Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 in Posts

Personal favorite posts from 2008. It's been a pretty good year overall.

Winter Expedition
CpR Spring Retreat
Key West Action Shots
Hungary Wednesday
2008 Hungary Reflections
To The Class of 08
What I've Been Up To
Dear Girls
Vision Trekk WI

Related: 2007, 2006 in Posts.

2 in January

Starting in January, two friends of mine are leaving the country, both on quite the adventure.

Di is going to be joining the World Race for 11 months. The World Race is an offshoot of Adventures In Missions, who I have a ton of respect for.

AK [cryptic name on purpose] is going to be doing a fellowship for 6 months in Asia with one of the premier social justice organizations.

Had I continued on in my role as student missions coordinator, I would have expended a lot of effort to bring both of them on as leaders for 2009. Not only were they students from our ministry turned into leaders, they have hearts of servants, solid experience in other cultures and a disposition towards empowering students.

Oh, and they know that it's up to them. And there isn't much time left. And if you can't help them affect humanity, that's okay. They'll find another way.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Burn

::: Scientists discover new forest with undiscovered species
using Google Earth

::: Mosaic's 2009 mission experiences
Note the levels of engagement, invitation only trips and options to engage outside of actually going.

::: Emerging Leadership Initiative's church planter assessment
Collaborative among 31 different church planting networks.

2008 in Books

Here are the books I read in 2008. Not bad, not bad.

1. Hamster Revolution
System for managing your email.

2. Mind Set!
Very futuristic.

3. The Starfish and The Spider
Good, but I didn't think it was as great as some people thought. I did however appreciate the chapters on hybrids [organizations and teams that were a mix of starfish and spiders]

4. Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome
Read more like an academic paper than I expected.

5. Please Pass the Butterworms
Love Tim Cahill. Total fun.

6. Whos Your City
Very compelling info about cities and why where you live is such an important decision.

7. Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
Awesome story.

8. The Old Man and the Sea
Picked this up because of our time in Key West.

9. Serving with Eyes Wide Open
Great book to help prep cross cultural teams.

10. Emergence

11. Culture Makers*

12. Seven Habits of Effective Families
Need to finish this one.

13. Three Cups of Tea
Another great story about someone giving up everything to serve.

14. Type Talk [post]
If you love the MBTI, you will LOVE this book.

15. The New Conspirators

16. The Shack
Great story. Depressing and shocking at the beginning though.

17. Uprising [again]

18. Outliers*

19. Organic Community*

20. Wild Goose Chase
Loved it. Batterson nails dreaming, adventure and going again.

21. The Truth About You [post]

Related: 2007 in books
* Will be trying to post some notes on these eventually.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Burn

:: Cell Phone Blood Tester
Using only an LED, plastic light filter and some wires, scientists at UCLA have modded a cellphone into a portable blood tester capable of detecting HIV, malaria and other illnesses.

:: Helping 1bn of the poorest see better
What if it were possible, he thought, to make a pair of glasses which, instead of requiring an optician, could be "tuned" by the wearer to correct his or her own vision? Might it be possible to bring affordable spectacles to millions who would never otherwise have them?
The implications of bringing glasses within the reach of poor communities are enormous, says the scientist. Literacy rates improve hugely, fishermen are able to mend their nets, women to weave clothing.
Link via Ben

:: Serving with an NGO or the US government?
This test probably will give you a good idea on how well you will do.

You Have to Drive the Bus

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great among other books, is famous for the principle of "First Who, Then What," better known as Getting The Right People on the Bus.
The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.
It's a fabulous lens with which to see a very challenging principle. Here's the thing though - sometimes, YOU have to drive the bus, even when you don't feel like it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

One Rail At A Time

The single decorated rail at my parents house, after the girls went there to celebrate Christmas early with them. Celebrate = reading the story of Christmas from the Bible and "turning Grandpa into a believer."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Virtuoso Teams

Traditional teams typically operate under the tyranny of the "we"—that is, they put group consensus and constraint above individual freedom. Team harmony is important; conviviality compensates for missing talent. This produces teams with great attitudes and happy members, but, to paraphrase [Max] Liebman [Broadway producer], "from a polite team comes a polite result." - Fischer and Boynton, "Virtuoso Teams," Harvard Business Review, July-August 2005as quoted in Organic Community, Joseph Myers

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Your Portfolio

From the NY Times 2008 in Ideas...
Zeke M. Vanderhoek, the founding principal of the Equity Project Charter School, opening next fall in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, says he wants to attract "highly qualified individuals "to teach at his school. To be hired, according to the school’s Web site, you need to be able to prove you have "expert subject-area knowledge," present a "portfolio of achievement of past students" and score above 90 percent on the verbal section of a graduate-school entrance test... [emphasis mine]
I'm interested in your portfolio of past students - because your role with students is just as important as a teacher, if not more. Does your portfolio of achievement have students that:

- aren't afraid to try new things and perhaps even fail at a few of them.
- serve the marginalized and build momentum for their friends to do the same.
- leverage their understanding of culture and context for the sake of others.
- act as though the sake of the world is in their hands.

Because your past performance is the best indicator for your future success.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And Even More Mission Support Letter Metrics

Ok.... even more data.... For what it's worth...

First, some contextual notes about the data:
+ Support raising for oveseas teams, not domestic. Domestic data points were filtered out.
+ Majority of team members are high school kids. Support base is therefore going to include families [support letters sent to your best friends' parents, etc.]
+ Demographics include affluent part of the US [mid atlantic], home church is a large suburban church.

$ Total Donations:$26731$23409$38806$110295
# of Donations:381277385732
# of Teams:2123
# People:18133251
# Donations/Person:21211214
# Donations/Team: 190277192244
$ Support/Person:$1,485$1,801$1,213$2,163
$ Avg Donation:$70$85$101$151

A few observations:
+ 2007 and 2008 saw a drop in the # of donations per person. I suspect this has a direct correlation to how many letters each team member sends out. The support letter process is one that has a direct relationship between effort and result.
+ 2008 saw an increase in average donation [not to mention an increase in expenses.] Even in a troubled economy.
+ I think that the trend of average donation increasing is largely due to momentum as our process for student missions matured. You would see similar trends for the number of students involved, number of returning leaders, etc. People notice other people getting serious.

Feel free to use this as you need for some kind of sounding board if you track the same kind of thing.

Related: Personal Mission Support Letter Metrics.
My Support Letters - 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bowling and Malaria Nets

For all the heartache we give our first daughter, K [and that's part of our job as parents...] she's a pretty amazing kid. Her birthday is coming up and we decided to have a party at the local bowling alley because none of us have foot fetishes like we should. Anyway, this year, instead of collecting gifts, she loved the idea of having her friends donate something to a worthy cause. We thought of hats and mittens, canned food, and other stuff, but finally decided on having her friends donate to purchase malaria nets, if they wanted. For $5, each friend can have a malaria net donated, via AOET, a nonprofit org serving the AIDS crisis in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.

Here's the creative stuff D did for the invite:
Kt's inviting you to
Celebrate another year,
So bring yourself and
All your good cheer!

A gift is not necessary
But if you would like
A donation for a mosquito net
For an African child

It's a small donation
$5 will do
It will keep an entire family protected
From Malaria - a gift from you!

With passionate heart
To serve those in need,
This will honor her most
On her birthday indeed!

Happy Birthday, Kt!
(Any donations will be used to purchase a mosquito net for a family in Uganda through a program our church supports, AOET. Thank you!)
It's a lot of fun to parent children like this. If you would like to make a donation to celebrate with Kt, I'm sure she would love it. Email or leave a comment.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hosts With the Most

Hosting teams is a difficult job. Besides providing basic food and lodging, most hosts are significantly invested in the mission of the team, which raises the logistically complexity of playing the host role. This includes finding meaningful tasks that fit with the overall project, plugging the right people into the right job, an almost-constant-conducting and arranging of people, resources and tasks. Not to mention the work before the team even arrives. And let's not even talk about how to entertain teams in their downtime.

Most hosts are done when teams leave. But the really great hosts leverage their connection. They see their role not as hotel desk clerks but as teacher-mentor-dorm parents, knowing that they can tap an unseen potential that will serve a greater cause. Great hosts offer advice, insight and perspective to their teams. They ask for feedback on the experience from team leaders - and they act on it. They relate, challenge and inspire - long after their teams have left.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday Burn

::: Eating on one dollar a day - in Encinitas, CA.
[Most updates from September 2008 but still a fascinating read.]

::: The Skid Row Photography Club
Skid Row is a massive, permanent homeless encampment in downtown Los Angeles - the largest such community in the United States. About 8-9,000 homeless people live there.
Link via BoingBoing

::: Fast Company's Social Enterprises of the Year

::: Today is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mission Support Letter Metrics - 2008

The holidays will be over in a few weeks or so. You know what that means, don't you? Mission support letter mania. To help those of you involved in that, below are some updated mission support letter metrics, based on my personal support letters. [One of the google searches coming to my blog reminded me about this fun topic.]

1992: - 28 - 09 - 32% - ????? - ? - ?
1993: - 19 - ?? - ??? - $ 1100 - ? - ?
2000: - 20 - 08 - 40% - $ 350 - $ 575 - 165%
2002: - 16 - 08 - 50% - $ 425 - $ 675 - 158%
2004: - 23 - 09 - 40% - $ 300 - $ 630 - 210%
2005: - 34 - 18 - 52% - $ 2000 - $ 1580 - 80%
2006: - 50 - 18 - 36% - $ 2400 - $ 2475 - 103%
2007: - 70 - 30 - 42% - $ 7100 - $ 6199 - 87%
2008: - 70 - 30 - 42% - $10000 - $ 7920 - 79%

[Note that 1992 and 1993 are missing some data and 2007/2008 support goals were for a family of 4.]

A few other interesting points:
+ We've had a few supporters contribute via getting the news in a medium different than a physical support letter [and contribute electronically] - it's not a lot but still. In other words, you should spend some time making connections digitally. But if you are reading this blog, this hopefully isn't news to you.
+ Best case seems to be around 50% response.
+ Support is never a function of how many people are moved by your letter. It's always a function of how many people are moved by your life.

I may have some more info on this topic later on - I've got five years of data that might be fun to dig into.

Related: Historical Mission Support Letters [2008, 2007, 2006, 2005]

Monday, December 08, 2008

Try This - Intersect Students and Kids

What: Take your students somewhere [literally or figuratively] where they will serve children. Preschoolers are the most fun, elementary age may be where they both connect the best.

Why: Teenagers usually love serving little kids and they usually have a blast doing it. You'll see some kind of sparks when they go out of their way to make something fun for kids. Kids need to see high school students living bigger lives. And, just in case, you didn't realize, kids are a different culture - use this as a launching point for discussing culture. Even better, get your students to talk about the world to the kids they are serving. Students inspiring kids is the Kingdom on an exponential order.

How I've seen it: Impromptu park ministry [be smart about this though - always in groups, have official contact info to give to parents, etc.], volunteer at some kind of community event, help run some vacation Bible schools, church summer camps, etc.

Extra Credit: Form a deep, consistent partnership with the children's ministry from your church. Experiment with the intersection of students and kids and make sure you fall flat on your face at least once.

My Never Implemented Dreams: Use our students to do some "teaching" in children's Sunday mornings for exposure to the world and their experiences; setup consistent partnerships with local elementary schools and our students to assist in scheduled and routine ways [although this did happen with one school]; SPACE camp - a three day once in the summer day camp with elements about world cultures, global issues and ways for elementary kids to make a difference.

Other Inspirations:
ExCalibur - in Aix, France
Illuminate, a creative arts camp from Mosaic LA

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Burn

::: Flip Video Camera for NonProfits
The company will offer non-profit partners two camcorders for the price of one in order to document the work they're doing.
Link via YPulse

::: Neil Cole is blogging

::: Salt iodization and the global IQ
Almost one-third of the world's people don't get enough iodine from food and water. The result in extreme cases is large goiters that swell their necks, or other obvious impairments such as dwarfism or cretinism. But far more common is mental slowness.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Excitement of the Start

This past weekend, I chatted with a good friend of mine who is co-leading a mission team to Africa this coming summer. I've been very informally helping him through the process and they are on the very front end of it at this point - just finalized the partnership, assembling the team, thinking about logistics and budget, etc. It's been therapeutic for me to relive all those emotions you feel at the beginning of such a big project - joy, anticipation, responsibility, trying to keep your breakfast down. It's also helped me remember some of the important pieces we learned last summer, like all the summers before.

I shared these with my friend and will also be implementing these best practices the next time I'm involved with teams:
- Mandatory deadline - support letters - support stuff gets out in a very short time frame after the teams are official
- Concentrated energy towards support via digital platforms - Facebook, blogs, etc. - hard copy of support letters are great for those supporters over the age of 40
- Milestone - X percentage of support raised by a certain date - line this date up so it's before plane tickets are purchased
- optimal team sizes for travel
Of course, these things are important but not central.

Yes, therapeutic. And catalytic.

Photo: ARotolo, JLucht and Kt, City Hall, Vienna, Austria, Europe. July 2008.

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day 2008

Today is World AIDS Day. Learn more here. Also, check out this article highlighting AIDS and global slavery - via the IJM Institute.

No matter your passion - economics, logistics, medicine, engineering, communications, aid and development - this global problem [like other global issues] could use you, your experience and your talents.

Friday, November 28, 2008


This Thanksgiving, I'm starting to understand that I'm really thankful for influence. I'm thankful that God has blessed me with the enormous responsibility and privilege to influence a few. Of course, that starts at home. What a gift and experience to be able to mold and shape two of God's most abundant blessings - my two daughters. At many times, it's overwhelming and thinking about it for too long can drive a person crazy - all of that responsibility. But it is what it is - and I'm convinced that my kids are meant for great destinys with the backdrop of an epic story and a role that only they can play. And my role as a dad, and our role as parents, is unique in the same way

I'm also thankful for D and her influence. Not only the way that she thinks, communicates and her intuition - all huge elements of direction. But I'm thankful that she is a true patron of influence. In the same way that history refers to 'patron saints' - those that intercede or advocate for others - D has been a huge advocate for those with influence - especially me. When it comes to activities, learnings or people that will sharpen our [you and me] influence, she is our biggest fan and the investment and sacrifice is always worth it. She truly sees far and away - molding the right people now to have more influence later takes seeing life through a special lens.

Finally, I'm thankful for you - the others outside of our family that have given us enormous gifts of trust. For our friends in SPACE, readers of this blog and others within our realm of community, I'm grateful for you, your willingness to listen and learn, to ask for guidance, to be open to being led, to being a part of God's great story. Like my kids, having your trust in me for guidance, advice and inspiration is huge. But believe me when I say that I trust you all the more.... trusting that you will make a mark in human history. Trusting that the future will be different because of you - for that, I'm so thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

College Currents

We've had a great time over the past weekend catching up with some of our students who have left the nest to go away to uni. Here's some currents:

- TriciaB - 08 - high school small group girls leader, involved in Cru and got connected with the Traveling Team.
- LeslieB - 05 - leading an all girls mission team to SF in the Spring.
- ESunde - 06 - serving as an RA in an international dorm, spending the Spring semester at the Sorbonne in Paris.
- MKlassen - 08 - added Urban Development to her Econ major so she can practically learn how to serve the least, connected at school with a personal discipler [sounds corny unless you are into guiding and mentoring - wait still sounds a bit corny.]

If you know any of them, you probably agree - this is going to get even more fun.

Try This - Global Orbit

Does your church have an extended piece of your community living intentionally in another part of the world?
Does your student/college ministry have two or three very mature students interested in global missions, culture and mission that have participated in some level of cultural engagement, spiritual formation and are well prepared to contribute to your community on a global scale?

If so, send these students on a global orbit.

- Two or three students - mini team.
- Two or three weeks at a specific location serving with a family/team from your community.
- Depending on logistics, two or three specific locations - meaning about 6-9 weeks total. Or more. Do a subset of your global partners. In a few years, do it again with another group of partners.
- You are sending a piece of your local community to serve and bless the part of your global community that have left home to reach those that aren't reached yet.
- Intention of students are to serve and learn as much as they can. They don't do this unless they are willing to give their lives away. This is not summer camp.
- Part of participating is within three weeks of return: a detailed written report to your leadership [pastors, elders, mission board, etc.] and presentation to your body, both about their experience, what is happening at each global site and what their intention is for the future.
- These reports should also include: what is working well and not working at all, how the local culture is important, what measurements define success.
- Check into round the world flights. Have one dedicated person at home to help with logistics issues meaning they are prepared with Skype, text messaging, direct line to a travel agency and love to be woken up in the middle of the night to hear from some young people that are experience life to the fullest.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Core Score

In a previous life [SPACE], I felt it was important to measure two things. [And I hoped that the people that we brought on as leaders understood why these were essential.]

1 - How many people come back to serve out of their natural inclination after an experience we had provided?

2 - How many leaders returned?

Inspired by this post, I think there might need to be a third core score.
3 - Which leaders are creating leaders and how many are they creating?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Review - The Truth About You

The Truth About You is Marcus Buckingham's latest book. If you didn't know already, I'm a huge Marcus fan. His ideas about strengths have continually helped me try to shape more effective teams and his book The One Thing You Need to Know still stands out to me as one of the best leadership books that I have ever read. The Truth About You is a quick, short read that encapsulates more ideas about 'playing to your strengths' in a way that is concise, easily readable and multi-dimensional.

One dimension included in this book is a DVD of Marcus talking for about 20 minutes through the concepts. I made my kids sit and watch this - my ten year old mostly listened and my seven year old played Polly Pockets. Well, you can't win them all.

Another dimension included is the "ReMemo Pad" which serves as a hands-on journal for the reader to jot down reactions to every day tasks. What did you love and what did you hate and why? And what does that mean in terms of your passions, talents and strengths?

There were three ideas from the book that stood out to me:
- Push yourself within your comfort zone.
Strengths are your comfort zone - where you have the greatest capacity to learn and grow.
- Key question: What will I be paid to do?
And then ask yourself: Can I see myself doing these actual activities and How can I use my three strengths to get this job done?
- The best teams have lots of I's in them.
Lots of individuals that know their strengths and volunteer these strengths to the team.

This book seems ideally suited for a young person, perhaps a high school or college student on the verge of big life impact decisions. Most of the material will get you thinking about yourself and the life you intend to live. Although not very deep, the insights in this book also have value if you are a seasoned leader. Some of the ideas may spur you on to be more intentional with how you build teams, how you measure your work or helping a person you work with refine their calling.

[I received this book via the Thomas Nelson book review bloggers program.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

D-Plum dot org

I had lunch with Darren Plummer yesterday. Darren is the lead pastor of Mosaic Community Church in College Park, MD [that's him on the left.] They have been in existence for about 18 months and there is some neat stuff going on there.

It was fun to share about our mutual connections and influences and Darren's got a sharp focus on the gift of diversity, reproducing the committed and growing a community in a college town. If you are in the area, you should check them out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It's been about two months since I stepped down from SPACE and I'm happy to report that it's been a good time. I've certainly missed the SPACE persona - the one about responsibility and leading and a community of wonderful students. But overall, not too much has changed about that since our relationships with these people transcend a formal 'ministry.'

The past few months have also included some evaluation. I've posted a bit about that before. What I haven't written about before is our wrestling with the question of our particular local church and whether we think it's the right fit for us anymore. That is a tough question to ask - it's also tough to tell people you are even asking that question. After investing the past 11 years at GCC, the past five with SPACE and four before that with a small group of high school boyz, and now having our own personal kids who are almost old enough to be in the middle school ministry, walking away from this kind of community will never be easy. However, we'd like to think that we are committed to being fully engaged. Walking away from something you don't believe in any more would be better than just attending. If you don't believe in it, you can certainly still show up - and part of you will die in the process.

In God's really funny sense of humor, around the same time I stepped down from SPACE, I was invited, with a group of other young men, to be a part of a GCC elder intern experiment. The experiment lasts for one year and is a chance to see if serving on the elder team is a good fit for the specific young men as well as the existing team. At the end of the year, either party can choose to decline. And of course, it would be a mistake to join something like that if you don't feel called to your particular community. So on to it - I've signed up - and yes, I'm probably as surprised as you are. Instead of many good opportunities to be involved in next - an IMN cohort, pursue an MAGL [way too much work], Vision Trekk guide, start a nonprofit, volunteer efforts for a mission agency [and some of these might get done anyway], there it is. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of the missions coaching [very similar to this past weekend at Salisbury Cru] will still continue because well... that's pretty essential to me.

I suspect it will be a cool opportunity to use some of my experience, talents and passion for leadership for our community. The nice thing is that it is an experiment or trial. Other than that, I have no idea what I'm getting myself into [like what's new about that...]

What I do know is that for all of her faults, for all the things many of us hate about the sterile, irrelevant, country club idea of "church", for the crisis the American church is currently in, I still believe that the Church is worth serving, leading and sacrificing for. And for that battle - for the essence of what God intends GCC to become - I'm all in.

Salisbury Cru = Plan A

We had a great time with Salisbury Cru this past weekend. Major highlights include sharing with them at Thursday large group, doing a quick MBTI and global culture workshop on Friday evening and serving at a local soup kitchen with them on Saturday morning.

Here's a quick list of what I learned or was reminded about again:
+ Salisbury Cru knows how to worship.
+ College students are far more well versed in community impact than we think sometimes. Every person that went to the soup kitchen with us on Saturday had done something like this before.
+ Community sometimes develops best when you and your friends serve someone besides yourselves.

I also learned that sometimes, Plan A actually works out. With no plan, we broke in to a church kitchen [literally] on Saturday morning and were immediately put to work. Not only that, JMoy got connected with Salisbury Urban Ministries, which serves around 600 families every month, within 10 minutes of the university. And I think D is right - JMoy might be anointed.

We had a great time as a family too, exploring Ocean City, Rehoboth Beach and all things beach - skeeball, funnel cakes and fresh squeezed lemonade.

Photo: The team after managing to get into the church kitchen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Try This - Party at the Laundromat

lots of quarters
washing detergent
dryer sheets
good attitudes

live band
disco ball
[you make up the rest...]

What: throw a huge party at your local laundromat. Invite those that are less fortunate to bring their clothes so that you and your team can wash them one evening at no charge to them. This might mean washing clothes of homeless people. Enjoy getting to know them and having fun while you work.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The 27 Percent

27% of the world's population is currently 15 years old and under, most of them living outside of the US. And doing things that we couldn't ever imagine the teenagers we know doing.

Things like farming to make a living or caring for numerous younger siblings because both of their parents have died or being kidnapped to fight in wars and rumors of wars or doing the unspeakable because a 200 year old family debt cannot be paid off. Doing whatever it takes to simply survive.

Instead, here in the Western world, we coddle our adolescents. We make excuses for them, we frame them in tiny stories, we believe the minimum about them. We don't think they have what it takes. We set a standard that is negative.

God, we need to be forgiven.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Salisbury This Weekend

We're off to hang with Salisbury Campus Crusade this weekend. I'm speaking at their large group on Thursday evening, doing an informal mission workshop on Friday and participating with them in some kind of service project on Saturday. Salisbury has historically been a very catalytic environment for a lot of college students that we know and it will be neat to see it first hand.

It should be a lot of fun - they are putting us up in a hotel with a pool and we'll have to go to the beach and eat Tony's Pizza. Too bad Funland is closed for the season. But at least, we'll get D near the water and sand....

[Photo via mmahaffie]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Burn

::: Flu Trends
Now I'll have enough time to stock up and food and water in my basement. Again...

::: The first malaria vaccine
Link via FP

::: IJM Institute's blog
look specifically at the "Global Neighborhood News" posts. That's fun!
Link via Ben Arment

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Do You Really Like Checklists?

Transition plans suffocate a framework. If you have a program and a key leader leaves, you need a transition plan. You need something telling certain people to do certain things. Checklists that are measured and accurate.

Instead, a framework provides markers to navigate with. It's not exact nor is it always predictable. Most of the time it's contextually driven and it will usually force your team to be more engaged.

The choice is yours. And you still have time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

5 Questions about Cultural Goods

1. What does this cultural good assume about the way the world is? What part of the world is it trying to add to, build upon, or improve upon? What existing cultural goods does it rely upon for its own existence?

2. What does this cultural good assume about the way the world should be? What values drove its creators?

3. What does this cultural good make possible?

4. What does this cultural good make impossible, or at least a lot more difficult?

5. Finally, what new cultural goods are created in response? That is, now that this good is in the world, what will people go on to create that they wouldn’t have before?
From Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Burn

::: Competition for resources or increasing the size of the pie
We've seen an unprecedented growth in global wealth in the last two decades: there are currently 95,000 ultra-high net worth individuals in the world – people with $30 million or more of investable assets. On top of that, there are more than $60 trillion worth of investment assets in the market today, with an increasing amount of this money thinking more long-term about the big problems facing the world: energy and water scarcity, greenhouse gases, global commodity shortages, healthcare and education delivery, poverty alleviation…you name it.
Link from Seth Godin

::: The World's Youngest Leaders
Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (Feb. 21, 1980)
Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit (June 8, 1972)
The DRC's President Joseph Kabila (June 4, 1971)
Macedonia's Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (Aug. 31, 1970)
Nauru's President Marcus Stephen (Oct. 1, 1969)
Swaziland's King Mswati III (April 19, 1968)
Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili (Dec. 21, 1967)
Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe (June 6, 1966)
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev (May 5, 1966)
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (Sept. 14, 1965
Just so you know, I'm about the same age as the president of Nauru. And up until now, I had never heard of Nauru before...

::: Find the other side of the world

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What I'm Reading

I figured out that I hadn't really read a book from March until September. That's a pretty disturbing trend since I really believe that leaders are readers. Luckily, I've been picking up a lot of books recently. Here's my reading of late:

+ The Seven Habits of Effective Families
+ Culture Making
+ Wild Goose Chase
+ Type Talk
+ The Shack
+ Three Cups of Tea
+ Uprising [again]
+ More Than Me [SPACE 2005 Brasil host GMcM is one of the authors]

Monday, November 03, 2008

Try This - Reverse Missions

What: Host a team in your local community. Put your experience, connections and network to use by playing mission host to partner team.

Once you've got some partnerships and trust going with other organizations, ministries, etc. you can pull this off. Instead of your team going, have your team host. Host homes, tour of the local sights, serving with local, indigenous ministries in your community [this might take some heavy lifting to get off the ground, but you can do it.]
The Columbia, MD plan looked something like: DC for a few days - serving with local ministry friends, NYC for a few days including visits with a few ethnic churches and serving with some friends up there.
This might actually require an even greater amount of involvement and engagement from your team than if you went somewhere. You'll also understand first hand what an enormous job it is to host teams. That's always a good experience.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Burn

::: Ethan Zuckerman - Seven rules that appear to help explain how developing world innovation proceeds:
- innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)
- don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.)
- embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.)
- innovate on existing platforms (We’ve got bicycles and mobile phones in Africa, plus lots of metal to weld. Innovate using that stuff, rather than bringing in completely new tech.)
- problems are not always obvious from afar (You really have to live for a while in a society where no one has currency larger than a $1 bill to understand the importance of money via mobile phones.)
- what you have matters more than what you lack (If you’ve got a bicycle, consider what you can build based on that, rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck, a metal shop.)
- infrastructure can beget infrastructure (By building mobile phone infrastructure, we may be building power infrastructure for Africa - see my writings on incremental infrastructure.)

::: A new reality for aid workers

::: Historic images of Paris

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What Have I Done to Them?

The other night, I went in to Em's bedroom and found this - a world map transparency on her mirror.

Book Review - Three Cups of Tea

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." - Persian proverb

Fabulous book - highly recommended. Many of you readers would love this book. The author tells an amazing story that intertwines dreams of the future, incredible resolve, and immersion into a different culture all for the sake of building schools so that girls in Pakistan could be educated. Of course, the bigger backdrop is about empowerment, tangible skills and the way a society changes when females are educated. This is a great story of one man and what it takes to implement the girl effect.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I believe that:

+ When God wants something done, He is going to raise up a person and a team of people to do it.
+ That each person is created infinitely unique and created to be creative. Because we are created in the image of the One that creates, all of us have an intrinsic ability to do something different from everyone else. Yes, potentially everyone.
And also, creativity is a distinct difference from artistry. Case in point - I don't have one artistic bone in my body - I cannot draw, paint, sculpt, and can hardly color. But I like to imagine and experiment.
+ If you keep doing the things that you are doing, you will get the same results. If you want different results, you need to do something else. Perhaps, you need to create, instead of maintain.
+ There are businesses, ministries, and entire industries that have not even been imagined yet. But they will be.
+ If our [yours and mine] influence puts limits on the creativity of God's people, we all lose.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Try This - Serving the Homeless

What: Serve the homeless.
Why: Because jesus said to care for the poor. Every major metro area has a segment of homeless and in fact, homelessness is much more prevalent in suburbs than most imagine. Most of our students have no idea that this is a huge segment of the world. Movements always begin at society's fringe.
How: Each kid packs two lunches. Give a lunch away and sit down and start eating with your new friends. Keep a box of granola bars in your car - give them away when you run into people. Watch how your own kids respond.
Other partnership ideas - team up with a local homeless soup kitchen, shelter, etc.
The next level - at a minimum, you might only provide a meal. On the other extreme, you might end up moving into someone's life or partnering with a local, indigenous holistic homeless ministry. However, do this consistently at the same spot every week, and you might make inroads to real community.

Oh and... sometimes, our local chick-fil-a would give us tons of mustard/mayo packs for our sandwiches.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


From 2003 to 2008, Tony Sheng served as the coordinator of student missions for a local church, investing in students in the areas of culture, global missions and leadership through a ministry called SPACE. During his tenure with SPACE, he helped form a student missions ethos based on partnership, cultural engagement and long term perspective. With a sharp focus on leadership, he pioneered the following:

- the use of the StrengthsFinder and Myers Briggs Type Indicator as tools for leaders and teams to optimize performance and impact, not only with his mission teams but throughout his faith community.
- Mission Advance - a weekend long collective training experience for all summer teams.
- funding and support guidelines and support materials, including two experimental support-based events.
- initiating some of the first teams to visit and serve GCC long term missionaries.

He is also a technology professional and lives in Columbia, MD, USA with his wife and two daughters. He is currently involved in very informal mission/leadership guiding and coaching and is part of an elder internship program for the 2008-2009 year.

MB type: E N T/F J
StrengthsFinder: Developer, Woo, Futurist, Positivity, Arranger

+ Connect : [tonytsheng at gmail dot com] : LinkedIn : Twitter

Thursday Burn

All from the November 2008 issue of Fast Company. You should be reading this magazine too.

::: - the global platform for human rights media and action
YouTube for human rights - founded by musician Peter Gabriel

::: Reconfiguring Cashews
"And we're working on how we can simplify packaging and save on fuel. We just reconfigured our cashews. They were in a round canister, and we put them in a square canister. It sounds crazy, but we saved something like 560 truckloads a year of that one product. That's significant savings."
- Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco

::: Design, social business and the world's big problems

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vision Trekk Wisconsin

I had a great time at Vision Trekk Wisconsin this past weekend. The focus of the weekend was to learn a bit more about how to guide people through their personal results of the StrengthsFinder, Myers Briggs Type Indicator and APEST assessments, all in an effort for personal and leadership development as individuals, teams and leaders. The weekend was held at Green Lake Conference Center, about 90 miles north west of Milwaukee - GLCC has it's own interesting story of renewal and mission.

Working through the assessments also included a larger backdrop of spiritual formation including Erwin McManus' The Character Matrix and Alan Hirsch's Missional Incarnational Impulse Frame. Although it's important that leaders guide people through knowing themselves, character and mission form a vital context for influence. A core value of the weekend was also "movement" and therefore, many of the skills we learned were meant to be implemented "on the move." There was very little classroom time - instead most of our learnings were out in the woods. Cold, Wisconsin woods.

I can't divulge a lot of what we actually did this weekend, since I think for some of you readers, a Vision Trekk would be a really fun thing for you to experience [Developer.] Suffice to say that even as someone who has worked with lots of teams - building, recruiting, walking them through exercises so they work together better - I was pleasantly surprised at a few of the elements of the weekend. I didn't expect them at all and they helped bring the knowledge into reality.

There are a few other steps in the process to officially become a VT Guide - we'll see where that all goes. Besides the fun of being Mr. Cubicle trying to keep up with a ton of adrenaline junkies, it was a lot of fun to be immersed in this type of leadership community for a weekend - lots of these people are doing transformational things and it will be neat to see how God uses each of them for impact [Futuristic]. I also got to spend a ton of time with my friend FrankW, who is a church planter in Paris, France. We talked lots about mission, culture, teams, family and how he won't room with another Extrovert anytime soon. [Well, maybe I did most of the talking...]

If you are looking to engage your team along the lines of leadership, adventure, Strengths, personality and impact, a Vision Trekk could be for you. Get in touch with me to find out more.

More ideas that I'm documenting here for myself [and maybe for you]:
pilgrim bands [Tom Bandy]
The glory of God is man, fully alive - Irenaeus [Wild at Heart]
John 10 - gatekeeper - shelter inside the gate - impact outside the gate
'Without giving our lives away, we risk becoming little more than many possibilities that slept.'
'Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.' - CS Lewis

Images: ENTJ - big time E, barely T; my team during the urban trek phase, outside of an Octagon house that was part of the Underground Railroad, Ripon, WI.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

20/20 Vision for Schools

Long time readers know that Jeremy Del Rio is a friend and co-conspirator. I've watched from a distance the past few months as he has launched the 20/20 Vision for Schools initiative. Initiative is one good way to term it. A better description might be movement.

Here are a few movement bullets from the 20/20 vision presentation:
::: 20/20 Elements include Vocational Calling, School Engagement, Student Leadership
::: Cities lack traditional, paid, full-time youth ministers but no shortage of kids.
Therefore, redefine youth minister.
Anyone God trusts to have a meaningful relationship with a young person is a youth minister.
::: 50-80% of every congregation is already directly connected to a school
::: What school needs can your church can continually serve?
Examples: Tutoring, Mentoring, After-School, Arts, Music, Coaching, Advocacy, Parent Training, Leadership Classes, Organizing
More at the 20/20 vision links on Jeremy's blog.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Try This - Leadership Urban Plunge

What: a leadership urban plunge
Take your core leaders for a weekend to a new city
Give them a budget and access to the internet for a few hours the first evening - and challenge them to come up with a plan to make a kingdom difference with this money - and they have to set it up last minute, now.
Give them an experience for serving, reaching, and moving in ambuguity, the unknown and a new environment.
Treat the city as an exercise in immersing in a different culture. Take advantage of the natural diversity.
Why: Because leadership of the future will most likely be in an urban context and will have to navigate among many unknowns, learning and growing as they go.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vision Trekk Guide Training

Vision Trekk is an identity centered leadership development program that combines elements of adventure travel with instruments and assessments to better understand who you are, what your style is, where you are best fit and why you lead.
I'm flying out to Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin late next week to participate in guide training for Vision Trekk. I originally connected with the VT guys during our first summer in Hungary - they are on retainer with Christian Associates to come in and optimize and catalyze all their church planting teams. Not only are they serious about contextual leadership development, they realize that their investment spans an impact of generations and nations.

I'm looking forward to getting some formal training with each one of the assessments [StrengthsFinder, Myers Briggs and APEST.] Long time readers remember that we have used the first two assessments with many SPACE teams and leaders and I think my experience is only the tip of the iceberg. Combine all three tools together, contextualize it among a team, all while serving in a different culture and you fire on an amazing amount of potential. It's going to be like a weekend of Tony-Sheng-graduate-school.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dear Girls

I hope you remember our trip to Europe this past summer as another amazing time for our family of traveling, serving and experiencing life together. I know that your mum and I had such a great time - we loved that we could all pour our lives out to invest in friends around the world.

Among so many other memories, I hope that you remember:
- Kt : How your heart broke about those homeless people in the park in Paris. And that when you couldn't finish your sandwich later that day, we saved it with that juice box. And a few minutes later, you gave both to that man near the Eiffel Tower. It really didn't matter to him that you had eaten right from it. Sometimes we already have what others need.
- Em : When you jumped out of the subway train, all by yourself. Lucky - for all of us - we were able to grab you before the doors shut. Probably one day, you will have to walk through those doors alone to do only what you can do.


Thursday Burn

::: Community Service and college apps
It matters. And to colleges too.

::: "Every church will contextualize. The question is what year will you contextualize to."
- Mark Driscoll via Ben Arment

::: "Between you and the year 3000 AD stand only 13 lifetimes. In terms of lifetimes — which are steadily increasing due to medical progress — 10 centuries is just next door."
- Kevin Kelly via Andy Crouch

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Try This - Community Icons

What: What are the icons of religion in your community? Statues, parks, worship buildings of other religions. Take an afternoon tour of these sites with your students. This may require you to do some prework with regard to the significance for each one of these sites. For extra credit - contact in advance one of the worship buildings of another religion and ask them if you can go on a tour. For even more credit, weave in a discussion on third spaces.
This opens up discussions on what kind of religions exist with people your kids go to school with.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Book Notes - Type Talk

Most of you know how much I love the Myers Briggs. These notes are mostly for me - from Type Talk.

If you are new to the Myers Briggs, this link is a good introduction. Having used the tool for the past 15 years in all kinds of individual and team settings, I'm still learning how to leverage it for helping people understand themselves better and how to work together better in team contexts.

I used to score ENFJ but now score ENTJ. In other words I used to be more fluffy and fun.
We believe the T-F function to be the one most closely related to how intimacy is defined: an F wants to experience intimacy, a T wants to understand it.

Js and Ps
1. Perceivers must generate alternatives. This is their true nature.
2. Judgers, after listening to P's alternatives, take charge. Ps will be grateful for this, as it helps them focus on what they want or don't want.
3. It is the nature of Js to moan. They must complain immediately if something interrupts their schedule or changes their plan.
4. The 'hit-and-run' method - in which you introduce a new idea to a J, then leave the room for a few minutes - allows the J necessary time to moan without getting into a needless interpersonal conflict.

Sensors are impatient with fanciful schemes; iNtuitives are impatient with many details.

Organizations whose goal setting is determined largely by Judging types often turn into the slow-gain, solid, steady, Fortune 500 types. P-type goal setting often leads to organizations that are high-risk, rapid turnover, innovative and sensitive to changing markets and trends.

Perceivers don't always say exactly what they mean. In typological terms, Ps, as their name implies, usually share their perceptions instead of their judgments and think they sound more definite than they actually do - particularly as far as Js are concerned - because they need to hear very definite concise statements.

An SJ - I love schedules. I make them and I stick to them. I can tell you exactly where I'm going to be at six o'clock tonight.
An NJ - I love schedules too but I don't stick to them. I always have a schedule but I'm always changing it.

ENTP - A few years ago at our wedding, one ENTP couple showed up a day early. Another ENTP gave us our present a year and a half later, although she purchased it a month before the wedding. As iNtuitive-Perceivers, ENTPs aren't particular well grounded in specific, time-oriented details.

A key thing to understand about Introverts: They need to do everything at their own pace, a pace that is internally directed. When the pace is dictated by others, problems can result.

J parents - P children: Perhaps a better technique - and one that speaks to Js needs for structure - is to make a list of all the areas in which the child needs shaping up. Negotiate which demands the child can meet. The danger, for a J, is to make each demand as important as the other, without recognizing the need for trade-offs.

Sensors, true to their names, tend to be more in tune with the sensual aspects of a party - what people wear, table decorations, the food. iNtuitives tend to be far more tuned into the event as a whole - who is there and who isn't, what's going on, with whom can they talk or dance, are there any good contacts they should make, how it's all going to end. They are more in tune with the overall ambiance than with its specific components.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Try This - Culture Exchange

Now that I'm no longer in charge of any student missions initiatives, I can actually impart some ideas for mission, culture and leadership without feeling like I'm spilling the beans. Like anything else on this blog - take it and use it if you want.

What: A Culture Exchange
Why: Because the world is full of different cultures. The more effective your students get at navigating cultural differences, the more successful they will be in life.

Details: two or more teams of students
doesn't matter where they live or come from
share their favorite:
clothing style
bring something from your context that is unique

Deeper: talk about worldview
What are some significant elements of their culture that symbolize how they think life works?

Friday, October 03, 2008


+ Would clear the accumulated debt of the 49 poorest countries in the world ($375bn) twice over.
+ Is almost 5 times the annual amount of extra aid needed to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals on poverty, health, education etc ($150bn a year)
+ Is about 7 years of current global aid levels ($104bn in 2007)
+ Is enough to eradicate all world poverty for over two years (UNDP calculates it would take $300bn to get the entire world population over the $1 a day poverty line).
via Marginal Revolution

I Wish I Knew

Evaluation. Lots of questions we are working through. Such as:

+ Is the only hope for the 10-40 window the Church in the West? What about the Church of the South [South America, Africa] or the Church of the East [China and East Asia]? And what do we do accordingly?
+ Who has compelling strategies for the intersection of the global urban migration and unreached people groups?
+ What is the balance between a local church's resources and the Church [big C] being an incubator and catalyzing agent of talent, passion and resolve?
+ Is it really fair to God [not that He needs it to be fair] that we even declare limits on resources?
+ Have I plateaued as a leader?
+ Will the leaders that we have invested the past five years in continue to rise to the next level?
+ Where is my camera?
+ How much experimentation will hurt my children? [Boy that sounds weird.]
+ If I'm not deliberately part of something organic and decentralized, am I part of an institution by default?
+ Where will I make the most impact?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wishing for Possibility

"If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility."
- Søren Kierkegaard from Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wednesday Burn

[Administrative update - the "RocketFuel" series is being renamed to "Burn."]

::: The Box
The BBC has painted an ordinary shipping container with its BBC logo, outfitted it with a GPS transmitter, and released it into the wilds of global shipping routes.

::: The Speech Accent Archive
The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed.
Link via

::: How Wired is the Class of 2012?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday RocketFuel

Almost back, dear dedicated readers. Hang in there...

::: North Dakota is the most outgoing state in the US.

::: 2008 - the UN's International Year of Sanitation

::: The Tree of Life
Ounce for ounce, [the] moringa [tree] leaves contain more beta carotene than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas. Its protein content is comparable to that of milk and eggs, and its leaves are still available for harvest at the end of the dry season, when other food may be scarce.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, OK... this is NOT a post TTS would ever write about himself, so I'll admit it. I'm blogjacking again! Today we are celebrating T's 39th birthday, although in China it would be considered his 40th. EEK! Fortunately, for him, he still looks like he's about 21! Since he's been on a little blogcation, I figured I'd let all his faithful readers know that he's enjoying a break, keeping busy and refueling for something... just waiting to find out what something is... Meanwhile, you can certainly wish him a Happy Birthday, if you're still reading this! ~De

Thursday, September 11, 2008

SPACE announcement

Hi friends. Below is an email that I sent out earlier today.
Dear friends,

Forgive the sharing of this information over email, but it's the best medium to get the word out right now.

As of September 10, 2008, I have officially stepped down from SPACE. I will continue to work for the next few weeks closing out 2008 and tying up any loose ends. Please know that this decision was not made lightly or impulsively. The reasoning behind it included a convergence of a few factors, including desiring a season of rest and the necessity for some personal ministry evaluation in light of a proposed change in Grace's missions vision. Both the Missions Task Force and the Director of Student Ministries have graciously understood and accepted this decision.

Each of you knows how much fun SPACE has personally been for me, how it's been a great medium for my personal vision and how I love each one of you. Your contributions and investments have been absolutely crucial to launching some beautiful students to engage the world in any culture and any locality. We've had so much fun together - and each of you has made an indelible mark on the world, our students and my family. For those of you that have served on a SPACE team or experience, know deeply that you have been an agent of change - in your communities, with your friends and in your church. Look closely and you will see that you have helped redefine what it means to be a Jesus follower - one that functions so others may live. You have helped transform others from merely attending to belonging, from consuming to creating, from observer to servant. I'm confident that your life will continue to be a testimony to many others - both here and to the nations.

Be confident, I'm still passionately convinced in the mission of Jesus, the biblical mandate of global missions, and the original vision of SPACE - engaging students for the realities of the world because of who Jesus is in their lives. Also know that I count your friendship very valuable - we are friends because our hearts have been set aflame together by the mission of Jesus.

Hope to see each of you soon.
Here are a few other things you need to know:
+ The Sheng's are far from done with living significant lives. You can be certain of that.
+ I have two things I'm participating in that I'm really looking forward to. Both of them have a high responsibility-involvement/investment-in-Tony-and-pure-fun ratio and they both will help with that "dream and evaluate" season we are intentionally putting ourselves in.
+ This blog stays. There is a ton of history here and even if it were just for me, I'm hooked.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ah September

My favorite time of the year. In case you haven't noticed, blogging is light these days - I'm taking a break. See you in a little while.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 Post Summer Media

The morning services last Sunday at Grace highlighted most of the summer teams - SPACE and a few of the adult teams.

Embedded below [rss readers may need to click through] is a summary video that the media team put together as well audio from the message, including interviews with some of the team leaders, including yours truly. Like most "wrap up" messages, there was lots more to tell...

[Related: End of summer media from 2006. I must have missed 2007.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday RocketFuel

::: World poverty more widespread than earlier thought
- 1.4 billion people live in poverty, more than its earlier estimate of 985 million people living in poverty in 2004.
- The poverty rate in China has plummeted from 85% to 15.9%, with the biggest part of that drop coming in the past 15 years, when China opened up to Western investment and its coastal regions boomed.
- The new figures still suggest that the world will reach its millennium development goal of halving the 1990 level of poverty by 2015.
- Poverty has fallen by about 1% per year since 1981
Link via Morning Brief

::: danah boyd on the Amethyst Initiative
How would her recommendations change the behavior of American youth workers and youth groups? [

::: The dollar at six month high against the Euro

::: History's Greatest Journeys
Gare de L'est in Paris was the Western terminus for the Orient Express.
Link via

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Sorry for the lack of posting of late, the Sheng's have had their hands full with some non-SPACE stuff, believe it or not. And that's kind of the point - we've had some serious conversations about priorities and boundaries. It hasn't been easy.

Certainly, this summer was more than we could have hoped for. 100 leaders and students, six strong teams, tangible impact both in the present contexts as well as the future. Deeper partnerships with some great friends serving around the world that really admire and seek to bless what SPACE is doing. More and more momentum from students, families and mission geeks.

Unfortunately, the flip side to this means some things not taking as high as a priority as they should have for me as a husband and father. That calls for change.

More on this whole topic later.

Friday, August 22, 2008

To The Class of 2008

Congrats on starting your first year of college. Remember as you get used to your new surroundings that context and culture are important, just like when you traveled to some of these places with SPACE: Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; New York City; Londrina Brasil; Liverpool, England; Yaounde, Cameroon; Vienna, Austria; Sopron, Hungary; Paris, France.

But, the places aren't so important as what you did there. And what you did there isn't quite as important as what you are going to do now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

2008 Hungary Tweets

Just so I don't forget... the updates I sent via Twitter when we were traveling with the 2008 Hungary team...
Home exhausted but so proud of what hungary team did 09:02 PM August 04, 2008
Hungary team landed 03:29 PM August 04, 2008 from txt
Delayed at the gate ah united 06:36 AM August 04, 2008 from txt
On packed train to cdg would have been terrible with 40 bags 03:17 AM August 04, 2008 from txt
cam team and luggage shuttle just departed - hungary departs at 830 - looking forward to being home 01:18 AM August 04, 2008 from web
Amazing day in paris both teams depart early tomm 05:43 PM August 03, 2008 from txt
Split with the fam going up the arc de triumph 285 steps 07:53 AM August 03, 2008 from txt
Cam team here wow this is nuts 06:48 AM August 03, 2008 from txt
Juggling : dr, cam team, shuttle, decompress 04:00 AM August 03, 2008 from txt
Waiting to hear back for shuttle on mon can't do subway like that again pray for that and michelle and keely 02:43 AM August 03, 2008 from txt
In paris prob worst subway exp so far but everyone is here 03:36 PM August 02, 2008 from txt
Checking out then on to paris. Cam team meets us there tomm 02:41 AM August 02, 2008 from txt
Last day of conf words can't describe the fire this team made 03:47 AM August 01, 2008 from txt
my career with SPACE could be complete after tonight. 05:19 PM July 28, 2008 from web
Sometimes fluid things spill 11:59 AM July 26, 2008 from txt
I just met alan hirsch 08:28 AM July 26, 2008 from txt
On the way to sopron hungary all shuttles worked out fabulously preconf starts after dinner 06:30 AM July 25, 2008 from txt
Exercise in urban navigation in vienna 01:51 PM July 24, 2008 from txt
Made it to vienna despite delays and a more than healthy dose of turbulence 08:00 AM July 23, 2008 from txt
Never mind not taking off just give us cash back 07:17 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
Taking off I think no saki 06:50 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
John timmns wants saki 06:30 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
I'm thinking that united airlines and SPACE don't mix 06:22 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
Flight delayed sitting on runway 06:00 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
Getting ready to board with the rest of the cattle I think team ldr should fly first class 04:50 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
On the space shuttle at iad 03:19 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
Let the departure festivities begin and I do mean festivities 12:19 PM July 22, 2008 from txt
We are in good shape departing soon 11:49 AM July 22, 2008 from txt

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hungary 2008 Random Stories

Some random stories from Hungary...

There is a CA plant in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. The team leaders have been there for a little less than 2 years and are working side by side with a Czech family. The dad in this family has been working on a new Bible translation in Czech since 1991. Although there already exists two translations in Czech, they are not the best.
See the video.
"The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner." William Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Evening program nights were all theme nights, including Pirates and Princess, Campfire and PJs and Wacky Tacky. These actually might have been the most culturally relevant experiences of our structure - we underestimated how much the CA kids would have loved this stuff and how there is little opportunity for them to do this together. For Pirates and Princess night, just about every kid dressed up and some of the costumes were incredibly elaborate. For Wacky Tacky night, and I know most of us won't forget this, one of the most energetic boys at the whole conference wore his little sisters dress. Every night was like the movie Groundhog Day, except we were stuck on Halloween.

Our original connection with CA was from some friends of ours from GCC that served with CA in Florence, Italy. After a few years that were not easy [other team members couldn't get there because of visa issues, having two children on the field, extended family illnesses] these friends of ours wisely decided to leave the field to get some more education. In Sopron, we met M and T, who are serving in ... Florence. The community they serve was birthed out of relationships that were started by our friends - and we are talking 3-5 years ago. It doesn't always happen and it doesn't always happen right away.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Leading In and Out

There are things that you should definitely lead on and things that you should definitely not lead on.

Here is what I farmed out leadership-wise on the recent 2008 Hungary team:
+ kids program development details - all went to students
+ producing, directing, editing all the intro videos used in the program - Lindsey/Michelle/etc. [Videos]
+ small group guide - Deanna
+ small group activity book - Deanna
+ all activities for the 9-11 year olds - Kevin and Keely
+ 9-11 year olds and their teaching/skit segment for the daily Bible story - Keely
+ debriefing and decompression activities and discussions, except for one - Tricia and Elly
+ music for the program - Kevin
+ specifics for Theme Nights - team
+ people scoping out best cost options for food in Vienna and Paris - Leslie and Emilie
+ overall team navigation in Vienna and Paris - Leslie and Emilie
+ twice a day daily team devotions based on "Makers of Fire" theme, morning and evening - Emilie and Rachel
+ crafts - purchasing, planning and implementing - Erin and Deanna
+ anything to do with the baby room - Deanna and Leslie
+ empowering our leader team to catalyze these students in any and every way and shape possible.

Here is what I did not farm out, meaning that these were things I directly led.
+ anything to do with budget - nobody spends money like I do.
+ overall direction for spiritual development for our team.
+ connecting and inviting speakers from CA to invest in our team.
+ travel logistics, including airlines, ground transport and nonconference lodging locations - [Deanna and I did this together]
+ a leader breakfast mid conference - mid week checkpoint with our leaders.
+ rotations so our team could attend at least one conference session - basic scheduling for coverage.
+ decompression discussion on "My New Idea of Church."
+ baptism.
+ liaison role with CA.
+ follow up with each one of our leaders - post trip.

I will be the first to admit that not doing everything yourself is difficult, healthy and the way it should be.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

2008 Cam team is home

I just got a call a few minutes ago, the team arrived safe and sound. Initial reports indicate that it was a great experience - similar to all the other teams this summer. That's fun and a big relief.

For those of you keeping track, that is 100 students and leaders who have gone out, served and blessed and now returned home this summer. Amazing and you blog readers have been a part of it - reading about, supporting and praying for our students and leaders. This should make you proud too.

It's not quite over yet though - financial closeout [yikes] and some intentional decompressing work with our team leaders will finish out this summer's teams.

It Burns From My Eyes

The Return
by Geneen Marie Haugen
Some day, if you are lucky,
you'll return from a thunderous journey
trailing snake scales, wing fragments
and the musk of Earth and moon.

Eyes will examine you for signs
of damage, or change
and you, too, will wonder
if your skin shows traces

of fur, or leaves,
if thrushes have built a nest
of your hair, if Andromeda
burns from your eyes.

Do not be surprised by prickly questions
from those who barely inhabit
their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
their own possibility, who barely dream.

If your hands are empty, treasureless,
if your toes have not grown claws,
if your obedient voice has not
become a wild cry, a howl,

you will reassure them. We warned you,
they might declare, there is nothing else,
no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
just this frantic waiting to die.

And yet, they tremble, mute,
afraid you’ve returned without sweet
elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
a fluent dance or holy language

to teach them, without a compass
bearing to a forgotten border where
no one crosses without weeping
for the terrible beauty of galaxies

and granite and bone. They tremble,
hoping your lips hold a secret,
that the song your body now sings
will redeem them, yet they fear

your secret is dangerous, shattering,
and once it flies from your astonished
mouth, they–like you–must disintegrate
before unfolding tremulous wings.
via Ben Saunders.
This should required reading for when we come home...

Friday, August 15, 2008

"SPACE changed my life..."

Well, I coerced her into saying that....

This week, I had lunch with a college student who was involved with SPACE in high school. This summer, she had the awesome privilege of doing an internship with Christ Church Link and being involved in the start up of a Day Resource Center for the underprivileged.

What she really did say was that this experience [3 years ago] awakened a passion and need that she is willing to devote her life to. Since then, she has done a lot of experiential thinking about living in suburbia, serving the homeless and analysis of the systemic issues surrounding poverty, urban environments and context. This year, she's on the lead team for her IV chapter at her school, has made plans to introduce new freshmen to the intersection of dumpster diving and materialism, and will continue to listen to God as He speaks to her about her passion and the world's great needs.

SPACE exists to produce these types of people - willing to initiate after understanding the realities of the world and what the Gospel means in their lives.

PS - Look at some of our other favorite peeps when they were kidz.