Tuesday, July 31, 2007

3 Essential Questions

The metrics surrounding cross cultural mission are dire. 60% of all short term mission experiences due detriment to the witness and reputation of their hosts. 50% of all long term mission teams leave the field within the first year, never to return. Setting individuals and teams up for success requires forethought, creativity and a willingness to do mission differently. In light of the two very sobering statistics from above, here are 3 essential questions you should ask yourself and your team before you commit to a missions trip:

1. Am I planning to have an impact that lasts for 500 years? [original idea via Alex McManus from Origins 2004]
If you are predicting a summer, a year or a decade of impact, you are thinking too small. How do you have an impact for 500 years?
- Impact local, indigenous, nationals - people that live in that culture and can impart their lives in that dna and context.
- Lead leaders and not just followers - movements start by creating leaders that are persons of peace, mavens, and connectors.
- Empower them to impact with a simple, reproducible strategy.
Like that "Teach a man to fish" proverb, making an impact requires being intentional about dependency and ownership, empowering instead of limiting. Cross cultural teams that are proactive about these issues will impact people for centuries.

2. Can both host and teams trust each other because we are partners?
What I know about my hosts - not only about their logistics and planning but their values, personality and style of influence - should embolden my trust of them with my team. Have I done everything I can to ensure that my team is culturally ready, has the appropriate ministry skill training and understands their job is to serve others with an attitude of flexibility? Mutual trust is built on partnership between the two parties - host and visiting team. One is not there to serve the other but rather, the shared experience is built keeping in mind the strengths and talents of both teams in the specific context.

3. How will I engage the culture?
Extremes of engagement go from living with your friends in an isolated compound to total immersion in a host culture. Although certainly daunting, you should error in the latter.
Other questions to ask:
- Will you live with a host family?
- Have you been given some cultural understanding of your new locale?
- Does this include basic language skills, trying the food and hearing about some of the major stories in this culture?
At best, failing to engage the culture will leave your team bored and remembering the experience as lacking. At worst, your team might not understand how the Gospel is relevant in every culture, you might propagate all the worst American stereotypes, and you may do more harm than good.

Some real world examples:
Dominican Republic - 1993
Brasil - 2005
Cameroon - 2006
Hungary - 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

13 to many more

D and I celebrate 13 years of marriage today. We had a great weekend away attending a wedding, staying in a hotel and spoiling ourselves.

My wife is a creator-artist, guardian of belief, and family launcher. This fall, she starts a part time job at a local pottery studio. Her cover is cashier and ceramic assistant while the real mission is to continue to show elements of the Creator via her artistic creations. Off the scale in the Belief strength, she shows and tells the Shengri-Las that you do what you believe. Last year, I was in Cameroon on our 12th anniversary. D wrote me a card that said, "For our anniversary, do something fun that you have never done before." The next day, I went to visit a pygmy village. She is determined to launch me, even when I'm terrified. I know it's a pattern that will continue with our kids too, even when they are terrified.

Because of her, our marriage has been filled with opportunities I could have never imagined.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Congrats to K and K

Congratulations to our good friends K and K, who got married yesterday. Long time readers will remember that I helped lead a high school small group from 1999-2003 and K was one of my students. It's one thing to watch students grow, develop and change while they are under your watch. It's a totally different dynamic to see them become adults and friends for the cause of Jesus in the world.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Potpourri

::: Mark Beeson from Granger Community Church, on sprinting
Sprint, rest. Sprint, rest. Sprint, rest. Ministry is not a marathon. It is a series of sprints. Get a strangle-hold on the experiences, people and locations that renew you. Maximize your restoration opportunities. Stay fresh or you will rust out, flame out or drop out…and if you are out, you are out, no matter how you went out.
More from Tim Stevens. [Did you know Granger is a Methodist church? Check the links to see what Mark says about denominations as well.]
And... we are in sprint mode right now. Late August until mid September will be rest mode.

::: Character #6 of Leaders That Finish Well
They walk with a growing awareness of a sense of destiny and see some or all of it fulfilled. Bobby Clinton link via Steve Addison

::: Countries - Future Orientation and Competitiveness

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Audio from the Fusion Africa Series

Below is a media player loaded with the talk from Fusion earlier in July that I mentioned here. The talk is an interview style format, with our Fusion pastor TJ interviewing a church liaison officer from World Relief and.... uh... me. You should listen to her interview, it's got lots of good stuff. Mine is okay too. Topics that you might be interested include Africa, church partnerships, sustainability, leaders creating leaders, engaging culture and The End of Poverty.

My interview starts at around 35:00. If you listen to it, I would love to get your feedback.

Here is the full link in case you want to play it on your own player.
[feed readers - there is embedded audio in this post]

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meeting Localities

I used to have meetings at church. Instead, I now have meetings where actual humans congregate [not to say that church people aren't humans...]. This past year, I met the Orbiters a lot at the gym where the girls take gymnastics. Yes, that was a little weird. No, no one asked me why there were all these high school girls that were meeting me there. Where you meet says a lot about what you are trying to do.

Photo: Our LC leaders meeting outside of a Baskin-Robbins.

Monday, July 23, 2007

One Crystal Ball

"The best way to predict the future is to create it." - Alan Kay

Photo: Some of our middle schoolers on a prayer walk in Baltimore.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Potpourri

::: Urgency, Compulsion and Passion
The problem with movements that have settled down is they have all the money and all the time in the world. No sense of urgency. No desperate compulsion. No passionate cause.
More from Steve Addison

::: PM is thinking about a new Bible college
See why I love this guy...

::: NCC's next location is in Georgetown.

2007 Middle School Mini Missions

Fantastic time on the LC mini missions experience [LC stands for Light Company, the name of our middle school ministry] this weekend. NLind put together two days of light service projects with an overnight between them. The first day was an afternoon serving at our county's local food bank. This included sorting and packing food and general tidying up. The evening included showing them some of the Caleb Project's Infobytes - great material on global missions. [Not quite my Global Missions Primer, but you know...] We also threw in there cooking smores, a game combining linguistics and Capture the Flag [yeah it kind of flopped], and a time of encouraging and praying for each other.

Saturday was spent in downtown Baltimore, again with the same folks that our other summer teams served with during Mission Advance. Colleen S set this up for us again and walked our team through the vision, strategy and lessons in culture about the inner city. This day included prayer walking and clean up around two blocks adjacent to Charm City Church.

A few observations:
- These middle schoolers - wow.
- Pastor Mike - a life of radical faith - which is what we originally intended to find in a host for our middle school experience. Hmm...
- Local, indigenous, contact and connection based on partnership - in both Colleen and the Howard County food bank. Our team saw the need in our own communities as well as in the inner city - two distinct cultures and the combination of here and there.
- Perhaps the LC experience is a entry point for summer leaders. Maybe it can be a significant part of the leadership pipeline and progression similar to the student progression.
- NLind [who has led on each middle school team, this being the 4th year, and also helped lead Cameroon 2006] did a fantastic job pulling it all together. I've tried to give her plenty of freedom as she has sought to intersect middle schoolers with the world. It's fun to see the end product of one of our leaders that are creating leaders.

Some of our pictures from the day are below.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

sat am

sat am
Originally uploaded by tonytsheng
my morning view we are having fun with these middle schoolers

Friday, July 20, 2007

Do You Talk to Yourself Too?

I'm leaving in a few hours for our middle school mini missions experience. To be honest, I wish I was a lot less ambivalent about it. Part of that comes from knowing that I really haven't done the very best at putting this thing together for this year. Sure, I can use the standard excuses - we had plans for an event that got filled, no good leads came for serving opportunities, middle schoolers are always late at signing up [which is not true], etc.

But wait.... when we decided to do this, we decided it would be different. That it would be creative and innovative. It would not just be about serving as the end goal. That we would inspire, catalyze, and transform because we see the intersection of missions and middle schoolers through a different, very unique set of lenses. We would call students to something much, much larger than themselves, because they need it and the world needs them.

Standard excuses are good if you are doing standard things. I need to give a whole different set of excuses. Instead, I will end the pep-talk to myself.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2007 Hungary - 3 week countdown

We have about 3 weeks to go. Here are some of the big items that we still have to plan:
- details on crafts for both VBS and evenings.
- build out activities in the evenings based on our theme.
- passports for RobynB, and the Shengri-Las.
- I need to get a hold of our world travelers ESunde and her brother for some final airline logistics. Apparently, they are in Iceland right now... We've had an itinerary for a few months but some last minute changes might make the return leg a lot more fun.
- Oh, and support. We are at about 80% give or take.
- I'm sure there is more. But we had a great team meeting last Tuesday and the momentum will continue to build.

Our theme is [if you are at the conference, help us keep this a secret until we get there please] Pirates and Treasure, which I think is amazingly creative. It will allow for a lot of fun elements as well as some good Bible teaching [Treasure like fruits of the Spirit].

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Nerd Score

I am nerdier than 85% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

I should have scored higher - Solaris is a variant of UNIX...

Hungary Team - Weblinks

For the team... check out some of these:


this is the California team blog:

Leader Re-entry

Leaders create leaders, not just followers. In that sense, it is vital that we help team leaders process their experiences, similar to the way good team leaders help their teams process.

MPM and I sat down with TMurray, one of our England team leaders over lunch. Here are some of the questions we asked and a list of actions we took from our conversation, all in an effort to be better in our role of sending but also to help her process her leadership experience.
- how did you engage the local culture
- what were the ministry tasks?
- who of your team got the most out of the experience?
- what is the long term impact of your team serving?
- partnership/what unique thing did your team bring?
- what was difficult?
- did you have individual team time and what did that look like?
- how did you and the other leaders sync up?
- how prepared did you feel?
- what was your favorite event?
- if the future of humanity were dependent on one person from your team, who would it be and why? [this was my favorite one, if you couldn't tell...]

template to each team for team preparation
mpm or i come to at least one team meeting to do a prep session or two and
provide cultural/missiological info to teams
schedule for team meetings so that finance info can be in sync
need to continue to build improvisation as a leadership skill
Photo: The 2007 England team leaders - TMurray second from the left.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Everything We Know is Wrong

A TED video: Everything we know about AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is wrong.

- the numbers, although still staggering, are a bit inflated
- there is a correlation between economic development and the rise of AIDS cases - when economies grow, there are more AIDS cases
- the higher the life expectancy, the more people opted to change their behavior related to AIDS [remind you of the Broken Windows theory?]


If you are interested in the African AIDS crisis, you need to watch this video. It's only 15 minutes and even if you disagree, it's compelling.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sweat Equity

The term "sweat equity" is not my original term, rather it is a term that one of our Mission Task Force members use to define the concept of a team coming together to put on a fundraiser and having the primary goal be a greater team identity, not necessarily making any money.

This weekend, our Hungary team washed people's windows at a local gas station as a fundraiser. I was pleasantly surprised by how much money we raised and how generous and gracious people were. We raised a serious amount of money in just a few hours.

Gen Y students we have in our ministries are very inventive and experimental in their efforts to raise support - much more than we adults could ever be. Our challenge is to ensure that they get the freedom to experiment, risk and run with their ideas. And when they are given ownership to do so, guaranteed that they will apply 110% of themselves to the task.

Michelle, Lindsey and Robyn - you guys are awesome.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Can You Sing?

Shackleton was a great recruiter. Nearly 5,000 people applied for 30 spots on the ill-fated Endurance (although no historian has produced a verifiable copy of the renowned help wanted ad). Shackleton used all kinds of inventive techniques to probe for what made the applicants tick, such as asking hard-boiled sailors to sing (a test of whether they would boost or sap morale on a long voyage).
- from Mavericks at Work

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fusion Africa series

Fusion155, GCC's young adult ministry, is finishing a series on Africa this Sunday. I'll be helping with a quick interview sometime during the service. I think it will mostly be on what people can do and the tangibles of serving even when you feel like it is so far away. And of course, big overtones of optimism - we can really make a difference.
If you are around Fusion on Sunday, stop in and say hi.

Friday Potpourri

::: Want to mix with other cultures?
Regions with the highest percentage of movers (from last year) who spent the previous year abroad.
1. New York - 150,913 movers from Abroad (7.8% of all total movers to the region)
2. Washington, DC - 58,900 (7.1%)
3. Miami, FL - 62,813 (7.0%)
[Large metros only]
More from the CreativeExchange

::: DDT and Malaria
The U.S. banned DDT in 1972, spurred on by environmentalist Rachel Carson's 1962 book "Silent Spring." Many countries in Europe and around the world followed suit. But after decades of exhaustive scientific review, DDT has been shown to not only be safe for humans and the environment, but also the single most effective anti-malarial agent ever invented. [emphasis mine]
From the WSJ article, "Give Us DDT" via DefeatPoverty

::: Northern Africa and the Middle East
Check out the interactive country map including populations, people groups and worldview breakdown. Did you know Morrocoo has 33M people and is about the size of California. [California has 36M people.]
via Lu

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Preparation and Effectiveness

Two of our teams have gone and now come back, both of them returning this past weekend. Like any anxious parent with kids overseas, I'm relieved that they are back home with no major issues. This past week, I've gotten some awesome feedback about both teams. They have said things like "a joy to work with," "so well prepared, "and "to be commended for their maturity, their servants hearts and teachable spirits." When 60% of all short term mission trips do detriment to their host missionaries, feedback like that means we have a lot to be proud of. Not that it is all about SPACE, since if you know some of our students, you know that they were quality people long before SPACE got a hold of them for this summer.

We all know - in just about every venue of life - the better prepared you are, the more effective you will be. Student missions fits with that principle just like playing basketball, singing an opera or building a redundant web farm. We stress some pretty unconventional things with regards to our summer teams, Mission Advance being one of them. The primary reason is so that our teams are effective in the field. The rest is icing on the cake.

Photo: TriciaB working at building a team - Mission Advance 2007.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The concept of progression is important as we build students to understand cultures and impact the world. Starting with middle school, we try to progress students in both culture and physical proximity as they get older. The year between 9th and 10th grade has historically been a bit of a challenge for us.

It is an important year because we want to focus teams on something close and something that gives students experience in serving and sharing in their own culture. The best preparation for going to serve in another culture is experience serving in your own culture first. And this helps us build students that care for both their own communities as well as lands far away.

In 2005, we had the bright idea of building a once-a-week-for-six-weeks serving day. The idea was that every Friday for 6 weeks, teams would go in and serve with various ministries in and around Washington DC. [DC remains one of our strategic centers even though we didn't send a team this year because ...uh, it is just plain strategic.] The idea was good and a bit audacious but we couldn't implement it - we didn't have the leadership infrastructure to support it. We did end up doing one single day that summer and I still think it could work in the future with the right leadership involved.

In 2006, we sent this same year of students to the Merge conference, which had been morphed from SEMP, put on by Sonlife. SEMP really had most of the elements we were looking for - local, a lot of training and experiences based on sharing in your own culture, and an ethos focused on the outsider. Unfortunately, Merge was a bit different. Probably still a good experience for students, just not fitting exactly what we needed.

This year, we finally scored. Chain Reaction helped our team serve locally, blessing strangers, and unashamedly stretch students. Props to Matt and Jeremy for shaping the future via our team.

Photo: Jeremy with some of our team, Baltimore Inner Harbor

DC Eclipse 2005
Jeremy's photoset

Sunday, July 08, 2007

40.96 percent

Our England team landed this evening. The only thing that I know about how the trip went was, "It was beyond awesome you have no idea it was absolutely incredible and a text message doesn't do it justice," from TriciaB. Of course, I knew all along it was going to be beyond awesome [sort of.]

Two teams have gone and come back as of now [Baltimore returned last Friday], about 40.96% of our summer teams. Three more teams this summer - middle school on 7/20, NYC on 8/5 and Hungary on 8/8.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Global Missions Primer

Every few months, a high school or college student wants to sit down and talk to me about their interest in going on a missions trip. Usually, I try to sit down with them in person to help them think through it a bit. This usually entails two things: First, talking with them about their desires, experiences, and talents. It's an effort to play to their strengths from the very beginning. Secondly, I try to give them the "Global Missions 101" talk. Drawing the world on a napkin [but not much bigger] always helps too.

So this post is about the essentials of global missions in 11 minutes. If I could distill it down to the essential concepts, here they are. These are concepts that should shape action as students contemplate contributing to global missions. In my experience, the average suburban, Christian high school student has no idea about most of these concepts. So, this is an attempt to give them some important information, so that they know the world is really big and that the world really needs them. Here we go.

::: Concept #1 - The Unreached
Quite simply, this concept refers to people who have a 0% chance for hearing about Jesus. Zero. No missionary, no evangelical church, no Bible radio. Most likely, they will have not even heard the name of Jesus. The rough approximation right now is that around 40% of the world is currently unreached.

Related concept - peoplegroup - breaking the population of the world into affinity groups by culture, language, worldview, etc. [versus geopolitical countries]

For more info:

::: Concept #2 - The 10/40 window
A geographic window of the world referencing those regions of the eastern hemisphere located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator. The reason that this window is important is because it contains both huge populations of those that are 'unreached' [see #1] and huge populations of the world's impoverished. This area of the world is also home to an overwhelming proportion of children and some of very harshest and most remote living conditions.

For more info:
References to the "10/40 window" on this blog

::: Concept #3 - The Current Missions Disparity
A tiny fraction of the global Church's resources are going to the unreached. The going estimate is .5% - right, half of one percent. So for every $100, fifty cents is going to support the unreached. Not just budget and spending, but human capital as well. The current disparity of both staff and spending is an important thing to keep in mind, even if you aren't necessarily going but just sending.

For more info:
Where Workers Serve

::: Concept #4 - Europe
From the European Spiritual Estimate:
- only 4.2% of Europeans follow Jesus and are actively concerned about the people around them following Jesus.
- this study estimates that there is only one Gospel Oriented church for every 27,749 people in Europe.
Although the 10/40 window is huge, Europe is quite strategic as well. People there are still interested in spirituality, just not the church, as evidenced by the recent fact that the name Muhammed is number 2 in baby boy names.

For more info:
European Christian Demographics
European Spiritual Estimate
YWAM Europe's statistics

::: Concepts #5 - Other Important Concepts
- Global, urban migration
More of the world lives in urban areas than in rural areas now, meaning that cities are more strategic than ever.

- International youth ministry
Ninety-seven percent of the world's trained youth workers live and work in the United States, ministering to less than 3% of the world's youth population.

- The African AIDS crisis.

- Don't underestimate your skill of knowing the English language.

In conclusion, we are living in unprecedented times. The problems facing humanity are large, complex and important. Hopefully, these concepts have given you a little dose of the world's realities. The first step is to understand the world. Then, gather all the creativity, resolve, innovation, risk and faith you can in order to create a future that is Jesus-centered. Humanity is counting on you.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Visiting 2007 Baltimore

I went and visited our Baltimore team tonight. They are working and serving with Chain Reaction in the northwest part of the city and seemed to be having a great time. Today, part of their time was spent helping mow, clean and weed the grounds of the local police station. Now that is pretty cool.

I just knew the Chain Reaction team was going to take care of our team and the CR folks have executed within the context of local, long term, community presence - two really huge principles that we stick with.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

At The Time

I spent this morning hanging out at a ...yes.... vacation Bible school. If you've hung around me long enough, you know I'm not a huge fan of pre archictected curriculum. Granted, I know not everyone [nor me] can write their own material... but I say, if you can come close, you should.

In any case, there is a cool church down the street from us that is running a VBS this week. And it just happens that the curriculum they are using is the same one we are helping out with in Hungary later this summer. So we signed our girls up to go to it, so they could have some fun and so we could spy. Well, not really on the 'they could have fun' part. [I'm kidding]

Our girls are having an absolute blast and the people I met at the church this morning we so kind and welcoming. The church also seemed to really have a heart for the world, integrating one of their own visiting [long term, involved in Bible translation in Burkina Faso - where there are over 60 some languages] missionary families into the VBS program.

Second funniest thing this morning - a kid's shirt that read, "At the time, it seemed like a good idea." Could be a SPACE motto.

First funniest thing this morning - someone was talking to K and pointed at me and asked her, "Is that your older brother?"

Happy 4th!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mosquitoes and Milestones

Three summers ago, I took my oldest daughter K, to spend a few days among mosquitoes, living in a tent, with no air conditioning in a Florida swamp. That's right, we took part of a Teen Missions Boot Camp. I'm proud to say that the experience so impacted her, that the mere mention of the phrase "Boot Camp", brings fright and terror to her.

That experience coincided with the first summer of SPACE and was a good precursor for my foray into replicating some kind of missions progression with GCC. It set a good stage for me in both the physical and directional movement for SPACE. Physically, the time was very difficult and challenging - fitting it's exact purpose. They make it pretty miserable on purpose - because the mission field isn't like suburban America. Florida heat, no running water, sleeping in a tent on a concrete floor, pool time for one hour a day... When traveling now, I am still relieved any time I sleep on a bed. I also appreciate bug repellent a lot more after the 160 mosquito bites between the two of us [we counted them after Boot Camp was over]. Directionally, Teen Missions certainly has a huge progression and a path to give students the practical experience for growth and the medium to get them to other cultures.

All of the above is just extra though. The most significant impact of that trip was the effect it had on K. She put her face underwater in the pool for the first time, she learned of the enormous problem of the African AIDS pandemic [back in 2004 mind you], and the experience set her up knowing that the world is a much bigger place, with much bigger problems.

This summer, Em is the same age that her sister was during Boot Camp and we had toyed with the idea of me taking both of them back and K doing the next program step up. Thankfully, it "didn't work out." Instead, following the Wind takes all of us to Hungary. 2004 was a milestone summer for K. I'm excited to see how 2007 will be another milestone summer for both K and Em, as well as us as parents.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

2007 Baltimore team departs

2 out of 5 teams in the field now. This team is serving in Baltimore with Chain Reaction and returns on Friday. England returns on Sunday.
#3 - LC team departs on 7/20.
#4 - NYC departs on 8/5.
#5 - Hungary departs on 8/8.