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.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Ember mail

A set of coasters that I got in the mail yesterday from one of our lovely team. The beauty of the internet and a resourceful student...

Friday Burn

::: In Defense of Short Term Missions
Yes Marko yes.

::: All of the World's Biggest Cities Will be in Asia and Africa by 2030 2030, New York, Osaka, and Sao Paulo will no longer make the top 10, and Mexico City will barely hang on as the sole representative outside of Asia and Africa. This reflects the major shift driven by the urbanization in Asia and Africa, particularly in India (404 million projected new city dwellers by 2030), China (292 million), and Nigeria (212 million).

::: Which Countries Have the Youngest Population?

Photo: Welcome to Aixandria. Aix-en-Provence, France. July 2014.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Book Notes - Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love

In 2011, I was fortunate enough to attend a Dream Year weekend hosted by Ben Arment. Fast forward and today, Ben's book outlining the Dream Year process hits the shelves. The content in this book has been pretty significant to what we do with Ember - it has helped me immensely as I've pursued the dream of a starting a student missions leadership organization. The material in the book has also helped us as we've coached some of the emerging generation to pursue the passions that God has placed in their hearts.

Some of you will remember that I tried to get a Dream Year Pitch Night up and running too. That didn't fly, but yes, I believe in it that much. Our ProtoGuides will be reading this book this coming semester and our Ember 14X team is all getting a copy too.

Here's some of the notes that I loved in the book:
Today, your only gatekeeper is courage.

It requires no courage to come up with an idea and wait for someone else to green-light it. You're asking the gatekeepers to have courage. You're asking investors to accept the risk. You're asking someone else to have faith in your dream.

You must choose which fear will be the strongest for you. If you don't choose one of them, one will be chosen for you. And it will be the fear of failure, each and every time.

As we grow older, dreams don't disappear. We trade them in for standards of living.

You can view the bad things in your life as either tragedy or trajectory. It all leads to something magnificent.

You don't go after your dream. It comes after you.

If you're not concerned about creating revenue, it's not a dream. It's a hobby.

A dream chaser is never clueless about money.

There are no such things as successful visionaries, only architects of successful vision-producing systems.

Have you ever met an insecure CEO?

Don't let rainmaking deter you from your dream. It's one of the barriers to entry, and you can overcome it.
Get your copy soon and give your dreams a kick in the *ss.

[Related: Dream Year Weekend 1, 2, 3]

Monday, August 04, 2014

Ember 2014 Investments

I know I go on and on around here about the emerging generation and how Ember exists to resource them and blah blah blah. But I'm proud to tell you that this summer, we put our money where our mouth is.

We helped fund a few projects this summer, which is great fun for us. This list included:

+ John and his trek around the world. He is now on the northern Peloponnese coast.
+ Our 2014 ProtoGuides. This was as a credit to their support goal for Ember 14X.
+ ORapp, who traveled with our daughter Katie to Madrid. Look for some kind of final report on that in a few weeks.
+ Ember guide Trevin Hoekzema, who with his wife, helped lead a team to Poland.

This was all to the tune of about $950 and we believe these to be really significant investments in the future. And... if you have given financial support to The Ember Cast in the past and are not comfortable with this kind of decision, please get in touch.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday Burn

::: 35 Countries One Flight Away from Ebola Affected Countries
I'm on a little family vaca but trying to track this story closely.

::: How Google Thinks About Giving is no longer "good money to good people doing good things." A new generation is looking more for social business, revenue generating nonprofits and disruptive ideas. In fact, "the nonprofit sector is a little sleepy and ripe for disruption."
Link from the always insightful Fred Smith who runs The Gathering

::: Tips from TED for Better Slides

::: Get Ready for Generation Z
Teen innovators have always been with us (Braille, hip hop and earmuffs were all products of adolescent minds), but global social media combined with crowdsourcing, open-platform education and sharing have given this generation’s inventors unprecedented influence.
Link via Dennis
Without quite realizing, Ember's core customer is actually these kids now.

Photo: La Goulette City, Aix-en-Provence, France. July 2014.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Celebrating 20 Years

Besides Jesus, no one else has had a larger influence on my life. Here's to the next 20. Love.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How Some Organizations Do Debriefing

If you are like some organizations - churches, schools, mission agencies - you probably decompress your teams around the idea of what you already do or what you already know. Your goal is to get people more engaged with what you are already involved in, what exists now, what things you are currently resourcing. I'm not saying that is a bad thing.

What might serve us all better is what Alan Hirsch calls missional imagination - what can your students dream up that no one knows about... yet. Instead of helping your students get plugged in to what you know, maybe you should help them engage something they know that you don't.

I am not saying this is simple or easy. This requires you to unleash people. To empower them and send them out. Untether them and allow them to dream. Risky, brave, filled with potential for failure. That's the apostolic.

Photo: Debriefing in Bandol. July 2014.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Window Seat

Our oldest, Katie, is flying home right now. After spending two weeks with the Ember 14X team, her and Olivia spent 10 days in Madrid working with Mountainview International Church and a basketball camp they ran for their students.

This is her first international flight alone and, of course it's no big deal to her but mom and dad were tracking her connections pretty closely. Her first leg landed late and she had to make her way through Heathrow. She boarded with just 2 minutes before they closed the doors.

I never thought that either of my kids would be so brave. When I was growing up, the ideas of risk, bravery and pushing the envelope were not valued at all - in fact, they were distinctly frowned upon. Consequently, I'm a big chicken. But I'm glad my kids are changing the pattern.

Photo: window seat, BA 265.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Burn

::: As full-time pastors become a thing of the past, seminary grads are taking on secular jobs.
Link via Skye Jethani

::: How to Survive Air Travel

::: 5 Things Netflix is Showing Church Leaders About the Future

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The 30 Day Rule

We have what we call a 30 day rule with Ember - you aren't allowed to make any major decisions until at least 30 days after you return from a missions experience. And you spend those 30 days praying about decisions that you think you need to make.

30 days removes the emotion from your experience. It gives you enough margin to think about your experience with more logic. And it helps with growing a passion deeper in your heart. If it is a real passion God has ignited, 30 days will make it even stronger, not lessen it.

When I bring this up, most everyone scoffs at me. I can understand - they want things now. But trust me on this, when you go on something like this, you will change. 30 days gives the change enough time to make it last.

Reminder for Ember 14X - August 14 is your date.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ember 14X Wrap

Long post - feel free to read it or skip it.

: Aix
Again, like last year, being in Aix was so fun. It's a great little city and I love some of the elements that make it up. Elements like expats there for the business opportunities, lots of third culture kids, a technology hub and close proximity to Marseille, which is a key gateway to North Africa. If those things interest you too, keep Aix in the back of your mind. This year our team understood, even more than last year, some of the unique difficulties of ministry here, like when one of our missions roundtables guests said something to the effect of "It's hard to raise missions support when you live in a wedding destination." It's a beautiful city and embodies European and French culture with a distinct appreciation for food, art and beauty. The weather is beautiful, the scenery is gorgeous and the churches are scarce. Some have said France is a graveyard for missionaries.

: Kids Week and ICCP
I didn't convey this real well as things unfolded but the plans for Kids Week had to be drastically changed. Originally scheduled to run Monday to Friday, we were instead shutdown after the day ended on Wednesday by local authorities due to some minor safety concerns. However, we were able to have an end of week picnic in a local park. There was a huge outpouring of community support so ICCP has found themselves with lots of attention, which is hopefully a good thing. The theme of the week was Kingdom of Grace, so everyone, including some pretty upset parents, were encouraged to respond… well… with grace. There is, of course, a bigger story going on here and it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

You know mission trips - stay flexible because things always change. It's a theme for Ember too, our plan A never works out. As I get older, I get less and less flexible. And I am more and more annoyed at myself for being less and less flexible. This is a personal decompression topic.

ICCP continues to be one of the most innovative communities we know about. Their level of intention, sacrifice, and creativity all for the sake of the kids in their community is unparalleled. It is a beautiful thing to see. Tim Anderson [KW director] and Tim Arlen [lead pastor] led this initiative with grace and integrity and I wish our team could have spent more time with both of them.

: Culture Aixchange and Missions Evening
One of my personal highlights of our two weeks in France was the culture exchange. Since the staff was such a good mix of French, American and various other cultures, we had originally wanted to host a culture exchange. The goals for this included having the kids to share about their cultures and having the staff to get to know each other better by doing something fun. This didn't work out for the original schedule but when Kids Week closed down, we were actually able to execute on this and it was a great success. See more notes on it here.

The other highlight for me was hosting a small group of missions people at our villa one evening for dinner and a time of discussion. Among the people included the lead pastor of ICCP, who just moved to Aix a year ago from the States; a Dutch guy who is a serial ministry starter and is going to plant a French speaking church out of ICCP; an American wife of ICCP's former lead pastor who also ran a local wine and cheese touring business in Aix; and someone who is considering coming on staff at ICCP and two of the guys who came to Kids Week from a church in Virginia. Moderated gatherings like these are one of the best things we do. Most trips like these never make the time or space to have students intentionally interact with experienced cross cultural people. For Ember, this is as important as the project itself. More here.

: Financials
Big picture financials - use these to compare keeping in mind that Europe is very expensive.
Airfare: $1230
Food: $157
Insurance: $8
Partner gift: $50
Ground costs: $185
Lodging: $618
Excursion: $18 [Les Baux castle tour]
Costs per team member were about $2266 for 14 days which equals about $161 per day. We got a great deal on our flights through British Airways nonprofit program. Last year, it cost $2250 per person for 10 days.

: Team
I loved working with Teal Rapp. He's one of the most easy going, highly relational leaders that I know. He cares for his family and teams phenomenally and gets fired up when people are engaged and empowered for God's mission. Since he was on staff with ICCP and lived in Aix, he was perfect to be a part of our team. Having his kids on our team was phenomenal too. [His oldest, Olivia, and Katie are working together in Madrid right now.]

The rest of our team was phenomenal as well. Each and every person contributed significantly to both Work Week and the short Kids Week as well as being fully engaged in whatever we were doing - seeing the sights, decompression, helping out around the house.

We made some improvements compared to last year about leadership and most of our team was returning. In addition, John helped prep our team with some very targeted prayer points the week before we departed. We engaged the older students in some various leadership roles which was a great help to me.

: Why This Matters
In the short term, I'm pretty sure you'll see each person grow in at least one of the missional concepts that we were exposed to from the experience: international church planting, people of peace, cultural icons, a community that is incarnational, bivocational ministry. In the long term, you'll see at least some of these kids do something phenomenal but it might take a while so hang on. Thanks to all of you supporters, investors and blog readers - your support is incredible. I love each person on this team like they were one of my kids.
'You don’t plant churches you plant sons.[and daughters]'- Oscar Muriu

Pictures and Videos

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Lessons from the Eiffel Tower
Classic Seth Godin and so true...

::: Why People Still Move to Unhappy Places

::: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Nonprofit Leadership
From Peter Greer, CEO of Hope International.

Photo: The 'American' section of a grocery store. Aix-en-Provence, France, July 2014.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Random Ember 14X

Some random stuff from our time in France. Writing it down so I don't forget.

+ With 11 people, logistics like airport security or public transport can be tricky. This year, our plan was that I walk through security with Deanna [because of her insulin and her pump] and everyone else goes between Hope and Tessa. If anyone has extended time with security, Tess stays with them. Worked great.

+ Most of our travel through airports was fine and this is an issue because Deanna wears an insulin pump and travels with backup insulin in various forms as well as traveling with a backup pump. Coming back through Heathrow was the worst though. She has a great system for this though and each time, we learn a little more. But the people at Heathrow were just jerks.

+ Emily was not feeling well for most of the time we were in France. She had nasal congestion, a sore throat and her ears were clogged. We took her to a doctor on the last Saturday we were in Aix. Someone told us about a doctor that speaks English but you had to mention that you were the friend of so and so to get an appointment. Going to the doctor is definitely a fantastic cultural experience, so you should try it. Emily actually had blood drawn for the first time ever, in another country. And… she tested positive for mono. I can't believe how much she worked while having mono.

+ One night at dinner, our team of 14, ate 6 baguettes. Does that seem like a lot?

+ Our lodging costs averaged out to be about $52 per person per night. The villa was $46, the hostel in Sanary sur mer was $52 and the Holiday Inn MRS airport was $58. Don't get me wrong, the south of France is incredibly expensive. We were fortunate to do it very cheaply.

+ Les Baux was incredible. Bandol was amazing too. Pictures don't do either of them justice. They were both very worthwhile to visit. I know some people saw our pictures and thought, 'Wow rough missions trip...' But I won't apologize for that - my job was to value our team and the incredible work they did. Decompression on the beach on the Mediterranean Sea is part of it and you would be super dumb for not taking advantage of that.

+ In our whole time, we did not see any other evangelical faith based groups of people there. No youth groups, mission teams, handbell choirs. Not one. But we did see Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses.

+ This year in Aix, I actually felt like I knew where I was going. That was interesting to me, especially as you hear people talk about their first year in a foreign city.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

14x decompression outline

We spent most of the day Sunday going through the following list of decompression topics. It was broken up into hour long segments so that the team could have an hour to think/write on the given subject for that hour while doing whatever else too. It wasn't quite as intentional as I had hoped but everyone was almost too tired to think.

Steal these if you want.

1 Write for 10 minutes or more in your journal - recap or a summary of your time.

2 Write about:
What did you love/hate
When did time go fast (generative)
Something new you learned about God

3 Write down a list of people to pray for.

4 Write a summary of your time that fits on an index card.

5 Prepare three responses to when people ask about your time. 20 seconds, 2 min and 20 min. Most people will only listen for 20 secs. One day sooner or later you may need to talk for 20 mins to supporters, a board, or a church about an experience. Get the practice now.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Flying home.

Final Team breakfast

Last team breakfast. I'm going to miss this team a lot. No drama at all and they worked to their absolute best.

We are now all checked in at MRS and ready to board our flight to London.