Monday, December 10, 2018

From Intern To

One of the first summers of the existence of The Ember Cast, we partnered with Serve the City Baltimore to deliver a few talks for one of their teams. This was the first time I met Deanna [yes, same name as my wife], 7th from the right in the black shirt. She would later join us as an Ember intern - before we renamed our intern program to ProtoGuides.

Deanna joined us as an intern for literally almost everything we did. She was pretty much constant for 18 months, including two summer teams, lots of student gatherings, a few large scale training events, and at least four culture service learning weekends.

Since her time with Ember, she finished college, got married, moved to Philly for a season, led teams to Latin America and Asia, and is now going to be serving on a local college campus with her husband in vocational college ministry. We're thrilled for the Lord's call on her life and expectant about this next season. Ember might be partnering with her ministry with some things around our core competencies too.

Not everything we do works out great. And the cycle of return is at least four years. But there's a few bright spots that we keep in touch with that makes it stick: Emilie 06, Trevin 08, Tricia 08, John 10, Drew 10, Carolyn 11, Wendy 12, Deanna 13, Hope 14, Tess 14, Lindsey 14, Shannon 15. Keep on, the world needs you at your best.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Friday Burn

Big Tech has Your Kid's Data and You Probably Gave it to Them
... by the time a kid turns 18, there will be 70,000 posts about them on the internet.

::: Five Year Trends from the US Census Bureau
For the 2013 to 2017 period, among the geographic areas with 10,000 people or more, the locations with the highest median household incomes were, by county and county equivalent: Loudoun County, Va.; Fairfax County, Va.; Howard County, Md.; Falls Church City, Va.; and Arlington County, Va., were among the highest counties by median household income.

::: The IRS is now on Instagram
Tag away.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Senior Senioring

College envelope for Em... and it was an acceptance with a good amount of scholarship money. It's that time of year for many seniors.

This particular school is Biola, in So Cal. We've all loved and been impressed with the school. Most notably for me, they have hosted one of the longest running student missions conferences in the US.

Proud of our Em. More decisions soon.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Thoughts about Giving Tuesday

+ I don't want to feel this way because I know Giving Tuesday has great intentions. But it always feels a bit dirty to me. Like a flea market, where people are trying to get you to see the stuff on their table. It feels like the lowest level of engagement when it comes to working with charitable donors.
+ Even with that, it took a few simple clicks to create a fundraiser on Facebook for The Ember Cast and we raised a good bit of money relative to our budget.
+ There were a few people that I only interact with when they are trying to fund something. It's commonly referred to as ministry partnership but it really is sponsorship. If you are reading this, it's not your fault - you asked and I gave. To their credit, I asked if they would be willing to give to Ember too and they all did, one incredibly generously.
+ If you are giving or receiving, my encouragement to you is to set the bar really high when it comes to engaging with your donors and charitable organizations. I know for The Ember Cast, your attention and trust is worth way more than your donations.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The number of people with access to electricity just fell below 1B.
Link via The Weekend Briefing

::: Is our constant use of digital technologies affecting our brain health?

::: The World's Largest Migrations

Photo: The Louvre, Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Better Practices - A Humble Mindset

This is a series of posts that outline our better practices - tactical things that you could do right now that The Ember Cast has found highly profitable for growing global leaders. Feel free to use these ideas with attribution, meaning just say, "I got this from The Ember Cast."

There are many times when we think way more highly of ourselves. When it comes to mission teams, we sometimes believe and articulate that we are 'taking God to [fill in place or people]' as if God isn't there already. It's a fundamental error in theology.

Instead, articulated excellently by Tim Dearborn in the Short Term Missions Workbook: "Walk with humility. Remember, you are showing up late to a meeting. God has been at work among these people long before you arrived!"

This simple shift in thinking will put your team in it's rightful role with who they are, what they are to do, how they should relate to long term partners and who they serve and what the Lord might be calling them to the future.

Monday, November 26, 2018


On my last night here, we decided to go over to the Grand Prix to see if someone wanted to give away their wristbands to see Guns N' Roses. I'm not a huge fan and we only stayed for 5 or 6 songs but it was an experience and totally worth it.

I continue to be fascinated by Abu Dhabi. Cultural mix of very futuristic future and very old past. Lots of the world comes here for opportunity - you cannot help but meet people from places you might never go. A cab driver told me that Nigerians are taking over the world. The Filipinos are the most polite people I have ever met. Someone Katie works with said, 'Abu Dhabi changed my life.' Interesting focus on investment in the city and it's citizens. There is something about the desert.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

How to Neuter Entrepreneurial, Apostolic Leaders

1. Force them to go to school.
2. Give them too much money
3. Tell them all the reasons why something cannot be done.
4. Swamp them with paperwork and administration.
5. Give them people to lead who are excessively needy.
6. Limit their travel and keep them in their own culture.
7. Consistently correct them when they are provocative or prophetic in their communication.
8. Make sure any initiative they take must go through multiple steps of approval.
9. Insert 'conserve' and 'maintain' in conversations with them.
10. Have someone supervise them who projects his or her own strong pastoral gifting onto the relationship.
11. Tell them to stay when they want to go.
12. Make sure they have plenty of rules and policies to live by.
13. Give them a precise, detailed, inflexible job description.
14. Keep them safe.
- Beyond the Local Church, Sam Metcalf

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Big tech, Kibera and AI

::: Square Roots - Urban Farming

::: Robert Egger - Philanthropy Puts a Chokehold on Innovation
Egger was the founder of DC Central Kitchen.

::: My friend David Huey runs Hungry for A Day and they are kicking off their Thanksgiving project this week. Check it out here.

: 'Limited resources + Willingness to fail + Increasing passion = Exponential Innovation' - Craig Groeschel

Photo: Vienna, Austria. July 2007.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

NovEmber dinner guest - Icing Smiles

Once a month, The Ember Cast hosts a dinner with a select group of students and a special guest who are some of the most creative and innovative in the global missions/nonprofit space. The intention of this dinner is for our students to learn, interact and be inspired by these amazing individuals who have created something incredible from nothing.

Our NovEmber dinner guest was Tracy Quisenberry, founder and executive director of Icing Smiles. Icing Smiles a nonprofit org that provides celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child. In just over 8 years, Icing Smiles has mobilized thousands of volunteers including bakers, project managers and delivery staff to deliver cakes in all 50 states, including just delivering their 17,000th cake.

Our conversation touched on lots of topics including working in multiple vocations, starting something from nothing, having a laser focus on the mission of your organization and some of the struggles as a founder. Below are some other highlights. Thank you, Tracy, for helping inspire our students and helping Ember forge the future!
The Founder struggle
"Dig where you are"
The hardest job is to lead a team of volunteers.
Was always too hard on herself as a founder

+ Her career experiences as an international tax account for a large multnational corporation helped prepare her to lead an organization. There were also lots of things that she had to learn

+ Icing Smiles is not a faith based org but we would not be an org without my faith.

Q - Have you struggled with mission creep?
Definitely. Had an offer early on to be a program piece of a big, well known nonprofit, but it was an obvious bad fit.

Q - do you want your org to outlast you
Tracy - Yes! Absolutely.
Tony - No not necessarily. Seth Godin - entrepreneur or freelancer. I used to think about us multiplying lots of mentors and missions catalysts that were investing in high school students. But now, I want to be the artisan crafting each and every thing that we deliver.

Advice to 16 year old:
Don't be so hard on yourself. See the pieces of the puzzle,

There are 14 steps to delivering a cake.
"A cake is not just a cake - it is sometimes a breath of air when families feel like they are suffocating."

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Ember Cast Celebrates 8 Years!

EDIT: Duh. I had 2010 on the brain - it is 8 years, not 10.

It was exactly 10 8 years ago today that we held the first board of directors meeting for The Ember Cast, so today is a pretty huge milestone for Ember and it totally took me by surprise. I'm thrilled at everything we have done over this season and wouldn't trade it for the world. Super grateful for the Board [only 3 of us right now] and how the current and past Directors have paved the way and forged the future through the medium of Ember.

Some quick numbers over the past 10 8 years:
Almost 20 team training events and 16 Perspectives classes, all involving over 1000 people. Some 18 community impact projects, involving around 300 people, virtually all high school students. 9 summer teams, 115 people, 9 countries. Over 1500 people have been involved in some kind of Ember engagement. Around $202,000 raised and spent for student missions leadership. Some 18,500 service hours. Over 700 donors have sacrificially given for these efforts. Around 120 travel days. 14 ProtoGuides, which is who you should bet the future on.

Thank you to all of you that have given your support both with your attention, finances and encouragement. Special thanks to the Board for hanging with me to follow through on the idea that we can catalyze high school students to live very large lives impacting the future. And of course, all glory to the Lord for letting us be a small part of this.

PS - I am never bored.

Feb 2008, flying to Orlando for Humana 2008. Matt, Joyce, me. Note that I worked with my board before they actually became my board.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Friday Burn

::: A Dog Could Stop Malaria

::: The Irresistible Urge to Build Cities from Scratch

::: A Device that Can Pull Drinking Water from the Air

::: If #Yemen was 100 people:

-80 need aid to survive.
-60 have barely anything to eat.
-58 have no access to clean water.
-52 have no access to health care.
-11 are severely malnourished.

But Yemen is not 100 people. It’s 27 million people.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Conviction > Consensus

Decisions based on consensus typically end up with an ordinary outcome because by seeking to please everyone, you boil your options down to their lowest common denominator: whatever option is the most familiar to the most people and therefore gets the least protest and the fastest support. As British author Aldous Huxley once observed, "The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen."
Only conviction will take you somewhere the group never anticipated. Sometimes you need to forget everything you've learned - all the classes, the 'rules of the road,' conventions, what investors are telling you - and just go with your gut. It is your intuition, formed from your entire life's experiences, revealing something that nobody else can see. Take it seriously!
Herein lies that most important nuance of leading with conviction: You must surround yourself with others who also have conviction. Strong gut instincts surrounded by weak people or people afraid to speak up are bound to lead you astray.
For extraordinary outcomes, seek conviction in your work and build teams that value conviction over consensus.
- Scott Belsky, The Messy Middle