Monday, March 31, 2008

SPACE 08 Leader Lunch

This past Saturday, we hosted a SPACE Leader Lunch for our summer team leaders. The overarching goal was to gel some teams together and invest in their leadership,

These leaders represent all five of our summer teams - middle school, Baltimore, New Orleans, England, Cameroon and Hungary. Almost 100% of these leaders also serve within our youth ministry in other capacities - most of them helping lead weekly small groups for students. As a ministry, we are very blessed. First, because we have such great leaders. Passionate, loving, generous, and teachable, all of them love students because it's built into their DNA. Secondly, we are blessed because the powers that be allow something like SPACE to build synergy across multiple elements of the student ministry. And of course, you know the rule about being blessed - you must then be a blessing.

Our discussion points included an introduction to Strengths Finder and sharing about their strengths [describe a time when you were operating in a strength, predict/identify a theme in another person on your team]. We also utilized "The 8 Great Questions" and "Your Mission Experience as a Treasure Hunt" principles from The Short Term Missions Workbook [one of the must-have resources if you help out with mission teams.] This was all done within the context of their leadership teams, hopefully helping people understand each other better as they seek to serve this summer and beyond.

For the perspective of this summer, we did a gathering like this so that our teams are adequately prepared to be enormous blessings to others. For the rest of the perspective, we do this because our students and leaders will make all the difference in the world.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Enormously Capable

"There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming."
- Soren Kierkegaard, as quoted by John Wood in Leaving Microsoft To Change The World - An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Our 2008 Missions Support Letter

Make sure you put in your supporter's letter that you blessed many families in immeasurable ways. Let them know that your team invested not only their time and resources, but their whole hearts to serve the families of Christian Associates. We are so grateful for all that your supporters have given so that we could be blessed!
~MR, serving in France
Dear friends, family, faithful supporters and anyone else who is receiving this!

It has been nearly a year since we initiated realizing a dream of ours – to serve Christ together as a family in some capacity outside of the US, our comfort zone. Many of you, I’m sure, remember receiving our letter last year, maybe wondering if we were out of our minds! If that’s what you were thinking, you may wonder again as we are hoping to return this year in the same capacity as last only with the added responsibility of being the sole team in charge of providing a full fledged children’s program for this amazing group of church planters in Europe.

Our trip last year was a growing and learning experience in so many ways. We had opportunities to connect with families who had given up their comfy homes in the US to serve in some of the most spiritually darkened places in Europe. We learned of the struggles they had adjusting to new cultures, languages, and the obvious disdain for America amidst the Iraq war. But even more apparent to us was the effect this had on their children, referred to as third culture kids, as they try to comprehend the passion their parents have for the lost in Europe as that relates to their roots, their socialization and their futures. Providing a short escape from the often stressful and uncertain lives of church planters was so much more important, and took so many various forms, than any of us had realized.

This summer, as part of SPACE [Students Prepared to Act for Christ’s Empire] - Grace's student ministry mission component, we are returning to serve in Sopron, Hungary during Christian Associates International annual staff conference. We will be traveling from July 22 to August 3 with a total team of 26 students and leaders, architecting an experience for the kids of CAI staff. While the opportunity to serve CAI and their kids is immensely rewarding, we also know that this environment is a real time laboratory for our students to learn about global cultures, leadership development and creating Kingdom threads out of nothing.

Of course, we can't do this all alone and we would love your prayers and financial support. You can pray for our leadership, that the students on our team would create the future and that our children would continue to live lives bigger than themselves. You could also pray for our other SPACE teams for this summer – Baltimore, New Orleans, England and Cameroon. Financially, we need to raise $10,000 for our family of four and your financial support would also be a huge blessing. There are two ways you can financially support our team. First, you may send a check in the enclosed envelope with the response card. Please make checks payable to Grace Community Church and in the note section please specify, "SPACE Hungary - Shengs". You may also contribute via the Internet, by clicking the "Online Giving!" link at the top of the Grace Church webpage - Click the "eGive" link and after entering the appropriate donor and bank information, fill in the amount for "Short Term Missions" and specify for "SPACE Hungary - Shengs".

Thank you so much for your support and prayers. We have huge expectations for this team traveling to Hungary with us – that they will serve and sacrifice for many this summer and that the spiritual climate of Europe will be different because of many of them.
I don't know if y'all realize just how much you give to us in coming to serve. Our first year, we were beaten down, discouraged, frustrated, humbled and broken. We were also grown, stretched, challenged and provided for in ways we could never imagine. The gift you gave us was a chance to process this stuff for significant periods of time, knowing our kids were entertained, safe and above all LOVED. It's hard to express how much the week at conference means to us-how much we look forward to it each year. Knowing that there are people there who believe in what we are doing and are willing to encourage us in that is amazing. THANK YOU!!!!!

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Leading to Irrelevance

"My defintion of a great team is one that continues to function when the leader goes down, like I did on Everest. The leader's role is to pick a team, train them, and then make himself irrelevant."
- Pasquale Scaturro, modern day explorer, as quoted in Outside Magazine, April 2008. One of his conquests includes the first, full descent of the Nile River, from its Blue Nile source in the mountains of Ethiopia to its terminus just north of Rosetta, Egypt. The 3,260 mile, four month trip included threats such as:
- Class IV and V rapids of the upper Blue Nile, where two capsizes forced one team member to quit the expedition.
- Deadly crocodiles and hippos.
- Arrests by Ethiopian and Egyptian militia.
- Gunfire from Sudanese bandits.
- Extreme temperatures.
- Violent sandstorms.
- Exposure to malaria.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hungary 2008 Adult Lead Team

Here are some quick introductions to the adult leader team for this coming summer. We also have a huge group of student leaders - graduating seniors that we are bringing on to help us lead and empower - tell you more about them later. Like every summer, I'm thrilled to be working with this group of people. When we recruit leaders, we look for trustworthiness, character and cross cultural experience. And they have to be fun. You will hear plenty more about these guys and gals, and not just from me.

D - my bride. You know her.

ESunde - our first SPACE intern in 2005-2006 and she's stuck with us ever since, leading on Cameroon 2006 and Hungary 2007.

LB - she's currently right now traipsing across the world in Asia and Europe with a YWAM DTS. Leadership experience includes Cameroon 2006 and Hungary 2007.

ErinOB - also returning from Hungary 2007. She will be the sole leader that will continue from Hungary direct to Cameroon this summer and it will be an awesome experience. A little manic, but awesome nontheless.

New to SPACE this year, sort of... - KevGN and his wife KeelyN - KevGN was actually one of my Dteam boys, long before the idea of SPACE ever existed. In many ways, he and his peers were the first [or second] iteration of student mission experiments, since I dragged him and his friends through a variety of different mission experiences before the medium called SPACE. Those fun times included three days of giving money away to new friends on the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland; and 11 days in New York City. The trip to NY was one of my all time favorites, when we introduced suburban kids to Harlem and when Kev introduced me to Avril Lavigne. KevGN has also been to Kazakhstan and Turkey. KeelyN has several years of cross cultural experience too, including serving two summers in a row in France [see her 2005 blog]. Oh, and they are newlyweds and will be celebrating their one year anniversary with all their new friends and teammates in Hungary.

Finally, last but not least, RachelJ. RachelJ is good friends with ESunde and is joining us all the way from Seattle. She was with us for the NYC Expedition and showed us her heart for serving and students. Another key barometer was that she was thrilled at the idea of writing "Ask Me About the 10-40 window" on one of the SPACE interns car windows. This is her first SPACE team, but she's been to Mexico and Honduras serving before.

Yup, a great team. Envy me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday RocketFuel

::: Vision Trekk
You might hear a lot more about this in the future.

::: Resumes
Solid tips on writing one. Link
Or, you may really not need one. Link
PS - I love writing recommendation letters.

::: Gorbachev's faith
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet Communist leader, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time in a surprise visit to the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.

::: Illinois students and global missionaries
Hope you don't mind, I've given Evan some of your links....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

If They Follow You Around

Two repeatable and predictable gauges for when people are ready to go to the next level are availability and curiosity. If they show up whenever you are moving the cause forward, they might be ready. If they ask deep questions, listen whenever you talk [whether you know what you are saying or not], and take a lot of notes, they might be ready.

Who around you is showing up all the time? And who is asking some good questions?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From Austria 2007

I get these email updates from a team that is leading the Serve The City movement at a global, macro level. The last email had some pretty neat updates including:
: Vienna - to say that an ongoing relationship has happened since people first took elderly people on an outing to the zoo during the STC day
: Vienna - Lady whose old cinema was cleaned up in Vienna last year has now opened it up free to Christian groups and bands
Those were both groups that took part in Vienna Day last year at Connect. See the picture in this post for the team in the first item.

[Related: I Am I Need]

Monday, March 17, 2008

2008 Spring Retreat

We had a great time on the CpR retreat this past weekend at NorthBay. My workshop actually went swimmingly well and most of that was because things just happened to click when I was giving my talk. Sometimes, you are on and sometimes not. This time, the Ghost decided to impart. It was a lot of fun and I'm hopeful that it gave students some good things to think about relating to understanding and engaging culture. [Related - my speaking notes.]

By far though, my favorite time of the weekend was when one of our favorite people - TriciaB [one of the 07-08 interns] - got baptized in the Bay. Memorable elements included the cold, murky water of the Chesapeake Bay; 300 friends gathered on the beach; hearing her talk about why Jesus is all; and listening to her friends share about her obvious impact to those around her. At the essence, it was a community sharing about one of their own that blesses those they don't know, all for the sake of One. Congrats Tricia!

[Update - here is the embedded video. How cool is that]

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Decompressing Culture - CpR Spring 2008 Retreat Notes

+ 1 == Create
Describe a time when you created something from nothing.
What was the idea, how did you do it, and what was the outcome.

Western Christianity has largely given up on creating culture - instead we are
hiding from it.
The Christian ghetto - books, music, film, bookstores = its unbiblical
God the Creator created you to be creative
You have the ability to mold and shape culture.

Some examples:
: Genesis Adam naming the animals an expression of culture Gen 2:19
: S in Cameroon corruption at every level decided she would not bribe went without a paycheck for 2 years she is changing the culture
: William Carey - created culture in India. Translated the Bible into 34 languages, compiled language dictionaries, started 100 schools for girls, started Horticultural society, professor at college, printed first Indian newspaper, started savings accounts for farmers, helped lead ban against burning of widows. He shaped culture and he did it because he wanted to make the future different.

+ 2 == Engage
Engage the culture
Not about hiding from it
Tools for Engagement
: redemptive analogy
Acts 17
: seek out understanding other cultures
find someone that doesn't look like you and ask them about their background
: language - common language creates culture
StrengthsFinder - common words that describe what you are good at - now everyone understands
JOY in worship - no rule that says when a worship song comes on with the word JOY in it, you scream it
changing the definitions of words
: get involved in people's lives that are outside the Church
don't think that because you now pop culture, that you are engaging culture
you have to invest in people outside of the church for that
if you are not involved in those outside the church, you are not engaging culture.

+3 == Possibility
Agent of change
Risk taker
Shepherd -> King - David
Slave -> Queen - Esther
prosecution to church planter - Paul
The Scriptures are the epitome of POSSIBILITY
What do you create from the possibilities

: Surf church in Portugal
: Aix-en-Provence - south of France, ran a kids camp with 70 kids in an area where half a percent are evangelical
: 14 year old in Malawi that built a windmill for his family - from spare parts and plans he found in an old library book

+4 == back to Create
Creating something from nothing - but it marks human history
Will you do whatever it takes?
In the end, a culture that's trying to kill you really has nothing on you.
Mt 9 - not the healthy but the sick

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pre Weekend Ramblings

In no particular order:

- We are joining the high school [CpR] retreat this weekend, for just Saturday night and Sunday morning. It should be a lot of fun. I've had a no-retreat policy for the past few years [every since I spent about a month away from home in calendar year 2005 for this SPACE hobby] unless I'm doing something to help significantly. I'm running a small workshop on Saturday evening. I needed some creative inspiration so I just went for a drive. [Actually, this article about Ben Saunders - arctic explorer is some good inspiration too.]

- We've taken some extra time to get some clarity on our Hungary team budget for this summer. Although our personal family's support letter is written and printed, our team's letters are on hold until we get some firm info. Have you stayed with a large group of students in Vienna [not Virginia but Austria] or Paris [not Texas but France] ? If so, you and I need to talk.

- I celebrated one full year with Corp1.3 this past week. It's been amazing all the new skills I have picked up in one year, and not all of them were purely technical. For instance, I never uttered the word 'customer' before this job. I hope you think that's odd too, because we ALL should be thinking about 'customers.' [Oh, and I think I've gained 10 pounds in the past year too.]

- D and I have all of our logistics booked for 4 days in the Florida keys in a few weeks. We are celebrating our 15 oops 14 [thanks amy!] year anniversary early since we'll be in Hungary on the actual day. Our kids are celebrating with us by staying home. HA.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Phrases We Try Not to Use

- short term.
- here, let me give you this tract.
- culture doesn't really matter.
- i'm not going into the city. cities are too big, too scary and too irrelevant.
- she has 0 leadership potential.
- let's buy a program book for it.
- why use the internets?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday RocketFuel

::: Tim Keller speaks at Google
Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Pres in NYC.

::: What Books Should You Read on Africa?

::: What Microloans Miss
The vast majority of microfinance projects have only one paid employee: the owner. But businesses that can generate jobs for others are the best hope of any country trying to put a serious dent in its poverty rate.

Understanding Polytheism from Your 10 Year Old

Huh? [Click for full size image]

Monday, March 10, 2008

First 2008 Hungary team meeting

Some shots from our first 2008 Hungary team meeting. This team is comprised of 26[!] people, a lot of them returning from last year - lots of energy, excitement and ideas. At this point in the process, for this specific trip, a lot of the task is just getting thoughts down on paper.

We covered the big picture stuff like Why Europe, overview of CAI and why this team looks the way it does. We also started to plan for the tactical pieces of the children's ministry, including the overall theme [this is a really good one - tell you later] and elements that will be structured within that theme.

If the future were left up to anybody, I would bet on them.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I Think God Could Deflate the Euro

Our Hungary team is busy writing their support letters for this summer, except for one vital piece of information - overall cost. One of our contacts at Christian Associates and I talked earlier this week about some estimated costs and frankly, the cost estimate has left me in a funk. The gist is that the American dollar continues to decline in value in Europe - one American dollar buys less and less. I realize it's not that big of a deal in the overall scheme of my life - we have quite a few friends serving in Europe for a lifetime and for them, it's exponentially worse. Even so, it's got me second guessing this summer's plan.

On one hand, even though the cost per person is significantly higher, we've also got a larger team and therefore a bigger pool of people that are potentially interested in supporting the team. Every year, we get more and more kids on teams and this year is also reflective of that growth. On the other hand, funding is not infinite, there are only so many dollars out there. Or are there? And we've got three summer teams this summer, two to Europe. Budget-wise, this summer looks like double last summer - that's not exactly spare change.

In the end though, and I said this to a few people last year too, part of this whole deal is trying to do something so risky that it will only work when God comes through. If we could do it on our own, we would be short cutting this experience of risk and faith, and it wouldn't be worth it. So, it's with these ideas in my head and that pit in my stomach that we move forward. For those of you that might feel compelled to pray for our teams and/or give, contact me and I'll make sure we get you all the information.

I'm sure this won't be the last of those I'm-going-to-throw-up feelings. We haven't bought any plane tickets yet...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Student Ministry Global Catalyst's Guide to TED2008

Some of you have probably been following TED 2008 which just finished last week. I followed it too and, like with every TED conference, there is a lot of inspiration for those of you out to make a difference. Here are some of my favorite inspirations and a bit about why:

::: Idea: A car that drives itself.
The Chevy Tahoe named "Boss" can drive itself through a sixty mile urban course.
Think about - the engineering innovation and what it means for a future that is more and more urban. And us Americans, dang, we just love our cars don't we?

::: Idea: How do we give credible hope to the billion poorest people in the world?
We need compassion, because a billion people are living in societies that have not offered credible hope. But we need enlightened self interest because "if economic divergence continues, combined with global integration, it will build a nightmare for our children."
Related: The Bottom Billion. [I think I need to read this.]
Think about - how some of you will be intimately involved providing hope to the poor.

::: Idea: Leaders exude passion.
Ben Zander on music, passion and vision:
He tells the story of critiquing a performer - "You're on both buttocks. You need to play on one buttock." An entrepreneur watching the class told him later he'd re-tooled his entire business to "a one buttock venture"...
Throwing down a challenge, he tells us he's not leaving until we all love classical music. A leader can do this because he truly believes others will believe his vision.
Think about - how passion transcends disciplines, cultures and domains of expertise.

::: Idea: Deep sea exploration and going where no one has gone before. [Does this remind some of you of H2.08?]
Robert Ballard on deep sea exploration:
Ballard now has an amazing new ship, the Okeonos Explorer - it's explicitly chartered to "go where no one has gone before." It will explore the US seas, especially the "Western Territorial Trust", our Pacific territories. "We don't know what we'll find, so run it like a nuclear sub, or a hospital", with teams working 24/7 connected to the ship via the internet, running on Internet 2, connected by 10 gigabits of bandwidth.
Think about - building such a craft and the bravery, resolve and audacity it takes to go where no one has gone before.

::: Idea: More college and high schoolers are involved in anti-genocide movements now than there were for anti-apartheid.
Samantha Power on genocide:
In this century, we have an anti-genocide movement, a student movement that has appeared "almost out of nowhere." There are more people involved on high school and college campuses that is now "bigger than the anti-apartheid movement." The goal of this movement is to raise the political cost for not standing up against genocide.
Think about - how young people have a much more deep tie between belief and action.

::: Idea: A catalog of all human cultures
Bob Geldof to catalog significant human culture:
Now, he has another Africa-focused project, and he wants some help. He tells us of a trip to Niger, talking to an elder, who tell him "18 months ago, there were 300 languages here."
"Separate, complete cultures. They're gone. I never heard those languages, but I already miss them. It's in these ways that the lights of human genius wink out."
So Geldof is proposing "a great mapping to be undertaken. I'm going to log all of us. I'm going to take a snapshot of now." He proposes making 900 half-hour films of 900 different cultural groups.
Think about - wow.

All links from Ethan Zuckerman's crazy real time blogging of the conference. Thanks Ethan!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wednesday RocketFuel

::: 21 world accents in 2:30

via Kottke

::: The Ambitions Index
- 54 percent of 8-12 year olds and and 66 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Travel the world."**
- 46 percent of 8-12 year olds and 59 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Speak another language" **
- 40 percent of 8-12 year olds and 36 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Invent something"
- 40 percent of 8-12 year olds and 42 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "See a rainforest"
- 28 percent of 8-12 year olds and 26 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Fly a plane"
- 26 percent of 8-12 year olds and 20 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Be in the Guiness Book of World Records"
- 24 percent of 8-12 year olds and 21 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Go to Mars" **
- 18 percent of 8-12 year olds and 30 percent of 13-21 year olds want to try "Bungee jumping"
- 16 percent of 8-12 year olds and 31 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Sky dive"
- 20 percent of 8-12 year olds and 28 percent of 13-21 year olds want to go "Whitewater rafting"
- 16 percent of 8-12 year olds and 23 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Climb a Mountain"
- 15 percent of 8-12 year olds and 42 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Live in another country." **
- 11 percent of 8-12 year olds and 12 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Bike across country"
- 11 percent of 8-12 year olds and 20 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Backpack across country"
- 9 percent of 8-12 year olds and 19 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Run a marathon"
- 6 percent of 8-12 year olds and 10 percent of 13-21 year olds want to "Finish a triathlon"
**You know, SPACE can help you! [OK, so maybe not on the Mars one, yet...]
Link via ysmarko

::: My Husband Wants to be a Church Planter
Uh, no, not my husband. But since SPACE is somehow primarily women [but we are going to change that this summer], this might be useful to some of them in the future... If I approve of their suitors.
Link [pdf] via Lon

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The 03 - Four and a half Later

This is the 03 guys, four and a half years after graduation, gathered at the B's wedding this past weekend. [Picture was not great quality]

Lots of fun to catch up with all of them. They are all involved in serving in some capacity - leading worship, researching alternative energy, national security, high school education, the performing arts. Living intentionally takes all forms.

Monday, March 03, 2008


We've done a lot in 5 years, but I still don't know why.

Congrats to JAB and FZ!

D and I were involved in a wedding bash over the weekend for old friends JAB and FZ. Long time readers will recognize the names from the 2005Brasil team. Some of you may also remember that JAB was in the Dteam that I helped led from 1999-2003.

D and I also had the fun privilege of facilitating their pre-marriage counseling. They were definitely our guinea pigs while we were definitely too young to be at this stage in life. In either case, it was a lot of fun talking about marriage with them because we know them well, they are good friends and I've dragged them around the world with me. Part of the benefit of us being their therapists was that I got to say a blessing and charge to them as part of the ceremony. "Fun" for my nerves but worth it.

Another fun bit from their reception - all the money that would have been spent on wedding favors was instead given to AIDS relief in Africa. They are a couple that knows that their responsibility is to humanity, because of their compassion for the world and their love for the Father.

[Photo stolen from JWhitt]