Wednesday, August 31, 2005

helping for Katrina

Of course, the news about Katrina is just staggering...  I was poking around today and was looking at the list of volunteers.  There are literally hundreds of people volunteering to email, make phone calls, opening their houses, take care of pets, etc.  That is very, very cool.

Update - Leader App 2006

I have two updates to my leader app thinking...
1. I agree to not become romantically involved with another team member or with a recipient of our ministry, postponing our relationship until my service commitment is completed.
I'm going to rewrite this for clarity. The gist is that leaders don't start new relationships with a team member or recipient - the focus on being starting new relationships. Also, I had zero issues with leaders that I had this summer that were in relationships that were on the trips together. ZERO. (There were two couples on two trips, at least that I knew about. Ha.) So this item is not from anything that happened this summer. (In fact, I borrowed this from an application I had in my detailed files.)

2. - I agree to keep clear and accurate financial records for the expenses of my team
Just something to make sure that our leaders know they need to keep some good records about expenses and such. I know that many times, this is the least of my concerns when I'm out with a team, but it really is pretty important.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

2 pagers in 30 days

I just dropped another pager... in the toilet... for the 2nd time in 30 days.
I had a feeling using it as a hacky sack in the stall wasn't such a good idea.

English is...

English is essentially Norse as spoken by a gang of French thugs.
English is essentially a bizarre dialect of Chinese, pronounced entirely in the first tone.
English is essentially the language you speak without moving your mouth.
More here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

What Brasil did to me

I guess I never really wrote about what Brasil did to me.  It was a huge privilege for me to be part of such an experience.  Sure, my passion is leading student teams.  And sure, I've done it for a little while.  But that doesn't mean at all that trips like this one don't make a huge impression on me, because every one of them - seriously - every last one of them, gives me more to observe, a different way to think, and things to improve on.

First, I was forced to increased the level of risk I live with.  The Brasil trip, in combination with my trip to visit and work with PM, forced me to live with a higher tolerance of risk.  Tentative plans, people that we were working with and just plain getting to these localities were mostly up in the air.  But the gist of it was that all of the unknowns were actually *ok*.  It was actually tolerable for me, even more than that, liberating.  Because when details and circumstances are out of your control, you don't bear the responsibility for them anymore.  And even in the midst of no control, you know that Someone has gone before you to pave the way.  Keep in mind that I come from a family that is hugely risk averse.  I'm the only child of a very conservative set of Chinese parents who would rather their only son work his whole life in a very reliable, stable corporate job.  I was brought up in that kind of context.  This summer forced me to just go, even in the midst of many unknowns.

Secondly, it was such a honor to spend time with a GCC family overseas. The Body of Christ literally transcends space and time. What a wild experience to get on a plane and know that someone from GCC would be meeting us on the other end - people that knew many of the same people, and that were impacted by the same community that impacts us. To have a set of guides - physically, culturally and relationally - that knew exactly where we came from was such a tremendous service. Space and time are no matter to hearts that are tied together.

Thirdly, I'm pretty sure SPACE is on the right track.  I spend a lot of time wondering what is wrong with me.  How come I'm not normal.  Why I don't watch a lot of football on TV, why I'm not so enthralled with the corporate ladder, why I'm not like other 35 year old males.  And then, I get to be a part of an experience like this one.  Where a student thinks he ought to learn another language when he gets home.  When a 15 year old leaves his Bible in another country with someone he has only known for 7 days.  Seeing a group of kids fix up a park 5000 miles away, to bless complete strangers they will never meet.  Seeing kids envision that a central core of their future is to bless others because they are blessed.

Three simple things.  God, sometimes I can't believe the life you let me live.

6 months for Into the Mystic

If there is one blog that I read every day, including the comments, it's Into the Mystic.  Every post is captivating, whether its talking about spiritual leadership, engaging culture or the expansion of the Kingdom - it's all great, great stuff.  Alex celebrates 6 months of blogging.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

dang - i missed the vmas

Seriously.... I always watch at least part of the MTV Video Music Awards every year.  This year, I totally missed it.  Just as well I suppose.  Last year, I got some funny responses.  Maybe next year.

And to those of you that are reading this - hope your first day of the new school year is awesome!!  May this year be a year where you impact your classmates and your school with the revolution that Jesus started 2000 years ago.

Leader App 2006

One of the great conversations I had this past weekend was talking to a team about next summer and the options for their students. These leaders are really excited about the possibilities. It's cool to be able to help them develop a thinking about something missional during the summer.

A big thing I have been thinking about post-Brasil, and even more this past weekend, is what a huge responsibility these summer team leaders undertake. I'm almost unsure it is even something we should be asking. Its basically saying, would you:
- take some extended time away from your job, using your own vacation time
- take some extended time away from your family
- travel to a new environment, whether its another city, country, culture, etc.
- immerse yourself in some circumstances that you have no idea how things will progress
- work with some people you have probably never worked with, to get something accomplished that you have never done before
- all of the above, while you are a shepherd, counselor, nurse, teacher, coach, mentor, travel agent, etc. for a group of teenagers


With the context of the points above, I mentioned two things to these leaders that I must reserve the right for. First, to reject any potential leader. Second, that any student that goes overseas must go through some pretty hard and fast requirements. I'm pretty sure they understood how opinionated I am about this stuff.

Here is the very rough framework for a mission team leader application I have put together. For those of you that work cross culturally, those of you that send out or lead teams, or those of you that just want to, I would love to hear your comments.

SPACE summer mission team leaders embody the highest level of sacrifice and service. It is no small endeavor to leave the familiar confines of home, travel to unknown environments working with new personalities, while shepherding and caring for a team of high school missionaries on the way to impacting the world for Jesus sake.
Since GCC youth ministries takes this commitment of leadership seriously, the application below is designed for you to seriously contemplate this huge responsibility as well as for the SPACE staff/youth min staff to accurately gauge an applicant's character, experience and potential growth.
Please prayerfully consider your involvement this summer as you fill out the application.
For summer 2006 trips, applications are due by March 1, 2006.

describe cross cultural experience - how did it change you
describe your student ministry experience, how long, etc.
describe your leadership style - where did you learn this from?
how is God working in your life - what does this mean for your career,
relationships and future ministry
describe the riskiest endeavor you have attempted (but not necessarily been successful)

Evaluate yourself in each of the following areas by circling the number that best correlates:
Ability to get along with others
Respect for Authority
Sensitivity to Others
Positive Attitude
Ability to Work Hard
Sense of responsibility
Servant's Heart and Attitude
Being Firm versus Being Harsh
Evangelistic/Heart for the Lost

how long have you known them

Statement of Commitment
- I agree to attend all pre trip SPACE Mission Team Leader meetings with other SPACE summer mission team leaders as part of the investment SPACE will make in me as a leader, missionary and disciple of Jesus
- I agree to do my best in the physical, emotional and spiritual leadership of a SPACE mission team
- I agree to do all that I can to raise sufficient prayer and financial support both for myself individually as well as my team
- I agree to participate and lead my team in presummer preparation meetings (some of these will be put together by the SPACE crew team)
- I agree to have at least one post-trip meeting with your team for reentry and debriefing purposes
- I agree to not become romantically involved with another team member or with a recipient of our ministry, postponing our relationship until my service commitment is completed.
- I agree to abide by the standards established by the partners and/or organizations under which I will be serving.
- I agree to abide by all guidelines set forth by Grace Community Church.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Post Leader Retreat 2005

I had a great time on the Leader Retreat last night and today. But it's really nice to be home. I figured out that this calendar year, I will have been away from the fam for about a month doing SPACE and associated trips. That's a little over the top. So last night was the last time I will be away for the rest of the year, as far as I know.

Anyway, I basically got all of my goals done.

My scattered brain notes for the Friday night vision of mission talk:
picture share
my job tonight is to change what you care about
you are on the front lines of caring about kids week in and week out
its an awesome responsibility
challenge you to care about the world by caring about your kids
God wants use your kids to impact the world
the church is an unstoppable force
the gates of Hell will not prevail against it
I do what I do because i'm convinced students are a major piece of it
something mystical and magical when we take students to intentionally
serve and impact others
- prepare these kids to do this in their future
- see them live missional lives
- see small groups able to do this on their own
- be strategic about what we are doing - 60% of short terms do harm
- progress them as they get older
complement of community service and summer mission experiences

- Started ES on her mentorship. We had a great time talking about ethos, spiritual leadership and dreaming about SPACE.
- Planned SPACE activities for the fall, set all the dates. really good planning session this morning. trying a new nuance for the Nov launch (more later)
- Had a GREAT time talking to CC about her potential thing for India (which is on hold for a while). really great. I signed her up for something in the future, if it happens... (of course, more later)
- Started some very definite plans for the upcoming 10th graders for this summer. the potential for it to happen is pretty good and I'm getting more and more excited as I think about the kids in that class.
- Had a personal retreat with a book, music and a pillow.
- I also gave EmGberg a ride home so that was a lot of fun talking with her. It's nice to spend time with my team from Brasil whenever I can.

The other significant thing about the retreat, to me, was having everyone hear directly from SM, the senior high pastor and director of youth ministry, right from the start on Friday night.

Here are my rough notes about that session:
Fri night
5 reasons with youth ministries break up
1 - division
2 - transition in leadership
3 - not relevant, hokey, not in the students world
we old people are trying to tell them what is cool
4 - harsh environment
5 - program got out of the program
they need truth through a consistent loving voice

3 goals for 2005-2006
1 - unified, mutual respect
2 - aggresive about creating a safe place
when we do this, kids blossom
Jesus didn't like wolves
3 - small groups connect
25/27 kids that accepted Christ last year are gone
those other 2 got plugged into dteams

Photo: the senior Dteam leaders having a planning meeting in a tree.

another SPACE blog

It's been fun to see some SPACE friends get blogs.  I already posted about LB and FZ.  ES, the 2005-2006 SPACE intern now has one as well.  As part of the internship, her blog will be the primary medium she and I use to jot down thoughts, critique, analysis and other ideas for all the different things she is doing for SPACE.  This is going to be very, very, fun.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Pictures for vision talk - leader retreat 2005

Here are my pictures I'm going to use tonight as part of my talk on the vision of missions... or whatever my talk is supposed to be...
As with all the pictures on here, you should be able to right click for bigger versions of them.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Missions = Tour Guide

"Missions then is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there. It is almost as if being a good missionary means having really good eyesight. Or maybe it means teaching people to use their eyes to see things that have always been there; they just didn't realize it. You see God where others don't. And then you point him out."
- Rob Bell on missions, in Velvet Elvis

So does anyone know where we can get a big trolley car for the summer of 2006?

misc links - thurs

A page to help you with international dialing codes.  With drop downs for where you are and where you are calling.  Also shows time differences.  This would have helped me in Brasil.  Except the payphone instructions were in Portuguese, so maybe it wouldn't have helped.

Sitemeter now has worldmap functionality.  You can see where your recent readers have come from.

PM does his first podcast.

Alex writes, ""Is creating wealth a Christ following value?" With regards to my post of August 16 …Interestingly, although there were a healthy number of comments and contributions, there were very few real practical applications.  But here's the rub: Why did no one mention "giving to the local church" as something practical we can do?"  See more here .

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The State of the '03

My day job has taught me many good things.  One of them has been the idea that you should measure what you do.  That way, you know if you have made a difference or not.

I know measuring what you do is not very postmodern.  Measuring what you do is very modern, cerebral and propositional.  Facts and statistics are objective, distant and cold.  But I'm okay with that.  Because as youthworkers, it's important to know whether we are actually making a difference or not.  One metric can be how our students are doing after they have graduated high school and left our ministries for a time.

So I thought I would reflect a little bit on the class of 03.  I was a guys small group leader for 4 years with them, from 1999-2003.  For the 1999 school year, I had a student leader (MG - who is leaving for a year or two for Turkey in a few days.)  My wife came on with the girls in 2001 and stayed until graduation.  We also had a great couple on the team that started in 2000 staying until the end (MK and SK).  And we had another great couple with guys and girls from 2001-2002 (who left being Dteam leaders to go to Australia to start a campus ministry, RP and JP.)  Hmm a bit of a pattern I think.  And also, I NEVER talked about missions the way I do now, until the Spring of 2003, right before these kids graduated.

So... here are some metrics, except I'm not going to talk about overall numbers.  Mostly because its hard to remember, but also because I'm more interested in relative numbers.  Sort of.

June 2003 - Graduation (don't you miss your high school days?)
December 2003 - sent 11 of this class to Urbana Student Missions Conference
summer 2004 - sent 3 on a two week long mission trip to Kazakhstan - 2 from Urbana
summer 2005 - 1 works with Campus Crusade ministry in Wildwood NJ
summer 2005 - 3 help as SPACE mission team leaders - 2 from Urbana
summer 2005 - 4 go on overseas missional trips - 2 from Kstan team, 1 SPACE leader, 1 from Urbana

So overall, at the end of two years, there is a 15 total people (not counting the overlap) that are involved in some kind of cross cultural, intentional, missional experience.  That are living for something more than just themselves.  That are commited to spreading the news of Jesus to the ends of the earth.  That are captivated by the mission God has for them, whether its in another culture or on their campus.

I don't know, in some sense, maybe those facts are a lot less cerebral.  Maybe they will really move you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Leader Retreat 2005

This coming weekend is our annual Youth Ministry Leader Retreat. It is where we pack up all of our leaders, take them away for a weekend and invest in them. A few major goals for the weekend:
- show the leaders we appreciate them
- give them time to do some significant planning for the school year with their teams (small groups, grade level, program teams)
- time for them to bond with other leaders for community

Here are the specific pieces that I'm looking to get accomplished this weekend:
- communicate the vision for mission as part of the student ministry (part of the Fri night vision talk). I think this probably includes showing (or passing out) some pictures from significant SPACE trips from the past
- start ES on her mentorship (I'm bringing loads of books)
- plan the list of Fall SPACE events including dates
- talk with some of the leaders of the Trinidad team, sort of a debrief, etc.
- really strongly encourage the new 6th and 9th grade D-team leaders to bring their students to SPACE events
- talk to CC about her potential trip to India
- have a personal retreat Sat afternoon - think alone with a lawnchair, Bible, journal, and music

Last year was great because we got to go as a family, but it was a little costly. This year I'm just going and probably only for one night.

Turkey and Uganda

Continuing in the freakish momentum that has somehow been generated at GCC for overseas mission trips, a team going to Uganda for two weeks leaves on Saturday.  It's a team of about 12 (I think) young adults going to serve with AIDS Orphan and Widow something or other. (can't remember it off the top of my head.)  They were part of the send off last Sunday.  It's pretty exciting overall, but what I'm most excited about is that two of the team is from the class of 03, which was the class that me and D were D-team leaders for.  Even more, one of those two, NLind, was one of my SPACE mission team leaders this past summer.  Now, that is very very cool.

One of these days, I will write about the general statistics of the class of 03 and what they do now (slight sidebar - "Its what you *do* that defines you" - from Batman Begins, but is that a Biblical statement?), two years after they have graduated high school.  That's pretty exciting too.
Turkey leaves on September 2.  A team of 5 young adults are going to go to grad school there, but also to live there among a Muslim community.  These four guys and one gal are pretty good friends, and embody this cool spirit that desires to live and minister to the unreached, where the need is the greatest.  That's the idea that I think the Church is going to see more of out of that generation.

Very very fun times at GCC.  How many more can we send out?  What other areas of the world can we impact (in the right way of course)?  How many more people to be commmited to being on mission, either somewhere else or in their current places?

Blogger Profile Tags

For those of you that are hosted on blogspot, you probably know that it creates 'tags' based on what you put as your interests in your profile.  I was poking around the other day, and noticed that LB has put an interest called 'cross-cultural trips with Tony Sheng.'  So blogger tags it, and you can see everyone that has that interest.  (If you call THAT an 'interest.'  HA.)  Just for fun, I put it in my profile too.  So there are just two of us.
If you haven't noticed yet, this whole idea of tagging is huge.  Blogger, flickr, technorati, etc.  Building community through shared interests, not just grabbing a bunch of people and putting them in a room together.

Monday, August 22, 2005

First podcast....?

Not really... but you can get the audio from yesterday's Glimpse Sunday

here. (This link will only be valid until Saturday August 27, 2005)

Trinidad team sharing - 3:07
Brasil team sharing - 16:18
Guatemala team sharing - 26:50
Uganda team sendoff - 38:20

If you have ever had a crazy longing to hear what my voice sounds like... here you go.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mission Team Reports

Our Missions Sunday today had the keyword 'Glimpse.' My friend T ran the whole thing and did such an awesome awesome job, for all 4 services. One of the things I loved was to watch and learn from him as he put together all the elements of the church service. It is so much more than just music, stories and a talk. It takes the mind of an environmentalist - creating and shaping a conducive environment for growth to occur.

One of the historical things mission teams don't do well is telling their story. They either don't get a good chance to, or when they have the chance, it is painfully boring. We have all had our fair share of hearing mission team reports that are really dry and boring. Of course, sharing a once in a lifetime experience in 10 minutes is never an easy task. Today was great because we got to share the stories, everyone listening was our biggest fans (seriously - everyone listening was so in touch, all the laughter, groans and oohs and aahs), and it was a great experience for these students to have to talk about their experience from the stage.

Photo: The Trinidad team on stage, while ES (who is the 2005-2006 SPACE mentoree) shares about her experience.

to the Class of 05

Well this is the last weekend that a lot of our graduating seniors are going to be around.  At least the ones that are going away to college that is.  Its a bittersweet time.  In one sense, its hard to see them leave.  So many of them have become friends instead of just students.  Not just good friends, but partners.  They actually care about the world.  They think that we can shape a generation.  They have this sense that the young people they have invested in will actually make a difference.

On the flip side, its awesome to send them out.  It really is the crux of what we do as youthworkers.  We build kids so that they can go out in the world.  We sit back and relish what they are doing.  We watch as their biggest fans, we cheer as they take Jesus into places and situations that we only once dreamed about.

Class of 05 - go on and amaze us like we know you will.

She will keep going

Rob Bell on the church --
"But she will live on.  She is indestructible.  When she dies in one part of the world, she explodes in another.  She's global.  She's universal.  She's everywhere.  And while she's fragile, she's going to endure.  In every generation there will be those who see her beauty and give their lives to see her shine.  Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against her.  That's strong language.  And its true.  She will continue to roll across the ages, serving and giving and connecting people with God and each other.  And people will abuse her and manipulate her and try to control her, but they'll pass on. And she will keep going."

in Velvet Elvis

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Friday, August 19, 2005

Guat team home

Our GCC Guatemala team came home last weekend. I did a little light prep with that team in the Spring, and it's been fun to hear stories from their trip. I haven't really talked in detail with any of them, but it sounds like it was a success. It was definitely different than my trip to Brazil, but thats totally to be expected. Different age group, different goals, different context.

All of our teams are going to be sharing during all 4 services at GCC this weekend. If you are around and feel like coming to hear, that would be awesome. And if you prayed for us, being inspired by this blog, I would love to meet you on Sunday.

quote from work

Someone at work just said to me, "You are a good Christian boy."

Strategic Church Planting in Latin America

Nation Churches planted since 1992 Church-planting goals
Brazil 20,000 180,000

Argentina 4,000 28,000

Uruguay 1,000 2,000
Chile 2,000 20,000
Peru 11,000 40,000
Colombia 3,000 30,000
Venezuela 9,000 25,000
Panama 2,000 7,000
Mexico 8,000 50,000
Dominican Republic 4,000 12,000
Costa Rica 500 2,000
El Salvador 5,000 7,000
Guatemala 12,000 7,000
Cuba 6,000 6,000

Origins roundtables

Three Origins roundtables announced.  If only I had a smidge more vacation time left....  Michigan, Montreal, and Rhode Island in the fall.  More here.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Mission Trip Reentry, Debrief and Sharing

We had yet another Brasil team meeting last night, our first one post trip.  It was good.  Like I mentioned before, we never really did a lot to talk about debriefing and reentry, and last night was perfect.  Everyone has had enough time to process, share with their family and friends and get used to being back home after a great experience.

My friend T, the Fusion pastor organized it because he is in charge of 'Glimpse' Sunday, where all the mission teams will get a chance to share with the body about their trips.  In my view, its a pretty crucial thing, sharing with the body.  All the teams are really an extension of GCC around the world.  Many, many people in the church supported us through finances and prayer.  We were all 'sent out' a few Sundays ago.  And of course, its a great opportunity to expose people to SPACE.  (Sidebar:  Part of me wants to keep it really small and be mysterious and subversive.  Part of me thinks that after this summer, it's going to expand exponentially...) (Sidebar 2:  a God sized dream...)
So last night was a combination of reentry, debriefing and planning the service.  All three things are really well connected.  I put together the first two sections below and we did that over pizza.  We then moved into the auditorium and did section 3 below.

The kids spoke honestly and openly.  More than one of them shared how hard it is to be home and away from the team and the experience.  It was a really, really good time of just connecting again and probably the biggest thing for everyone was to hear, "You are not alone.  I feel the same way."

Pick one from below and share how you did this in Brasil:
- Walk with humility.
Remember, you are showing up late to a meeting.  God has been at work among these people long before you arrived!    
- Embrace with affirmation.
Your greatest gift to the people you meet will be affirmation, not criticism.    
- Live with vulnerability.
Don't be afraid of weakness - it's normal.    
- Practice flexibility.
Always expect the unexpected - you're not in control.    
- Live as a student.
Be determined to learn from everyone.    
- Work as a servant.
Be willing to do whatever needs to be done.    
- Speak as a storyteller.
Let the Spirit tell God's story through you. (Taken from The Short Term Missions Workbook)    

Pick two from below and answer:
-    The thing I liked best about my short-term was . . .
-    The thing that made my short-term most unpleasant was . . .
-    A story that is important for me to tell . . .
-    The most significant lesson God taught me was . . .
-    The area in my life where I saw the greatest change was . . .
-    One story that sums up what God did through me is . . .
-    The biggest challenge I face in returning home will be . . .
-    The thing I'm most thankful to God for is . . .
-    Now that I am back home, I feel
-    I find it easy to
-    I find it hard to
-    I wish
-    The people who I feel understand me are
-    I enjoy being with
-    I enjoy (activity)
-    My family says I
-    My friends say I
-    My pastor says I
-    I need help in

other comments from me:
- your emotions will be a rollercoaster
- it will get easier when you get into school and a routine
- its ok to let your emotions fade, but not your convictions

planning for Sunday
- pray for a big ripple in the Body
- draw in
- one story - no other trip - only happened in Brazil
- what was its purpose
- how about the culture
- anything didn't expect
- hardest time
- when did you feel like 'God brought me for this exact moment?'
- one person you connected with
- how is Brazil different now that we went?
- how are you different?
- how can we encourage them more?

Prayer letter follow up

One snippet from GMcM's prayer update email --
"If hurricanes could be made of joy and love, one just roared through Londrina and left a trail of beauty in its wake.  Between August 2 and 9, a team of 10 Americans (6 high school students, 3 university students and a 36-year-old team coordinator) infiltrated our city in early August to help us connect with a new group of Brazilian students. In just eight days, God did more than all we could ask or imagine."

Is that sweet or what?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Brazil Various Stories

While on our various travels home, we had a two leg flight from Londrina to Sao Paulo, stopping in Curitiba. (Side note - Flying over Sao Paulo was unbelievable. You seriously cannot believe how big that city is. It makes NYC look like the mall.) We didn't need to get off the plane, we just chilled for 15 minutes or so. On this flight we met a man named Pedro traveling with his family. Pedro was from Sao Paulo, his wife was from Londrina. Pedro and his family were actually flying back to Wilmore, KY, where he is a student at Asbury Seminary. Before he was in seminary, he was a church planter in Paraguay. A Brazilian planting churches in Paraguay. Isn't that cool?
Of course, 10 Americans on his flight caught his attention and we got to tell him a little bit about what we were doing in Londrina. He loved hearing about it. In fact, he basically gave me an open invitation to bring a team to Paraguay. All around the world, cross cultural workers are dying for teams to come to serve with them. Indeed, the workers are few.

Our team was blessed with really good health, until the end. Aside from me, who had a slight stomach thing every 3rd day or so, everyone else was mostly healthy. We landed in the US at Dulles, took the tram from the gate to the main terminal and got in line at customs. All of us made it through customs with no issues. As we walked through the lobby into an annex area, AW puked. I was walking in front of her, and heard it.
One of those sounds that makes your stomach turn, literally. FZ was right behind her, and I distinctly remember her first response, "Oh, honey," said in a way that was so infinitely compassionate and maternal.
Our plan was to take a bus shuttle from the airport to the Metro station and then take the Metro back to Greenbelt where family could easily pick us up. AW was a putrid grey color the whole way. But, it was (almost) the absolute best place to get sick - right when we landed on US soil. Welcome home.

All of us liked Fatima from the very beginning. She didn't speak any English, but her heart overflowed with love every time we saw her. Her two sons would interpret for her when they were around. When they weren't, we kind of knew what she was thinking anyway. She was almost constantly thinking about us.
We had game night at her house and FZ didn't get any cake. After we all left, Fatima made her a whole chocolate cake. When BB was sick, she took his temperature every other hour. She made him drink water every hour, she made him soup and toast, she made a wicked potato salad. If my child had to be sick 5000 miles away, Fatima's apartment would be my top choice.

The soccer game was a lot of fun. We sat in the uncovered section - the people's section. Of course, there were the rowdys, the ones who loved the refs in one minute and had very creative insults about them ("You are a cow!") the next. Every once in a while, from the far corner of the stands, you would hear this single drum, beating at some wild cadence. I couldn't figure it out, and wondered whether there was a marching band or something. GMcM told me that fans organize their own fan clubs, complete with flags and shirts and other stuff like that. They all come to the game together, sit in the same section, and of course, bring their drums. The drum, he said, was indicative of the game. Soccer is not necessarily just a game with its procedures, strategy and rules. Its more of a dance, with its beats, rhythm and spontaneity.

Oh Brazil...

Photos: Sao Paulo, Fatimas family, and sitting at a soccer game.

Welcome FZ

FZ now has a blog. Welcome her.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Brazil - tonys notes about culture

These notes are more for me than anyone else...
Notes about Brazilian culture that I learned (maybe not all are totally true all of the time)

- greet friends of the other sex with a kiss on the cheek - always go to the left.
- have lunch as their biggest meal
- shower in the late afternoon evening
- never come to a meal dirty (like after playing soccer or working in the yard)
- eat pizza with a knife and fork
- eat a lot of red meat
- most movies are shown in English with Portuguese subtitles (weird - it should be the other way around)
- they listen to a lot of the same music we listen to
- rice and beans are at almost every meal
- the people are so incredibly warm, inviting and relational
- vestibular (the test to get into college) is a huge deal

I'm sure there is more...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Brazil financials

I'm trying to finish all the financials for the trip this weekend. That should close the whole trip mentally for me. Then I can move on.

In terms of how we dealt with spending money for the individual students -- they gave me a check, I deposited that in my account and then bought whatever they wanted and put it on my credit card. I kept pretty close track of what they spent. I will now go through all the receipts and give them a rebate check as well as a record of what they spent.

And for the overall trip... drumroll please....

flight - $13276.50
transit costs (shuttle, team meals, etc.) - $1642.76
costs in Brazil - $446.98
Total Expenses - $15366.24
(In other words, it costs us almost nothing to live and eat there.)

In terms of financial support, we are $15146.25 as of yesterday's mail. Oh, and this is not counting the $6000 credit we have from United. Oh, and the last Sunday we were in church, a parent of a graduating senior wrote us a check for $1500. Jesus gets it right on the money.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Brazil - More processing

I'm still thinking through the trip, in lots and lots of ways. I spent a lot of time recently just updating my journal. Great to rethink through the trip and remember all the funny and obscure details. All in all, I'm just ecstatic about how it turned out. Everything from the team to what we did to getting to know and serve the McMs, all of it - I'm really proud of it all. It has to rank as being one of the more successful things that I have done of late. So I'm just beaming when I think about it. Like anything similar, there are going to be things that can be improved. So here is my rough list of good and bad.

What We Did Right
- We went and served a GCC family.
Hands down, this is golden. Totally makes the whole thing worthwhile.
- We lived among the culture.
Instead of living all together, in an 'American' compound, we split up and lived with Brazilian families in their homes. It's a balancing act, finding enough time for your team together while also making sure you spend a good bit of time with the host families, because they really want to get to know you and host you.
- We went with the intention to build relationships.
Our team never squandered our time there. Every day had a sense of urgency to it, all opportunities were okay to capitalize on.
- We brought the right leader team.
Like I mentioned in a previous post, the leaders were great. There was never a time when I couldn't trust them. Traveling to another country with leadership issues would have been really bad news.
- Our music policy worked.
In the end, it wasn't so much about the music, but about the team paying attention to the rest of the team.
- A community service project that everyone could get involved in.
Both Americans and Brazilians got involved in the playground work. It was pretty awesome.

For Next Time (didn't I tell myself I was too old for this again?)
- Use more live music.
We didn't do any worship as a team. More live music, especially for worship, would have been pretty cool.
- We were a little short on time.
Probably due to flying out a day late. But time did fly by.
- The point leader should stay with the point host.
In this case, since this whole thing was setup by me and GMcM, it would have been better to stay at his house. It was definitely not a big deal. For both of us, the informal, various time around the house would have surely been filled with great conversation and thinking. I'm lucky, because doing this kind of stuff gives me access to some really quality people.
- Leadership sets the tone.
As the primary shaper of the leader culture, I should have been a bit more careful with my attitude and language when the lead team would discuss issues. It's way too easy to be sarcastic and caustic. Even with leaders (maybe especially with leaders), there are attitudes that are conveyed which have to be in check.
- Plan for a neutral location for reentry.
We didn't do this, there just wasn't enough time. Reentry is really important and should also include a discussion about relationships, not just cultural reentry. Adding a reentry location certainly complicates travel logistics though.
- Kids are not allowed to bring cell phones.
Yup, you can relate.
- A sleep-in day.
I got this idea from my friend, T. During one week long retreat, he grabbed all of us leaders to cook breakfast in bed for all the kids. The idea was just to give them a break, let them sleep in a bit, serve them a bit. Great idea. By the end, we totally could have used one of those days.

Photo: The whole crew that helped fix up the playground.

Post trip relevant music

I am small and I speak when I spoken to,
But I am willing to risk it all
Say your name just Your name
And I'm ready to jump, even ready to fall

I'm playing Gameboy standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon
I'm eating candy sittin' at a gourmet feast I'm wading in a puddle when I could be swimming in the ocean
Tell me what's the deal with me (I know the time has come for me to)
Wake up and see the glory
See the Glory

Thursday, August 11, 2005

With Leaders Like These...

I'm in the process of trying to close out the SPACE 2004-2005 school year. Yup, it's kind of a lost cause. 2005-2006 is already brimming with loads of possibilities, and I'm pretty toasty from Brasil. But its okay. In the meantime, I've had a tremendous summer. And most of what has made it for me has been the phenomenal leaders I've had the true privilege of working with.

These guys and gals score every time. They are engaged, they are learners, they take great notes. They live out loud, they know Jesus is worth it, and they see such potential in young people. They serve and serve and serve, without any regard for their own time, ego or well being. They love kids over and over. They stop and listen for what God is saying to them. They know that the next generation must care about the world. What they believe is integrated with how they live. They are ambassadors, hosts, shepherds, mobilizers, counselors, friends. They will do anything, and not only do it, but ask about what needs to be done next. Warm, gentle, well spoken, they all have a great sense of humor (especially to put up with me.) Reliable, dependable, trustworthy. I think enough of them to ask them to travel with me, to herd a group of kids, to teach, model, encourage, inspire. These guys and gals have made my summer. With leaders like these, who needs students...

Photos: The Brasil lead team - FZ, JAB and LB. Three of the CMTS lead team - ELB, NLind and MR.

refreshed template

Well I refreshed to a new (but the same) template.  I figured my old one was so hacked, and I wanted to see if a refresh would make a difference.  Specificall, I want to see if:
- if my sidebar is still at the bottom when using some browsers.
- if posts from my phone still show up in funny font.

If you see either, leave a comment.  (I think that is still working...)

Brasil reentry

I knew reentry would be tough.  However, its a little tougher than I imagined.  Most of it is your standard stuff.  The team just came from an intense spiritual high experience.  Little things remind them of Brasil.  Friends and family are interested, but don't really quite understand.  You didn't have to think about your daily pressures and responsibilities and now since you are back home, you do. 

During our long layover at the Sao Paulo airport, we had a bit of time to talk about reentry and the experience.  Some of the topics and ideas we covered included:
- Is this what you expected?
- What would you change on this trip?
- What were some of the negatives?
- God will continue the work He and you have started in your new friends.  You were a catalyst.  Our whole goal was for you to start something and then have to leave.
- When people ask about your trip, have two versions ready - one that is 2 minutes long, one that is 20 minutes long. 
- Be sensitive to people at home.  They won't understand, and you shouldn't expect them to.
- Don't go home to live a mediocre existence.

On a related note, I'm always looking for good reentry material.  If you have something you really like, would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Brazil - safe and sound at home

Well thanks for praying.  We are all safe and sound at home.  AW did get a bit sick at the airport.  But otherwise we are all home.  Great trip.  Definitely more posting after more processing.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

So Long Brazil

We are leaving for the airport in 15 minutes.  Last night was definitely pretty difficult - we said goodbye to many of the Brazilian students we had built relationships for.  But in the end, that was our goal - to catalyze relationships so that the McMs can build on them.  Still, very difficult. I think today will be harder.  There is a group of them coming to see us off at the airport.  Very cool.  And of course, having to say goodbye to the McMs.
I'm seeing that this departure process is in three stages.  Us and the students.  Us and our hosts.  And finally, us.  The most difficult will be to depart from the team and family that has become us - both in the past 10 days, but also even way before that, as the team came together, prepped, dreamed and prayed.  To be honest, I'm not sure I'm fully prepared for that.  And I know that I haven't prepared the kids for that either.  Of course, the stronger the team, the harder the process.
Ok, so maybe next post from the US...?
Oh- SS has a slight temp, but feels fine.  Our flights from Sao Paulo are confirmed, but no seats yet.  Whatever that means.  First cloudy day here in Londrina.  Like GMcM said, people would pay a lot of money to live in a climate like this.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Brazil - Final night

We had a big party tonight.  Like this week hasn't been a party.  Ha.  Seriously though, the relationships which we built - and the context of them - made for a pretty emotional farewell tonight.  When I consider missional experiences, I always consider debriefing around the idea of culture and culture shock, but not usually around how to deal with relationships that are created in an intense, tight environment, and then are seemingly over.
Tonight, it was the pizza man, a talent show and farewells.  Hard to say goodbye, but if we expected to be catalysts for relationships that the McMs can grow, its a very healthy symptom.
Pray for our flight from Londrina to Sao Paulo.  Rumor is that if it rains, it gets delayed.  Also pray for our flight on our favorite airline - United - from Sao Paulo to DC.  I really don't want to get bumped, and I seemingly cannot check in online for international flights.  And pray for SS, he had a fever tonight and an upset stomach.  Apparently there is another virus going around Londrina - an intestinal one.
Hopefully the next post will be from my house.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

More Sunday

Today was even more fun. This morning we worked in a park, planting some long growing vines and fixing a walk across cable thing.

EmGberg, one of our students, has this incredible knack for learning Portueguese. It's pretty wild, she can rattle off probably 20 or 30 phrases and is seemingly able to begin conversations after just having been here for 6 days. GMcM said, "She is really Brazilian..." because she is so warm, outgoing and amicable. It's very true. Quite a blessing to have such an ambassador on the team.

Tonight a bunch of us went out to a small snack place, again with more of the Brazilian students. In all, there was 21 of us, packed into a little cafe place. Very cool, very fun. We are definitely helping the McMs gain some new relationships among high schoolers. They are doing university ministry, but there are loads of high schoolers around.

Photo: EmGberg engaging total strangers in natural conversation, and a few of our students and their plantings in the park.

Brazil Sunday

Quick post right now.
Worked in community park this morning.  Planting some long growing vines, fixing some walk across cable things for little kids.  Some kids came right out when we were done to play on them.  Very cool impact in that the McMs will definitely get a reputation out of it.
This afternoon, sent A&F on a mini SPACE international date to see one of the biggest soccer games in Brasil.  Very fun for them.  The rest of us split between the guys and LF going to see a local soccer game (Londrina won 2-0) and the rest of the girls going to see a movie and the mall with some of the Brazilian girls.
Tonight is some more hang out time and a Brazilian film.  You can pray for LB, she burned her hand on some hot water.  Pray for healing and relief from the pain.
Hard to believe that we have only one full day left.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Brazil Sat

I forgot to mention yesterday that right before our carnivore fest, I had a really upset stomach. It's always a pretty fun experience to ask your foreign country hosts if they have a plunger.

This morning, I woke up with the same stomach issue. So I stayed in bed for most of the morning. The other leaders told the kids I was taking a paid vacation day. Ha. Thanks also for praying about BB - he was totally recovered today.

We did a BBQ picnic kind of thing today. The McMs rented a nearby park with a building, bbq pit, and soccer field with lights for the whole day and evening. We just hung out with the Brazilian students, played American football, soccer, frisbee and stuff. Towards the end, we also had a short skit and GMcM did a little talk about identity and how God has created all of us with one specific one. The Brazilians they were totally tracking, it was cool to see that they were so intent on paying attention.

After that we went back to the house to have a quick team meeting. I wanted to cover two specific topics. First, there have been some minor issues with guy and girl relationships between our students and the Brazilians. We emphasized again the idea of being an example and making sure that we weren't sending bad signals. You know that those people that fall in love on mission trips and retreats always live happily ever after... Secondly, now that we are on day 6, attitude is one thing that we all have to focus on. And God refreshes those that refresh others. So at least some of us are going to have to rely on God to help us have a great attitude when we wouldn't be able to have that on our own.

I rode with G and M McM back to my house tonight. They both told me how encouraged they felt. In fact, GMcM said that when he was going to mention it at the end of our team meeting, he decided against it because he started to get teary eyed about the impact we were making and how overwhelemed they were.

Continue to pray for our impact with these students. They are so warm and relational, there are lots of significant conversations going on. You can pray for the team's health, attitude and working together as one movement. You can also pray for my family at home, D and K have a minor eye infection, E has a bit of a summer cold. Its a big drag knowing your family is sick and you are 5000 miles from home.

Photo: JAB, BB and SS at the park down the street from the McMs. We will be working there on Sunday, planting, fixing some swings, etc. as an effort to impact the community.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday update

Tonight we went to a Brazilian bbq restaurant for dinner. Can you say carnivore? It was an awesome three hours of red meat.

You can pray for BB. He skipped dinner tonight and apparently has a virus that is going around. No fever, no upset stomach, just a really sore throat. He is resting well and is staying at G's house. G's mother, F, is about the sweetest woman you would ever meet. She is definitely doting on him. Last night, she made F a cake. If there was anyone you would want your child staying with 5000 miles away in a foreign country, it would totally be F.

Tomorrow, we are doing a bbq (yes another one) for the high schoolers. Our team has also put together two skits as a way to stimulate discussion among all the students. The theme is about identity and external and internal forces against the identity that God has placed inside you.

GMcM is experiementing with small group discussions. We've only had one so far, whether it was succesful or not is still up in the air. I think they are going to go better, especially since our students feel like they have really gone a lot deeper in conversation that they expected at this point.

Photo: A and F talking about dating, relationships and God in their lives.

Brazil friday

Hard to believe that it is already Friday. Our time here has flown by. We had team time this morning, FZ ran it and it was great. The leader team is making the trip for me - we are moving in close step synergy, the other three leaders are totally sold out to making this trip for the students, serving the McMs in every way possible and teaching and modeling cross cultural ministry for our students. I'm very fortunate. Our students really feel some momentum with their relationshps with the Brazilian kids, especially after game night last night. They are connecting more and more. An even cooler thing is that they are feeling more and more responsible for the relationships they are building. One thing we have pending is a conversation with GMcM about ideas he can use for follow up with these kids - our students have tons of ideas. We also talked this morning about the idea of leaders reaching leaders, and that those leaders you reach will impact the community way more than you will. It was a great discussion.

This afternoon, some of our students are writing and practicing a skit to dramatize the idea of God's identity and external things that impact identity. Tonight, we are going to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant. These past two days have been a bit slow because many of the Brazilian students are taking their entrance exams to the universities. So they are studying like mad.

Two of our students are going to the doctor this afternoon. They both have minor sore throats, are a little swollen in their neck. You can definitely lift that up in prayer. Another one of our students is feeling like she is easily distracted. Not sure of all the details, but the question I posed to the leaders was, "When can you tell whether something like this is spiritual?" Satan would love to use whatever he can to distract us. Finally, you can pray that we would continue to use the time wisely, that we would move conversations from the mind to the heart, that we would continue to be mostly healthy. Along the health lines, the food is excellent, the water is totally safe, and the Brazilians are incredibly warm and hospitable.

Photos: game night at Gs, the leader team in the park we will work in on Sunday, some of our team in McDonalds in the mall.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Brazil thurs

We had another good day today, seeing more relationships get built and progressed.  This morning, some of the girls went to a local high school with their new Brazilian friends.  One of the guys went to a local high school early, and then all of us went on a quick tour of the local university.  Pretty interesting.
In the afternoon, the girls had a girls only lunch and then went to the mall, again with a bunch of Brazilian girls.  Us guys scoped out a park where we will be doing some replanting and rebuilding.  The park is right in the McMs neighborhood and is a potential trouble spot if the community lets it get run down.  We then drove through some parts of Londrina as well as checking prices at a local hardware store.
We met up with the girls at the mall for dinner and then went to G´s house for game night, where they taught us a Brazilian card game, had some music and hung out with more Brazilian students.  One of them was a mad, mad card magician.  A and F also did a little talk about their relationship, who Jesus was in their lives and why that was important.
We are continuing to make and build relationships with these students.  In addition, GMcM told me that he felt like we were really helping him make some inroads with their parents as well.  They are building a reputation of creating a safe place for their kids, with good and wholesome activities.  G´s mom mentioned to GMcM how great she thought A&F´s talk was. 
The card magician, M, was quite a dude.  Not only was he really good at cards, he was a Rubiks cube whiz, and a violin virtuoso.  Seriously.  Where do kids like that come from?  Those are the types of kids that will engage culture and shape and define the future.  If they aren´t Christ followers, then the future is in jeopardy.
A few of our students have commented on how ethnocentric Americans are.  At least two of them have decided that they will learn another language when they get home.  One of the keys for us as a leader team is to make sure experience translates into behavior.  You cannot be the same person as before this experience, your behavior must be different based on the correct principles you experience.  In the movement to build global Jesus followers that care about changing the world, I think learning another language is a great start.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


just noticed - my sidebar links and info are all the way at the bottom of the page in some browsers. no idea, not enough time to fix it now. but hit the key if you want.

Wed pm

We had music night tonight - at least I think that was the idea. There was definitely loads of music! There were about 20 Brazilian students at the McMs house and a few guitars, drums and a .... karoke machine. Very very funny. The kids had a great time just hanging out, singing karoke and just being together. Lots of fun.

Tomorrow morning has the girls and one of the boys visiting local high schools with friends of the McMs. Only one of the guys can go because of school permission issues with the administration, which is a little too bad. I would have liked to have gone, I would have been very early, but fun. And of course, most kids think I´m a high schooler anyway.

You readers can continue to pray for open hearts among the Brazilian students. There were probably 8-10 of them that showed up tonight that had never been to the McMs house before, which was really neat. That is one of the goals - to catalyze some new relationships for them, which will eventually be used as momentum for relationships at the university level. Our team is totally healthy, all the food here in the city is safe. And delicious. Continue to pray that our team continues to work as a team, that we encourage one another, that we care for one another continually.

SS, TS and me are staying at J´s house, probably the nicest apartment building in the whole city. Which brings up an interesting point that JAB asked me about tonight - what about the idea of comfort zone and taking kids out of theirs? Definitely a valid question. However, a few things come to mind. First and foremost, I believe (at this point) that I am willing to sacrifice the comfort zone issue in order that our students develop a serious affinity to serving families from GCC already overseas. Given the choice of developing a student outside of their comfort zone versus having a student understand long term partnership with a GCC family, I think we should be opting for the latter. Secondly, they can always choose to go outside their comfort zone in the future, college, post-college, etc. And their idea of moving out of their comfort zone may not be totally feasible in their high school days, while under the close care of their parents. I´m not convinced we should be reaching for the most inhospitable places on earth to travel to with high schoolers. College aged people are a different story (and out of my realm.) If a student gets a burning desire to be overseas from a high school team working with a GCC family, I´m sure they will find loads of places in the world that will expand their comfort zone. In the meantime, even though it´s plush, I can tell you - without any doubt - the McMs are so hugely encouraged by us being here.
I know I said it before, and I say it with so much more direct experience now, sending a team to a GCC family is about the best goal we can have.

Wed am

Great day on Wed so far.
Team time in the morning, including having GMcM give an intro, overview.  We talked a bit about culture and example.  This team is an example.  Also, we are asking them to exclude some of their own culture, to immerse themselves in another culture, and not impose their culture on this one.  A hard task, but the essence of cross cultural ministry.
Did a conversation about challenges to youth, small group atmosphere with all the students.  Had about 8 Brazilian kids show up.  Then had the basketball star come and talk about his life with Christ including losing their 2 year old daughter.  Then went to a local school and played some basketball in teams.  Tons of kids were watching, they all wanted our autographs.  Very funny.  Will upload pics soon.
Tonight is music night (I think).
Our kids are relishing this trip.  Very fun for them and the connection we have with the McMs is becoming a more significant thing to them with more time.  The ideals behind this trip are becoming tangible.  I´m loving it.

I drove in Brazil today. LB was scared.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

arrived in Londrina

Well after almost 48 hours of some kind of travel, the team has made it here to Londrina.  After departing Dulles (finally), all other flights and plans went pretty well.  We didn´t do too bad, since we got:
- $6000 in airline credits from United
- 9 free rides on the Metro
- 5 rooms for free at the Hilton (the team forced me to take the king room)
- $200 in food vouchers that we definitely used up
Thanks for praying.  We are well, in good spirits, happy to be here.  All of our hosts are great.  The girls are staying with the McMs; SS, TS and me are staying at Js, and JAB and BB are at Gs. 

Monday, August 01, 2005

Mon eve

Almost boarding all 10 of us


I'm at the Hilton Bus Center. We got 5 rooms here last night, $6000 airline credit and loads of food vouchers... Not such a bad deal I guess.
A little frustrating but not much we could do in the scheme of things. International travel - just go with the flow and be flexible.
Team is doing well. We ordered $140 of food last night at 1am.
We will probably do a thing in DC today, National Geo museum - themes of culture, exploration, risk, inititative.


We got bumped from our flight. $600 credit for each ticket. Same flight tomm