Thursday, January 31, 2013

Growing Up Strengths

As a family, we attended a gathering last weekend where the whole focus was introducing everyone to StrengthsFinder. We talk a lot about the assessment around here so it's always fun to see people understand the concepts. But for the first time, I saw someone read through the book and try to figure out which were their top 5 talents and pretty much get it right. And it was our daughter Em.

And that's the thing about them. Like Amy had everyone recite at the beginning, "Not everyone thinks like me...", it's the uniqueness of each person, the talent in all of us, the phrases in some of the descriptions will resonate and be generative. They will either ring true or not even be close.

And hey, you might save yourself $10 on the actual test. [But it's worth taking for real...]

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Missional Imagination + Tangible Skills

I had lunch the other day with a small group of people discussing out of the box mission opportunities in an East Asia context. It was very much a 'missional imagination' [Alan Hirsch's term] session and you know I love that kind of stuff. We talked about stuff like:
- the need for demographic and ethnographic research in the area
- people starting some kind of business startup as a platform for mission
- helps people get to know the community while having a legitimate presence and good reputatio
- someone interested in international business but still very missions minded
- job creation is vital
- every government in the world is in favor of positive localized grassroots economic engines
- having legitimate skills as a missionary

The last point is important and gets more important as time goes on - we tell students that all the time. The missionary of the future has tangible skills. Get a degree that can get you a job and there will be a place for it in global missions.

If this kind of stuff interests you and you are under the age of 25, get in touch.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Team Training Tools - Luggage

Have a packing party - pack your bags together. For extra "bonding," walk around suburbia with your packed bags.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Not Lost In Translation

A few weekends ago, our older daughter Kt found herself talking with some people who didn't speak a lick of English. This was in Coney Island, NY, when she was serving with a team of students and most of the people they talked to either spoke Russian or Chinese. Their goal that day was to ask people if they needed basic supplies - food, water, space heaters, and blankets. Since she had no idea what these people were saying, she did what everyone else would think to do. She whipped our her iPhone and started using Google Translate.

Actually, for those of us over the age of 30, we probably wouldn't think of doing that. Instead, we would have walked off disappointed and/or frustrated about the lack of connection and our inability to help. Digital natives think about technology very differently. After all, what's the worst that could happen.

For all the talk about Snapchat and how our kids don't have the ability to carry on conversations and how Twitter makes us shallow thinkers, there is an upside. A few minutes later, a little Chinese lady shows up at the church a few blocks away looking for two of those free heaters.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Burn

::: People Groups in NYC
A new dedicated site to help learn info about people groups in NYC.

::: How Driverless Cars Will Change Culture
I agree with this - American culture will be vastly different because of autonomous cars.

::: If You Are Serious About Ideas, Get Serious About Blogging

::: Your talent has to become a skill so other people can learn it. - @Mike_Breen

Photo: ARotolo, guiding. NYC, January 2013.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Intern Blog Postings

The 2013 interns have been writing some smashing blogs of late. Topics like people groups, domestic missions, post Christianity mission, doing something about poverty, and serving in Baltimore. Seriously, you should click on at least some of these links and put their urls in your reader. [Did you see the ember domain... =)] You'll probably notice that the interns read some pretty intriguing non traditional readings about missions - that is intentional.

We make them write because:
1 - Leaders must be able to communicate.
2 - They are slowly writing down a journal of sorts that they will be able to look back on one day.
3 - A blog is still one of the best mediums for leaders.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ember NYC

New York City, as you must know, is an amazing backdrop when helping high school students understand the way the world really looks. Being in NYC this weekend with a group of high school guys did not disappoint. Ember was asked to facilitate a weekend service experience for a church youth ministry group of 13 high school seniors and their leaders. We've worked with their leader, GM, for many years and consider it a privilege to be entrusted with a weekend with their students. Below are some details about what we did and what we hoped the students would learn. Long post - as always feel free to steal what you want. If you feel guilty, you can make a donation ;-)

: Coney Island Gospel Assembly
The initial request from the leaders of these boys were to serve with something to do with Hurricane Sandy relief. CIGA has found themselves at the epicenter of the relief work and there are still lots of needs right around the area. This element included going door to door around the neighborhood of the church to assess people's needs - CIGA had tons of food boxes, bottled water, heaters, and blankets to give to people that needed it. Our group broke up into teams and asked people. We then took the lists back to the church and got to deliver these items. Context and culture were focus points for the afternoon not only because of the disaster relief situation but because Coney Island has a huge Russian and Chinese immigrant population.

If you've followed how Ember has learned about service projects the past few years, you know that we are really careful about charity being toxic. I'm overjoyed about our experience on Saturday because student mission teams are seldom involved in a needs assessment process. Mission teams almost never ask the community what they really need and if they do, they are almost never in a position to help meet those needs. We were part of both, which was a huge privilege.

: Manhattan
Saturday afternoon and evening was spent doing some tourist things including visiting Grand Central Station, Times Square and the 9/11 Memorial. Again our central focus was context and culture - how many people from different countries can you talk to and identify any cultural icons, things that are important to this culture and therefore inform you about the people here.

: Bronxville Community Church
Since our hosts were involved in a church plant, that's what we did for church on Sunday. Bronxville Community Church has been in existence for about 2 years, meeting in a movie theater in the center of the village of Bronxville. Bronxville is a highly affluent community, about 45 minutes north of Manhattan. The lead pastor and planter was a bond trader before he was called into vocational ministry. Our boys were from a mega church, meaning that we made the point that seeing different expressions of Church is a good thing. We could have gone on about unreached cities in the United States, how this lead pastor is able to contextualize because he used to work on Wall Street, or how church planting is so difficult in New England.

: A House on Beekman
Sunday afternoon, we visited A House on Beekman, which can best be described as a group of friends that read the Bible, got convicted about how they were caring for the poor, moved into the South Bronx [the poorest neighborhood in NYC], and have a long term dream about complete renewal in this community. They started by just trying to 'be good humans and neighbors.' Five years later, they run an after school tutoring program, youth discipleship and a Mom and Me program, where they teach moms how to be parents. They also run a summer camp for 4 weeks each summer, just trying to serve families and their kids. Lots we could have talked about here, including the mission and incarnation, gentrification, sustainable and holistic community development, and the dynamic of living with the poor and being from the suburbs. Instead, we sent them for a prayer walk around the neighborhood, where 'everyone would know they were here to see Sara...'

: Hosts and Guides
We had some amazing hosts - two families that opened up their homes to our team. Both of the dads work in corporate America in Manhattan, love and pastor their families well, and have taught their children to serve the Church. Easily some of the most missional people I have ever met. And you know that our guides did some amazing work as well. ARotolo and DK both did amazing work helping lead, guide and serving this team.

A beautiful weekend. In 500 years, you and I might see how some of these high school boys marked human history.

More photos here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Lead and Violent Crime
Long read on the very interesting possible association between lead and violent crime. I thought the following paragraph was the most interesting:
Karl Smith, a professor of public economics and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has a good rule of thumb for categorizing epidemics: If it spreads along lines of communication, he says, the cause is information. Think Bieber Fever. If it travels along major transportation routes, the cause is microbial. Think influenza. If it spreads out like a fan, the cause is an insect. Think malaria. But if it's everywhere, all at once—as both the rise of crime in the '60s and '70s and the fall of crime in the '90s seemed to be—the cause is a molecule.

::: 7 Thoughts from a Former Pastor
Too few people care about the mental and emotional health of pastors.
Pastors who advocate innovation and new models of ministry are very lonely.
...churches and senior pastors have no idea how to empower and unleash the businessmen and women of their churches.

::: Decoding culture - San Francisco
Great example of decoding culture.

::: @LeadershipTips - People don't resist change, they resist being changed. ~ Peter Senge

::: @tonybkim - To be outstanding – get comfortable with being uncomfortable. -ALRIK KOUDENBURG

Photo: Ember core curriculum, whiteboard style

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thanks for praying for Ember NYC

In about 24 hours, an Ember team will be en route to one of our favorite global cities - New York City. If you are the praying type, here's some items that we would love for you to be thinking about and thanks in advance for covering the weekend in prayer.

+ Safety for our guide team and the student team we are serving with.
+ That the small acts of service we are involved with would tangibly benefit people.
+ That the students this weekend would internalize some concepts of urbanization, cultural distance, poverty, cultural icons and how those interplay with the Gospel.
+ That our Ember team is highly catalytic for these students and the communities, friends and families that they are in.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Please Plan to Prepare

The research is true - training is an integral part of making it in missions. This summer, whether you are part of, or leading a team, you should ask, "What is the plan to help my team prepare?" Be wary if there aren't any resources allocated to this - there should be time or money or energy given to helping your team get good.

You will do yourself and your team some good, if you simply jot down goals, expectations and 'how we are successful.' And remember that you are the only one, ultimately, responsible for your own growth and development.

Ember's got lots of experience with teams - we would love to help you be a success.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Team Training Tools - Ethnic Meals

Eat at an ethnic restaurant together. Preferably, an ethnicity you will be visiting.

Photo: Cameroonian food, Wheaton MD, Spring 2006.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Upcoming - NYC

An Ember team will be in NYC this coming weekend working with a team of high school students. We are thrilled for the opportunity which is first centered around helping out in Coney Island with some Hurricane Sandy relief. The rest of the weekend builds off that incorporating pieces of our core curriculum.

NYC forms an amazing backdrop for global leadership like most global cities with their array of cultures, economic strata and varied demographics all mixed in close proximity. It's a great environment for the stuff we love high school kids to get: culture, context, icons and how missions may look untraditional.

Ember was invited to facilitate this weekend by a leader we've worked with a few times. Like G we know that if you can show a high school kid the way the world really looks, like when they get exposed to and understand a bit about concepts like: poverty, economic systems, cultures, urbanization, for instance - they will maybe make significant choices to impact the world through what they study in college and their vocational choice.

Thanks for praying for safety while we travel, our guides for their leadership and for the boys as they learn about a world that is longing for someone to impact it. If you have a team interested in this kind of weekend global leadership immersion get in touch.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Burn

::: The Where-to-be-Born 2013 index.
Hint - the US was not in the top 15.

::: Urbana 12's Launch Lab
Loved reading the comments on some out of the box thinking.

::: The Death of the Mall and the Future of Church Buildings
"only college football stadiums are utilized less than church facilities."

Photo: Ember guides on site visiting a student team we helped train. DC, July 2011.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy 12th to Em

Happy 12th birthday to our Em. This year, you've grown up a lot, including a second year at sleep away summer camp, grieving the loss of your puppy Phoebe, and starting middle school.

My favorite time with you this year was driving to WV to see that tiger, the weekend right after you started a major milestone - middle school.

Through it all, you continue to be kind, empathetic towards those that are less fortunate all without losing a wit that can only be attributed to a God that also has a sense of humor. Mommy and I are very proud to be your parents and we are excitedly expectant at how God is going to use the adventures of your life.


Photo: Times Square, Nov 2012.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Team Training Tools - Blind Volleyball

Blind volleyball - playing the game of volleyball while not being able to see the ball quite all the time.

Photo: Mozi team, Harrisonburg, VA, April 2011.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Some Sons of Sheng

Loved hanging with these young men - they are like the sons that we never had, especially when they eat all those cheetos. [They were interns in 2010]

Some topics from our conversation of catching up:
Auto-ethnography, Christology and different realities, college campus ministry leadership, God speaking through dreams and visions, how to help high school students ask the right questions from missionaries, church planters and kingdom starters.

Both of these guys have some kind of career goals in cross cultural ministry - perhaps vocationally. This summer, John is probably headed back to Mozi and Andrew probably back to Kenya. Andrew is helping us with a little project later this month.

These guys are great examples of what can happen with Ember interns - suburban students learn about the realities of our global world, they get some real leadership experience, they make some decisions to structure their life around those goals. And then they go and do it. Then they come home and catch us up. And they do it again. [And they come back and help Ember when they can.]

Monday, January 07, 2013

Spring 2013 Interns

Ember is proud to recognize our Spring 2013 interns, DK and Hope Koumentakos. If you've hung around Ember recently, you know their faces.

DK has hung with Ember for the better part of a year now and been involved in projects like STC Baltimore service days [twice], a discovery session as Ember put together a service experience, some student missions prep and our AZ 2012 experience. Hope is brand new and starting just this month. She's already taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, which we try to do towards the beginning.

And of course, they both are already catalytic in their life and leadership, both helping plan and execute different youth outreaches for their friends outside of their student ministry. Among other things, DK works with a Christian student club at school and Hope is helping spearhead a water well project. Yeah kids these days...

There are emerging global student leaders already out there. Ember is privileged to work with two of them.

Photo: Reuniting some past and present Ember interns. Hope - 2nd from the left and DK - 4th from the left.