Saturday, April 20, 2024

Spring Training

Summer teams are back up to pre-covid scale. If you aren't doing some kind of preparation for your teams, you should find a new line of work. Reach out if you need some ideas.

[This post is also a test of some infrastructure.]

Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023 in cities

01 - Denver, CO, USA
02 - Milford, CT, USA
03 - New York City, NY, USA
04 - Cambridge, MD, USA
05 - Budd Lake, NJ, USA
06 - Hacienda Heights, CA, USA
07 - Secaucus, NJ, USA
08 - Bridgeport, CT, USA
09 - City of Industry, CA, USA
10 - Southbury, CT, USA
11 - Sumter, SC, USA
12 - Hilton Head Island, SC, USA
13 - Zurich, Switzerland
14 - Vaduz, Liechtenstein
15 - Geneva, Switzerland
16 - Barcelona, Spain
17 - Valencia, Spain
18 - Malaga, Spain
19 - Tangier, Morocco
20 - Estepona, Spain
21 - Malaga, Spain
22 - Washington, DC, USA
23 - Dallas, TX, USA
24 - Herndon, VA, USA
25 - Crystal City, VA, USA
26 - Death Valley, CA, USA
27 - Whittier, CA, USA

[2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Excellent year in travel and our family has, maybe obviously, always valued travel. One long standing personal goal has been to get to outside the US once a year, another goal is #50in60, 50 countries by the time I turn 60, in 2029. This year, I added four countries to the list, the last one being Morocco which was country #32.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

2023 in Books

01 - Ruse, Robert Kerbeck
02 - Hidden Genius, Polina Marinova Pompliano ^^
03 - Metanoia, Alan Hirsch ^^
04 - Gonzo Capitalism, Chris Gulliebeau
05 - End of Story, Andrew Perriman
06 - The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday **
07 - No Happy Endings, Nora McInrney **
08 - It Didn't Start With You, Mark Wolynn
09 - Righteous Brood, Hugh Halter
10 - Essentialism, Greg McKeown
11 - Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck
12 - Same as Always, Morgan Housel **

^^ - didn't quite finish yet
** - best reads of the year

Monday, November 13, 2023

Monday, October 23, 2023

October 2023 Update

Well it has been forever. Hello.

Ember is still in business. But it is more like special projects these days. I've been on the board of directors for Communitas since early 2021 and that has been a fun perspective. I've also been helping with some organizational things with The Salaam Center. Intersections among these three have also been fun. As always, if we can help the young people that you know get involved in cross cultural leadership, get in touch.

I attended a one day conference called Renew at National Community Church [yes, still an unhealthy obsession with NCC] in September and although I had understood the ideas of sodalities and modalities from the Perspectives class, one of the sessions there really gave me some insight and focus for things Ember maybe should be involved in moving forward. Apostolic structures for apostolic people. Picture above [edit: via Tyler at Missional Labs]. If you want to chat about this over coffee, get in touch.

Deanna and I were in Europe for a few weeks this summer and traipsed to some new countries along with spending time at a Communitas gathering in Malaga, Spain. I have a goal for 50 countries by the time I turn 60 years of age, in 2029. I'm also potentially having a 60th birthday party to celebrate, in either Chamonix France or Valencia Spain and you are invited. Maybe make some plans. #50in60

Our oldest Katie finished grad school in May and started working for the Los Angeles Homeless Authority. Emily is a senior at Biola and graduates in May. Both are doing great and we will see them for the holidays.

Last week was a series of visits and meals with various people doing interesting things around the world - the current Communitas board chair, a young couple leading training starting in Kansas City, another young couple in London transitioning to the Balkans, a semi-retired couple helping mission teams in our local church, celebrating the one year anniversary of a church plant run by a dear friend in Baltimore, structures with The Salaam Center. A front row seat across the world.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

In Honor of Leslie

I first met Leslie in 2003, she was a high school junior and my wife and I had taken on a little project at our church to get kids interested and involved in community service projects, get kids out of the church walls, and maybe a little more. Leslie was probably just out of the adolescent angst phase, barley probably, because she would tell my wife and I that "Tammie Brettschneider was a saint." But just over the angst, because like some young people that age, she wanted a faith that mattered and if that meant bucking the status quo of American suburbia, than damn the torpedos. I mean, who wouldn't love that in a 16 year old? 

Over the next number of years, Leslie would invade our lives with that sarcastic wit, that ball of energy, that maturity and spunk, those random weird faces. From a high school student that led her peers to give up a Saturday for various community service projects, she transformed into a passionate, intuitive, intentional leader of teams. Throughout her college years, she would help me lead 4 different international high school teams, one to Brazil, one to Cameroon and two to Hungary. 

In Brazil, she befriended our missionary host family like an old friend had come to visit, doing the dishes, helping the boys with homework, folding laundry. In Cameroon, she helped me fend off a mutiny by a smarter than her own good 10th grader. Once in Paris, she took our team of 10 to the Eiffel Tower because I was sick in bed. She was a leader that did what needed to be done. 

As our team prepared for our second time in Hungary, she helped orchestrate special events every evening for the kids of missionaries. Pirates and Princesses, Wacky Tacky, Campfire nights. Third culture kids are a special breed - unique family experiences, different concepts of home, conversations go deep quick. One of the many images stuck in my head is Leslie hosting a dinner table for middle school girls every night for dinner. No secret now, but she loved people who were going through the unconventional. 

Our family was young during these days, our girls were 10 and 6 when they along with my wife started joining these teams, the two to Hungary. Those are some of our family's fondest memories and Leslie, of course, interspersed that season of life. She lived with us one summer, she babysat frequently and was around a lot. In that season, there was a lot of work around planning, logistics, who does what and where. But underneath it all, there was a lot of dreaming. Dreaming about what we might inspire the next generation to do. Dreaming that apathy and indifference would be put on the shelf for a season. Dreaming that students would sacrifice their all for those hurting and less fortunate, based on the One that first sacrificed for us. Leslie loved to dream and her dreams were the best of ours. 

When I started a nonprofit to do this same kind of thing outside of a local church, Leslie was one of the first names that came to mind for my Board and she served with us again for another eight years. Towards the end of that season, she was fully devoted to her career and we slowly lost touch, which is a current regret of mine. But her wit, spunk, and dreaming all continued to inspire us over those years. 

20 years after I met Leslie, she is still one of the most remarkable people I have ever known. She made our dreams come true. As it says in her obituary, dearly and daily missed.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 in cities

01 - King of Prussia, PA, USA
02 - Fairfield, CT, USA
03 - Seattle, WA, USA
04 - Vienna, Austria
05 - Crikvenica, Croatia
06 - Buffalo, NY, USA
07 - Wilmington, DE, USA
08 - New York, NY, USA
09 - Washington, DC, USA
10 - Hacienda Heights, CA, USA 
11 - Head Waters, VA, USA 
12 - California, MD, USA 
13 - Arlington, VA, USA 
14 - Petersburg, VA, USA 
15 - Myrtle Beach, SC, USA 
16 - Mineral, VA, USA 
17 - Crystal City, VA, USA 
18 - Herndon, VA, USA 
19 - DisneyWorld, FL, USA 
20 - Universal Studios, FL, USA 
21 - Lisbon, Portugal 
22 - Lisbon, Portugal
23 - Cascais, Portugal 
24 - London, England


 [2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Friday, August 05, 2022

Cultural Navigation - Highlandtown, Baltimore

Ember was honored to partner with Redemption City Church and The Salaam Center to walk a student service team through a cultural navigation exercise in a few neighborhoods in Baltimore earlier this week. Although we've done a ton of these, this was our first one since the pandemic and it felt good to help with something like this again. 

Of course, lots has changed since the last time we ran one of these. Like a coach I heard say a few months ago, "Pay attention to what you pay attention to." Some adjustments since the last time we ran one of these: 
+ We firmly mentioned that we were from the suburbs and were not the experts about Baltimore. Related: "Walk with humility. Remember, you are showing up late to a meeting. God has been at work among these people long before you arrived!" - Tim Dearborn, The Short Term Missions Workbook. 
+ On the topic of urban populations without homes, we should be at least mentioning mental health and trauma informed care. 
+ The Pagoda at Patterson Park has been renamed to be more culturally appropriate. An appropriate symbol. 

If you are making plans for 2023, make sure to schedule team preparation. It is one of two silver bullets for your investment in your cross cultural experiences [the other one being decompression.]

Friday, June 17, 2022

Friday Burn

::: Questions To Ask Before Sending Your Child on a Church Trip

::: I Gave Up on Church

::: Why American Teens are so Sad

"And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild." - Chesterton

Photo: La Brea tar pit museum, May 2022.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Our Time at Eurocast

First Ember excursion in over 2 years and it was something… Three of us spent a few days in Vienna visiting with an old college friend and his family, drove to Crikvenica, Croatia spending six days there with Communitas International and then a few more days in Vienna [unexpectedly]. Loved most of our experience and it was super fun to have our younger daughter Emily and her friend Karson to hang with me for most of this. 

I recently joined the board for Communitas International although we have worked with them on and off for about 15 years. They were previously known as Christian Associates and we were first introduced to them by some mutual friends who were planting a church in Italy. In 2007, we took a team to help run the kids care part of their staff conference and fast forward, we have partnered with them multiple times with either friends that are on staff or projects around the world. This has included 2008 [the same kids care for a staff conference], 2012 [Brussels, Europe vision trip], 2013 and 2014 [Aix], 2015 [Prague], 2016 and 2017 and 2018 [our Italy trips were not formally with them but one of their staff is outside of Catania]. I love their vibe - organic, decentralized, and culturally relevant. 

This event was meant to be an Eastern European leadership conference. Of course, global events in Ukraine put some limitations on who could be there. The schedule also included a board meeting right after the conference was over and it was super fun to meet all of these people face to face, mostly for the first time. There were about 50 people in attendance, most either church planters and/or community development folks. 

This trip was not easy for me. I developed hives all over my arms and legs about a week before I left. All 3 legs of my outbound flights were delayed. Five days into our trip, Emily got Covid. Luckily, it was just a mild cold for her. My mother had some issues while I was away and I had to have multiple phone calls with her retirement community. These difficulties make one wonder whether this conference was significant in some invisible way. While I don't feel like my participation there was hugely impactful, I do feel like there could be some truth to this for our field staff. Besides the past 2 pandemic years, living cross culturally in vocational ministry is incredibly tough and we know that these staff gatherings have historically been very important for our staff. I was privileged to be a part of it. 

Finally, Emily and I stayed a few extra days in Vienna because of Covid. In hindsight, we should have waited it out a few more days. This was a bit of improper planning, impatience on my part and frustrating with my ailments. 

Come talk to us at Communitas if you are interested in a season of cross cultural living.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Eurocast - Communitas

Later this week, I'm traveling to Croatia to attend Eurocast, which is a leadership conference hosted by Communitas International. We've done a ton of work with Communitas, which used to be known as Christian Associates, our partnership dating back to 2007. My younger daughter Emily and one of her good friends, Karson, who were on The World Race together, are also joining me. I recently joined the board of directors for Communitas so this is a fun way to contribute. We start in Vienna for a few days visiting with an old college friend and his family and then drive to Croatia for the gathering.

This little jaunt represents our first slow restart of Ember and it also reflects a new cadence. From 2013-2019, we planned something every summer and I'm too old for that. Instead, the future will look like special projects I am interested in and invite others to. A slower more pensive, flexible pace.

Thanks for praying for our time. It feels super weird to be doing this again. There may be updates here later.

Photo: The 2007 Hungary team, over the Danube river in Vienna. Lots got started from that experience.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

HBD Deanna

"Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Friday, January 28, 2022

Friday Burn

::: Scott Belsky's 10 Forecasts For The Near Future Of Tech 
AI recommendations: "Everything you’ve ever loved in life has, to some degree, constrained you. Whether it’s a favorite song, a favorite restaurant, or a favorite hotel…these circumstantial discoveries became go-to favorites and consume our attention at the expense of new and (by the law of probability) even better experiences that we just don’t know about." [I started using Spotify's Song Radio because of this.] 

Polygamous Careers: "The next generation of talent entering the workforce will overwhelmingly opt for what I’ve come to call “polygamous careers.”... The next generation will have a nomadic decade of life and work, and will love it." [I created an account on Polywork because of this.] 

::: What Should Airbnb Launch in 2022 

::: 12 Google Sheets Formulas 

Photo: Vienna, Austria. Summer 2008.

Monday, January 10, 2022

HBD Emily

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Ember 2022

Hello, it's been a long time and if you are still reading this, we are grateful for your attention, thanks for still checking this out. Here's a few updates. 

Ember is probably doing a slow restart. Of course, after the last few years, nothing is the same. So we are keeping in mind a few pivots to the way we operate. 

The first pivot is a preference to college age students over high school students. This is life stage stuff - I am getting older. The second pivot is less exclusivity when it comes to faith for people that serve with us. We used to think that everyone that was involved with Ember needed some kind of spiritual baseline. Our faith still informs why we do what we do and our experiences will still have guidelines, but we won't require the same kind of statement of faith. 

Part of this restart is also rebuilding the board of directors. A board of directors for a volunteer organization is a unique thing so let's see how version 2 goes. 

Our first project for 2022 is taking a small team to a European leadership summit in the Spring. Like with all things involving teams, travel and gatherings, we are holding this with an open hand and making sure to book refundable reservations. 

I am indebted to Matt Maloy for his time of service on Ember's board of directors. Matt has recently stepped down and he was there even before the beginning when he helped with the leadership team of SPACE, which was a precursor to The Ember Cast. The Maloys have been /are/will be great family friends as well and Matt's influence on the board is incalculable. 

At every board meeting, Matt would ask me, "How are you feeling?" It was Matt's signal that he was my advocate, he was for me, he was on my side and wanted to make sure my soul was in a good place. Every leader needs someone like that. Thank you Matt for your service to the future. 

I have not written about this here but in October of 2020, I took a job with Amazon Web Services. Even though my kids give me grief about Jeff Bezos almost every day, he has built a pretty incredible company. It's not perfect, but as a database technologist, I have loved every single day there. 

I recently joined two nonprofit boards. The first is Communitas International, who we have done work with on and off since 2007. I've always loved their pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit and in the worlds of nonprofits, community development and church planting, this is a breath of fresh air and resonates with my gifting and interests. 

I also am contributing on the organization structure side of things with The Salaam Center, a refugee resource center in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore. Ember had done some work with the Center in 2018 and 2019 and it is one of the most interesting things going on around here. The board work here is up and coming and Reda and his family are very dear to us. 

Our family is doing well overall. Deanna has been working a part time remote reading tutor job that has been great for her overall. The job has her involved with Baltimore City students and she has felt like her job has made an impact with elementary students in the city just down the street from us. Katie is going to graduate school at University of Southern California. Emily is in her second year at Biola. Both the girls are sharing an apartment in an LA suburb. 

Thanks for reading. If you read this whole thing, I owe you coffee. Hit me up.