Monday, August 29, 2016

Leaving Your Kid 7000 Miles Away

We had an amazing time this past week transitioning with our older daughter to her first year of college. She is going to a school in Abu Dhabi which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is a country right off the Persian Gulf, just east of Saudi Arabia. Up until this past March, I had no idea where it was.

Visiting Abu Dhabi is like visiting the future. Modern, large, creative architecture. A physically clean city with zero crime. 100% car culture meaning taxi cabs, private cars and no public buses or subways. A proactive government that is investing in many ways for the future of the country. The ability of the city to attract world class cultural and educational institutions and multinational corporations. The gravitation of grand hotels and huge malls among daily living. Escalators that turn on when you step on them. The intentional collection of people living together from all over the world. Even with lots of reminders of the ancient world - the Grand Mosque, traditional Emirati clothing, the smell of oud - I was captivated by the futuristic in this city. Coming home to Dulles airport was quite anticlimactic.

Leaving your kid 7000 or 70 miles away is difficult. But the Lord has so been so clear in this, we continue to be in awe of the opportunity. She was born for this chance to flourish in the global future of a place like Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

See You in SeptEmber

Every year around this time, I take a self imposed 4-6 week sabbatical from all activities related to The Ember Cast. The general rule is no meetings, no writing, no financials, no dreaming. I let the very busy spring and summer season slow down and rest and celebrate what we have accomplished. It is kind of difficult. But the principle is true: spring is always on the other side of winter. In years past when I have returned, I'm very energized and thrilled. Deanna and I are doing some traveling at the start of this [surprise surprise] so that will be fun. See you next month.

Photo: Acate, Italy. July 2016.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Throwing Fire - Round 2

2nd try last evening at a different airport since her original first leg was too delayed. But en route all night.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Kids Matter More Than Adults

There's a new kind of leader who believes kids matter more than adults.

Maybe you're thinking that the statement, "kids matter more than adults," is a little extreme. If you're an adult, you might be even slightly offended.

Before you discredit the idea as too radical, think about it. Even your dog figures this out pretty quickly. When a new baby arrives, everyone's status changes.

I'm not trying to devalue any human at any stage of life. The statement isn't intended to imply that an adult's life has any less value than a kid's life, nor that the world should in any way revolve around a child. What does it suggest is that if you want to affect the way a generation sees the world, then it makes sense to start influencing their character and faith when they are young.
- Reggie Joiner

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Burn

::: In Search of Metaphor
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::: The Hard Work of Rest
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::: Hey Church, We're Just Not That Into You
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::: Cynicism is the status quo's most powerful ally. - @jnovogratz

Photo: Late night leaders. Ragusa, Italy, July 2016.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Med

The colors of the water are what you imagine they would be - a deep blue and green, clear and cool, the refreshing Mediterranean sea. Until your host tells you that upwards of 5000 people die in these waters every summer. It then seems disenchanting to take pictures of this scene. Can I really enjoy this when so many have died here? In a blog post, you write, "Our hope is that these waters are redemptive at some point."

And then, the next day, someone decides that they would love to get baptized. 10km to the west of where you were the previous day, but the same water, the same sea. It's yelling and clapping and screaming, a small celebration with 14 people, cheering on a public declaration of a dedicated and redeemed life.

Living water.

Monday, August 08, 2016

40 is the new 30

One of the best systems The Ember Cast has in place is called the 30 day rule. It states that you make no major decisions for 30 days after you come back from a mission experience. No starting or stopping major relationships, no deciding to drop out of college to be a missionary, no buying a plane ticket to return to the place where you just left, no selling all of your earthly possessions. Certainly none of those things are inherently bad decisions but the intent behind this is to help temper some of the emotions involved in returning from a very intense experience in a new culture.

This year, we've expanded this number to be 40 instead of 30, because you know how much more Biblical the number 40 is. In either case, that kind of time frame allows emotions to settle. If your experience has changed you, your convictions will last past this time and prove to be beyond emotions.

Calling and vocation are topics best navigated with intention and not by accident. When we hope our students figure out what they are good at or we hope that they bump into the right kind of leaders to lead them or we are unclear about a theology of place, we are navigating these topics by accident. Instead, you should have a plan to help your students think about the future and how they will contribute to it. One of the best ways to start is to help them deeply process what are convictions versus what are emotions.

You can do this too. Encourage your students to let God's leading burn in their hearts for a month. Host a dinner with them after that month and celebrate how you all have changed.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Friday Burn

::: All the World's Immigration Visualized in 1 Map
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::: The Ice Bucket Challenge Just Funded an ALS Breakthrough
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::: A Deep Dive into Saudi Youth Culture
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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Ember Italy Wrap Up

I'm working on a little post trip report that will be done in a few days. I'd be honored if you were interested in reading it. Leave a comment here or tonytsheng @ theembercast.org.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Italy Friday

Friday was debriefing day so we spent most of the morning discussing the week in detail. Unfiltered debate and missional imagination were key pieces of this.

We spent a little bit of time on the beach in the afternoon also working through more thoughts about the trip using the questions below. 

In the evening we went to a worship gathering at a center in the town of Ragusa. Fitting end to our time here.

We devote a whole day to debriefing because it is that important.

1 Write about - What did you love/hate

2 Story on an index card

3 20 second, 2 minute, 20 minute
4 Write about - When did time go fast (generative) 
5 Listing important people that you met
6 Envelopes - Tess has these
7 Write about - Something new you learned about God
8 Highlight points on thank you cards
9 Encouragement notes to others

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Italy Thursday

Today was our last full day of ministry. We started in Pozallo to hang with some refugees but didn't find anyone. Pozallo is right on the Med and although incredibly beautiful, you feel helpless when you learn that a few thousand people die in this water every year. The boat graveyard, next to a refugee intake center, is one symbol of the refugee struggle. Our hope is that these waters are redemptive at some point.

The common term here is refugee 'camp' although 'camp' isn't quite an accurate word. In Catania, the camp was a 3 story residential building right next to our hotel with dorm style rooms, a common sitting area, and a kitchen. This afternoon we visited another camp that was outside of Modica in the countryside. This was an old rectory of a Catholic church and we spent time visiting. I also listened to a conversation between Ryan, one of our hosts, and F who is here with a missions organization and one of the key players in this work in this region. The challenges are great involving cultures, worldviews, relief vs development and systems, among lots of other things.

Ragusa

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Italy Wednesday

Checked out of Catania today after morning in the fish market and hanging in city center.

Drove to Ragusa where we checked into our remaining lodging. We then met up with a friend in Acate. This friend has lived the refugee life and like most of them told us a sobering story. His hospitality was second to none though and it was humbling to be hosted in that manner. Americans don't accept hospitality that well.

Dinner was with a contact who has been helping with a system for when people actually get off the boats.