what we did. Here are some items from both last summer and this summer:

+ We got better about bringing on leaders. John, Tess, Hope and Measu did a phenomenal job. We would require future potential leaders that we don't know very well to engage on an Ember day experience with us before we open up slots for summer teams, although haven't had to do this recently.

+ We needed one person to really help us pray these teams up. John did this for us this summer and it was beautiful. Ultimately, this comes down to a staffing decision, like recruiting for any other skill or talent.

+ Our travel agent, Valarie, was great. We flew British Airways with their nonprofit perk. Required a group of 9 or more.

+ It was tough to balance all the work that needs to get done for Kids Week and making sure our team is well fed and getting the Ember essentials in. Our team seemed to be more relaxed when we planned for Deanna to take care of most of the food instead of rotating team members in for that.

+ Of course I love our approach to funding with the Creative Revenue Plan. Although 10-25% of support is raised via creative revenue, we may need to be clearer about what makes up the rest - ie: do you pay for it yourself or raise support or is it case by case.

+ No body modifications and no riding motorcycles or scooters if you are under 21. [Ember spawn…]

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hello SeptEmber

It is entirely possible that one of these SeptEmbers, I actually won't return from a sabbatical. But not this year - I'm thrilled to be back and super excited about what the next season for The Ember Cast holds. True to form, we've had some exciting opportunities pop up since I've been away and like every year, I'm sure these will be some very catalytic and unique encounters for our ProtoGuides.

If you are bivocational [and some of you reading this may not think you are, but you are] you should strongly consider a season every year where you take an extended break from your second vocation. It will free up your mind to do some evaluation and to think creatively again, it will give your pace of life a break by allowing you to say no easily and it will revive passion for whatever your second gig is.

Welcome to SeptEmber.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sabbatical Season

Late August and early September are a sabbatical season for me. We've had a great summer and this intentional time of rest is healthy for me and healthy for Ember as an organization. This starts for me today.

I started doing this very intentionally last year and I think picked up the original idea even before that. Ben Cloud would give his church volunteers the summer off and 3DM talks about this rhythm a lot - winter is recovery for fruit in the spring. If you are involved in multiple facets of work or ministry, I cannot recommend this enough.

See you in SeptEmber.