Wednesday, August 09, 2017

SeptEmber

My yearly sabbatical from The Ember Cast starts later today with a little road trip up north. This time off is one of the best ways I take a little break from being bivocational. Even though many people I know don't consider themselves bivocational, they truly are, investing a lot of effort outside of a vocational job with faith based communities, nonprofits and humanitarian projects. I cannot recommend this yearly rhythm enough.

Ember is so generative for me and having this break means margin to ask what the Lord is doing with it. The sabbatical every year is meant for this but this year was more unique than others so it's even more important now. Some years, I start this time not sure Ember will continue when I am done.

We have some interesting and exciting things lined up for the Fall and I'm excited tell you more about those things in SeptEmber. I hope some of you will join us for them.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Called

Regardless of church governance, you are not called by a church board, senior pastor, or denominational leader. You are called by God. And for the record, he’s the only one who can un-call you. You can get fired, or get burned, by a human employer, but they cannot un-call you.
- [Classic] Mark Batterson. Seven Hard Earned Lessons on Calling.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Summer 17 Financials

We've reconciled most of the summer expenses so maybe this will help you with your future planning or give you a baseline for comparison. This is all the big stuff even though there are some small incidentals here and there. Some notes below since this is The Ember Cast and nothing is ever straightforward around here.

11334 - Italy Airfare
3160 - Poland Airfare
1685 - Italy Lodging
1200 - Poland Lodging
~1500 - Poland on the ground costs including food, excursions, incidentals, etc.
~2200 - Food, for 2 weeks for both teams
350 - Insurance
1032 - In Country Transport
1900 - Future
58 - Bank fees
2577 - Ministry
~27200 - Total

Italy
- team of 6
- 13 days long
Poland
- team of 2
- 44 days long + 7 days in Italy

+ Two teams that overlapped in both time and locality means that some of the costs are shared and were not easily categorized.
+ We used two Airbnbs which were extremely inexpensive. Our team also felt like it gave us a better flavor for living like a local. I was a fan of Airbnb even before this trip - this is the definitely the way to go.
+ We had two people drop last minute so there was both a credit for airfare and some much smaller sunk costs due to one of the flights being non-refundable.
+ In country transport included a rental car, subway/tram and taxi fares.
+ We purchase overseas medical insurance for each person. We have a great insurance person - let me know if you need an intro.
+ The best way to get cash is to go to an ATM in country. My credit cards do not charge foreign transaction fees but my ATM cards do. Annoying.
+ Ministry costs included costs to do the stuff as well as some monetary funding to our partners.
+ In the case of the people that dropped last minute, when we can, we like to hold the money they raised to be applied to something they do in the future, whether it is with Ember or another 501C3 nonprofit.
+ Spending $27K in 13 days... Make no mistake, spending this kind of money every summer always gives me pause. When it comes to short term missions, we should always be asking whether this amount of time, money and energy is worth it but ask it with a 500 year horizon.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday Burn

::: My Life as a Suburban Church Planter
This is an excellent read.
Link


::: Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?
Also an excellent read.
Link


::: Natural Wayfinding Tips
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::: The World's Most Dangerous Cities
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::: Honor the past but be more loyal to the future - Brian Houston

Photo: Italian subway, July 2017.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

AA

Long ago, in a previous life, this middle school girl in the blue in the center of the picture came on a homeless community impact thing we worked on. Twelve years later, she is the point leader for a team from our church that our younger daughter Em is on this week. Back then, I helped run student missions for our church but transitioned out of that in 2008 and then started The Ember Cast in 2010.

This is Em's first missions thing apart from The Ember Cast - that is a good and healthy thing. Running your own parachurch/nonprofit thing sometimes means that you naturally 'lose' your church. If you start something on your own, make sure your kids are still connected somewhere.

Running your own thing also means that sometimes you will behave with a worldview focused on scarcity instead of abundance. This manifests itself by hoarding instead of being generous and tells you what you really believe about control. You might struggle with this especially when it comes to what your kids are involved in.

Anyway, all that to say that Alyssa is an awesome leader and we are grateful for Em's involvement on this team this week.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Future Casting from 2017

+ Migration
When I speak about student missions, I almost always say that we are living in some of the most amazing times in human history. One of those reasons is because of human migration. This incredible movement of people has never happened before and will continue for the foreseeable future and will be both a major challenge and opportunity for those of us called into this kind of work. This summer reminded me that not only are we in the middle of this huge global phenomenon, but that those of us called to follow Jesus must continue to engage with this issue. Whether it's learning a new language, engaging the sojourner on your street or traveling somewhere to encourage people serving in this issue, we all can play a small part - there is room for everyone. A conversation with one of our hosts also reminded me of the demographic time bomb that is also at play. The interesting twist, also an observation from our host, is that this immigrant influx could be the one thing that saves certain countries and communities from their own demographics. Watch this play out over the next 5-50 years.

Attention
Your smartphone holds an incredible amount of power. With mine this summer, I was able to stay in touch with people at home, post quick updates to my blog, and translate Italian to English so that I could order that very most important Sicilian pizza correctly - all good and important things. But I also got caught up in a ridiculously useless game [1010!] and spent too much time goofing around on Mombook, instead of hanging and engaging with our team. But let's be clear - it isn't about the phone, it is about attention. While our team of students spent lots of time on their phones, Ember does not have an explicit phone policy except no phones at the table. The future, specifically my future and your future will be determined by what we give our attention to. Sure, you can spend months binge watching your favorite television series. But is that what you want your life to amount to? Instead, set up a series of habits to help you give attention to the right things. Change this tomorrow and you'll see a difference in the next 30 days and who knows what that will lead to for the rest of your life.

Dechurched
Most youth mission experiences are centered around a local church student ministry. This summer, a good portion of my team was not connected with any local student ministry and this marked a change in the makeup of our teams. Since one of Ember's distinctives is to engage 'emerging global student leaders,' the vital question to be answered is, "If you can't find these kids in churches, where will you find them?" I believe that there are students who have a vital walk with Jesus and this relationship informs their passion for the world, but they aren't connected with a local church for whatever reason. We've relied on local church leaders to help us find these emerging leaders and that will pivot and change moving forward. This will also play out in how mission agencies engage these leaders when they are ready for vocational missions. Side note: Ember holds local churches in high regard, but the church in its apostolic, missionary form is just as equally "church" as the church in its local parish form. We will see this at play in the next 3-5 years.

::: "Seeing the future first may be more about having a wide-angle lens than a crystal ball." - @profhamel

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ember Poland Has Returned

Our second team, the Poland ladies, landed yesterday afternoon after 2 months in Poland and one week in there with our Italy team. By all accounts, it was a grand success and I'm proud for how these ladies worked, served and represented Ember.

We had intentionally set this experience up with elements of cultural engagement, history exploration and startup ministry and probably our best decision was to give it a very light tempo. It was not a 40 a week job. Instead, it gave them lots of room to experience this global city as cultural explorers first and summer missionaries second.

Ember has wanted to grow this type of summer send for a while now. This is a great alternative to the 10-15 day summer team we usually do, helping give the right people an extended field experience with some great hosts being creative and innovative for the Gospel. Maybe you'll dream with us about this kind of thing in 2018.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Chickens

How many times have you heard the following?
"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
"What goes up must come down."
"Don't count your chickens before they hatch."

The truth is, we've been programmed to avoid risk, play it safe and only go after what is predictable, definable, quantifiable, acceptable...and possible!
But if you want to take ground for God, fulfill your destiny and live a life of faith, then RISK must become your friend.
- Christine Caine

Monday, July 24, 2017

Learners and Sponges

RH, holding court with Tess and Lindsey, who are asking deep and engaged questions about refugees. Humility and the passion to learn are some of the most attractive qualities of our leaders.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." - Alvin Toffler

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Burn

::: In Urban China, Cash is Becoming Obsolete
Link


::: Last week, Verily - formerly Google Life Sciences - began releasing bacteria-infected male mosquitoes in Fresno, California.
Link


::: 60 Countries Ranked on Digital Competitivness
Link

Photo: Warsaw tram stops.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Welcome Home

My best advice for people welcoming good friends or family home from cross cultural experiences? Set aside 90 minutes over a meal and let them talk. You eat, they talk. And talk. And talk. Most of us are awful at listening to our friends and family talk about these experiences. And some of us need to raise the bar at giving our attention to this. And it will do wonders for them as they process what they have seen and felt.

A few other ideas:
Ask to see their pictures.
Read a paper that they write about the trip.
We have a 40 day rule where no one makes major decisions within 40 days of coming home. You might encourage them to do something similar to let emotions settle.

One of the vital skills for leading emerging global student leaders is the skill of helping them decompress. You need to help them translate their experience into change. And it all starts with listening. In fact, I've arranged a few meals with some specific people [you know who you are] that I know who are coming off these experiences and my ulterior motive is to help them decompress. If you just came from one of these experiences and feel like no one has heard your stories, hit me up, I'll buy you a meal and help you decompress too. Fair warning - you'll have some homework based on the decompression toolkit The Ember Cast uses.

Photo: One week of driving a 9 passenger minivan through a 1700 year old city. Mount Etna.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Creating Something from Nothing

On our second day in Italy, our host RH was the mastermind of a 'day out' for the refugee boys. This entailed renting two coach buses and bringing all of the refugee boys out of the city from two different camps to a community gathering spot that one of the partnering churches had owned. After the boys arrived, a few different US based teams such as ours hosted some games and hung out with them. Lunch was served and after that, everyone got back in vehicles and went part way up Mount Etna. Dinner time was back at the gathering spot where this partner church's volunteers cooked brick oven pizzas - this is Italy after all - for everyone - about 100 people. Like the parade of American and refugee kids on the way to play football last summer, this was the first time this kind of thing had been done here.

In Warsaw, one of the things our team was asked to do was to conduct cultural surveys with Polish people. This survey included questions like "What do you like most about Warsaw?" and questions about priorities in life and if they were connected to a church. If you are like me, you basically push people running these surveys away like the plague. However in Warsaw, once you told them you were learning about Polish culture, they loved answering these questions and conversing about these kinds of topics. Our host TC was the instigator behind this because his startup church is English speaking and interested in what the younger generation thinks is important. To his knowledge, this was the first time any of this kind of data was ever collected in Warsaw.

These first time 'things' are important to The Ember Cast and are the basis for one of our distinctives when we run summer experiences - we want our high school teams to work side by side with people doing these kinds of things. There are a unique set of skills for a leader trying to execute something from nothing: raising money for the untested, embracing risk, building a network from scratch, logistics, budgets, casting vision, learning from failure, catalyzing others, etc. this list could go on and on and can be taught and modeled. This is where we bank our investment - the global leaders of tomorrow should be learning these skills today. RH and TC both embody these skills, they are creating something from nothing. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that our Italy team worked side by side with both of these men and their teams.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Burn

::: According to Future Crunch, this should be the front page headline every day
Since yesterday, 250,000 people have been lifted out of bone-crushing, one-meal-a-day, soul-destroying, no-dentist, no-doctor, no-electricity, single accident-means-life-and-death, unrelenting, extreme poverty. More here.


::: Why Panels at Conferences Suck
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::: Ten Chinese Megacities to See Before You Die
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::: 'To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map.' - William Carey

Photo - LHR.