Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The 30 Day Rule

I've referred to it here and there, but for Ember experiences, we seriously encourage people to take 30 days to let emotions settle before making big decisions. We call it the 30 day rule, but it's really a guideline and lots of people get mad at me when I challenge them with it. Deep down, they know it has some validity.

Anecdotally, most long term missionaries go back and serve at the first location they went on for a short term trip. This isn't necessarily bad but sometimes the short termer's first location isn't the best place for them when we consider calling and passion, the unreached and the strategic, and a theology of place. Letting these things burn in your heart for 30 days isn't a bad idea.

Our oldest daughter Katie decided to make the rule better this year - it's not just 30 days of waiting, it's 30 days of praying. I love that and we'll pivot using that for future Ember experiences. My only issue with it is, hey who is running Ember anyways?

Photo: at a gate, Paris, France. July 2013.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy 19th

We celebrate 19 years of marriage today. It seems like forever and it seems like yesterday and it has certainly been, and will continue to be, an adventure of a lifetime.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Future Casting from 2013

Ember exists to help prepare for leaders of the future and in order to project into the future, you must see the present clearly. Here are some of the current concepts that we saw this summer that may cast direction and intention for the missionary of the future.

1 - Multi-dimensional Connections
Combine global urban migration, digital natives and the ease of world wide travel and student mission experiences today are full of multi-dimensional connections. Students connect with lots of other people from lots of other places in the world. They continue these connections long after they come home from various medium via technology, such as sharing pictures and videos, texting each other and maybe talking via skype or facetime. One of our team still 'talks' with people from France at least a few times a week. Future student missions experiences should anticipate this and use it as an advantage.

2 - Belonging Before Believing
Both experiences in Aix and Phoenix involved significant contributions from students that didn't necessarily have a Christian world view. Now, of course, there is a sensitive line involving leadership roles and how relevant faith is in those positions. The challenge for the future is to navigate these challenges with a 'belonging before believing' posture.

3 - Creative Access and Creative Revenue
Creative access means various ways to get you to the field of service and creative revenue means generating the revenue to get you there. Our creative inspirations this summer included the Aixtraordinary Journey that ICCP put on and the fabulous community platform that Amadeo Church hosts at their 3rd Place Cup coffeehouse. Student missions in the future continue to inspire us with new and bold initiatives with regard to access, revenue and platforms. Be sure to include the idea of business as mission under this creative heading too.

4 - Sustainable Charity
Both of our hosts were passionately and deeply embedded in their communities. They exist to see these communities changed for the better. Ember uses the concept of a catalyst as our primary paradigm and it continues to help us filter our activities to spur on teams and not do anything that they couldn't do for themselves. As we think about the dynamic of self -> serve -> systems, these two hosts definitely helped us be catalysts and not create unreasonable dependencies.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Burn

::: 7 Hours with Jim Collins

::: Important Lessons from Living Abroad

::: Experts Take Notes
and.... the starters and sponges take notes too.

::: 4 roles of the youth worker on an international missions trip

- @BenArment A prophet is without honor in his own country. But if everyone treated you like a prophet, it'd turn you into a real jerk.

Photo: the water balloon line, Ember X, July 2013.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Emily and Wendy

Loved hanging with them last week in AZ. Ember doesn't happen without these kinds of talented, passionate leaders.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Announcing Fall 2013 Interns

I'm thrilled to announce that Hope K and Measu B are our Fall 2013 interns. The high school internship is a core competency of Ember and it's always great fun to work with global emerging high school leaders. Both Hope and Measu were on the 2013 Ember X team, so we have worked together before and they know what it's like to travel with the Shengs.

I originally met Hope and Measu in the summer of 2011 when Ember helped prepare their team as well as visit them when they were on their mission trip in DC. Since then, they've been involved in some great global stuff, like a well project, as well as jumping in with Ember projects. Hope, you will remember, also interned in the Spring of 2013, so she's continuing on.

One day, we will call them something else instead of 'interns'. In the meantime, we are thrilled at this opportunity to learn, serve and work with these two. And we are always on the lookout for these types of emerging leaders.

If you or someone you know might be interested in the future, here's the internship info sheet.

Photo: Hope and Measu, Parc Jourdan, Aix-en-Provence, France. July 2013.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Post AZ

Our projects with Ben Cloud and Amadeo Church continue to be some of the most catalytic experiences we can dream of. Ben is one of those rare leaders that combines creativity, innovation and a passion for his community. This is one of Ember's distinctives - connecting emerging global leaders with some of the best leaders we know who are doing the stuff.

+ By all accounts the Grace AZ ladies [10 of them] had an amazing week. I was only there a few days but I saw an amazing team. They worked and served hard during the VBS and a neighborhood cleaning project. Learning deeply, at each session most of them were taking notes. They enjoyed each other and had fun together, encouraging other and dreaming together. Our last few moments together were spent in worship and taking communion - it was stunning.

+ Ben and I continue to dream about the future. It's invigorating because he's a total dreamer but got the raw nerve to actually execute. He and Mandy have just come through a very tough season of deepening community and organization clarity. Not an easy time.

+ Emily Swinburne served as a fantastic guide for this team. She represents the execution of a different paradigm for Ember - one where we sent a trusted guide to serve as a leadership resource for a team that we didn't know real well. It worked perfectly.

+ Wendy is also having a great time serving with Amadeo. Also a new accomplishment for Ember - sending someone to a trusted partner for an extended amount of time for a deep learning experience.

+ Our Katie landed from France at IAD at about 1pm on July 11. Her flight left IAD at 8am the next day for Phoenix. Well... she's my kid so I approved that...

Some more pictures here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Third Place Cup

This is the coffee house that Amadeo has opened up to the community. Weekend nights its open for music, coffee, and community. Very much a third space.

I fly home tommorrow afternoon. The Grace ladies fly in the morning and Wendy comes back to Merryland at the end of July.

It has been a great four days. The team here has seen lots including a church so devoted to serving their community as well as a much different expression of Church. All kinds of churches for all kinds of people. They worked hand in hand with Ben and Mandy and been able to see what he does and how he thinks. That is the Ember win right there.

Noah , Wendy and Ben

Team is working on a little neighborhood project helping out some of Bills neighbors.

Also heard Johns PG version story. Its a great one.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Apples and Orchards in AZ

Ben does a Q&A session with the Love of God tour saying, "If you were interested in church planting, what questions would have?" This is one of the many reasons why we love the Love of God tour.

One of Ember's mantras is in every apple there is an orchard [stolen from Alan Hirsch...] - meaning, the potential for world transformation is in every Christ follower.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Personal Decompress

Im waiting for my flight to Phoenix right now. Im thrilled to hang with Amadeo and Ben and the Grace AZ team and Wendy and Emily - all those great people - just for a few days. And our Katie is there too.

Ive spent the past few days on a personal decompression from France. Its been good and quiet and Imagine Dragons, Sade, John Mayer have helped. And of course sage John Eldredge always helps frame life, death and the fact that 'the reason you doubt there could be a glory to your life is because that glory has been the object of a long and brutal war.'

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Learning from Caroline

A little gathering to learn from and connect with Caroline while she is home. Caroline got interested in missions when she was a middle school student and it has stuck. In 2008, she was one of the brave 4 that we sent from Hungary for 10 days directly to Cameroon for 12 days. She's since been using midwife skills in some developing countries and now teaches that skill as part of YWAM medical mission schools.

She talked about:
+ calling
+ the risk of not finishing college and working through that issue with her parents
+ her dad saying that he hopes she would get missions out of her system eventually
+ hoping to do some medical and community development work in the middle east
+ praying over women and their newborn babies as they are giving birth.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ember X Reflections

Long post - you've been warned.

:: Aix
+ Typical European city with a core city. Absolutely stunningly beautiful - my pictures won't capture it. 71 square miles with a population of 145K. So smaller than Baltimore in physical size with about a quarter of the population.
+ It's a totally multi cultural city and lots of expats there although we didn't see a ton of Asian/Middle Eastern people. I expected to see more and almost none of the kids at camp were from either of those areas of the world.
+ Loved the story that Hillary told that there is a time of the year when she will see college exchange students in the city center crying because they don't know where they are going - definitely a college town.
+ The climate of Aix during July is much like the desert. Hot dry heat during the day, cool nights, lots of sun. Arid, dusty, very hard and rock soil. Vegetation is limited, not much rain. There is a spiritual parallel.
+ Lots of expats there. Eurocopter is a huge employer and there is a big nuclear fusion project going on there.
+ Marseille is 30 minutes away and is a big gateway for Africa. Think port and airport. You can get to any global city from there.
+ The streets are lined with 'plane' trees that Napoleon planted all through France to give shade to his army.
+ I also didn't see a lot of gypsies there like you do in other European cities. Maybe it was because of the Tour going through or the height of tourist season or a combination.

:: Logistics
+ Our schedule of travel home wasn't great. Would have been far better to debrief at a neutral location somewhere fun on the way home. I did this in 2007 and 2008 and it is the way to go. Not only that, we missed the last 2 days of camp which was less than ideal as well. 3am wake up call for a 6am flight from Marseille to Paris. The Holiday Inn Express at Marseille was beautiful - we were only there for 5 hours.
+ Our villa slept 12 people, had its own pool, had 2 cats and 2 horses on the property, a US size refrigerator, wifi, washer and dryer and was absolutely amazing. We were told it wasn't how a normal French person lives but that it was a vacation home. It calculated to be about 40 euros a person a night, which ended up being easily the cheapest lodging. It was 15 minutes from the city, on the bus line and 5 minutes from camp. Our landlord was the sweetest. Dea found this on
+ We rented a 9 person van which was perfect getting our team from our house to camp, but not so easy driving through city center because of the size.
+ Speaking of the van, on the first day I put a pretty significant dent in the rear bumper because I backed into a stone flower post at the villa. I'm pretty sure the rental car company didn't charge me for it and Megan told us that the French don't care about their cars like other countries do.
+ We could have used a dedicated cook.

+ ICCP is the only English speaking church in the south of France. Their incoming pastor, Tim Arlens, is great.
+ Met 3 missionary families that belong to ICCP and are in Aix for global mission purposes. One works for Wycliffe doing administration for Bible translation, one works for the IMB involved in humanitarian logistics in North Africa and one used to be one of George Verwer's gophers for a year. Not only that, lots of people there in bivoc/missional sense too like a guy starting up a campus for SCAD, camp director Tim who works for a global semiconductor company and his family, and a doctor and his family there on sabbatical.
+ There is a creative ethos in ICCP - it is subtle and hard to describe. The context requires it.
+ Hillary, the wife of outgoing pastor Dom, has a business where she does wine and market tours. Love that creative revenue/bivocational plan. She took our team on a four hour tour of the different food markets and it was amazing.
+ Some people in Aix think that ICCP is a cult. Some people in the US think that evangelicals are....

:: Camp
+ Camp is a major production.
+ Tim and Apryl are awesome. They lead the charge in terms of camp and it's held on their property. Their creative act speaks about the Creator.
+ There were 120 campers there this year, which may or may not seem like a lot from American standards. Clearly though, the ethos of people involved at camp is that we sacrifice for those that haven't heard the good news yet. With that mentality, the numbers are irrelevant. And that is beautiful.
+ The camp staff this year, which was mostly older high school and college students, had a few kids who weren't necessarily people of faith which I think is awesome. [Belong before believe...] The message for camp was just as much for them as for the campers. I know that might not sit well with some. I will say too, the message of camp - the good news - was clear and undiluted.
+ Camp is what you would expect. Fun, energy, different rotations including a zip line, arts and crafts, sports and games, pool time, archery, trampoline, and then a program which includes music, drama and a talk. Costume day was Wednesday, Water day was Thursday and families are invited to join on Friday. They rent a jump house on Wednesday and a giant water slide on Thursday.
+ It would have been fun to do some more stuff with the camp staff together. Leadership development or stuff like that.

:: Rough Financials
+ Raised ~ $25,500. 19% was raised via creative revenue plans.
+ Spent ~ $22,500. Divide by 10 people = $2250 per person.
+ The extra in there will be spent on some student mission projects this Fall.
+ Approx costs: Airfare: $13946. Food: $1239. Lodging $4688. Insurance: $340. Car + Fuel: $1302. Camp gift/cost: $1000.
+ Pleasantly surprised at the budget. Cost on food was super low because we cooked in as much as we could and camp provided meals on a few days as well as treating our team to a typical 3 course southern French Provencal meal on the last night we were there.

:: Ember X Matters Because
+ Even though I've done this kind of thing a few times before, this was Ember's first overseas project. That's a big deal.
+ It was quite the experience for our family as well, with Deanna's recent health issues. Suffice to say that God can lead your journey through an insulin pump and she only had one day where her blood sugar numbers were a little out of whack.
+ We design these experiences to be catalytic - they are beginnings if we have done it right. This was a win. Watch some of these students in the next 500 years.
+ We connected some very special students to some of the best global leaders we know of. Our students worked with them side by side. They watched them create and innovate and navigate the unknown. They connected with them on the ideas of calling, other cultures and loving and serving people because you have been loved. They met people who intentionally moved to another culture and learned about the path they took. They worked with these world class global leaders to put together an experience for kids they had never met... yet. That is why Ember exists.

+ Special thanks to you - our family, friends and supporters. Be proud of this team.

Lots more pictures here and here's a camp video.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Favorite moment

My favorite moment from Ember X:

We were driving in to have dinner in the city and I was in the drivers seat with Emily next to me and Hope on the other side of her. [front seat was a bench that fit 3] Hope told us the story of how she got to be friends with a little French girl who was about 7 or 8 and didn't speak any English. This little girl loved the fun music and was totally into it. When it came time for the drama and the talk right after that, she was captivated by this idea of the 'man of good news' and was asking about this book called the Bible and was that a secret book? From there, Hope talked about how a lot of the material in the Ember internship we have talked about this past year became clear - the unreached, the unengaged, post Christianity, why we went to France.

Perhaps more than any other recent Ember experience, Ember X feels like a really powerful beginning of something.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ember X flying home

Flying home right now. Debrief session in the terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris. Not ideal but we have to do at least some of it.

Not a great picture of Hope and Measu but anyway. They led us in some debriefing - love giving students opportinities like this.

Much more later after we get home. Thanks to all of the Ember X friends and supporters.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ember X - Tuesday pm

Camp ends at 6pm after campers leave at 5pm and a staff debriefing. It's a hardy discussion that includes lots of encouragement as well as lots of challenge to make things better.

We had a visiting team dinner tonight including our compatriots from Austin. After that, Teal hosted a little discussion about:
+ identification of future missionaries
how is your time with God
are you adaptable, entrepreneurial, able to navigate the unknowns

+ your first few years in another culture
phase 1 - the first 3 weeks - honeymoon
phase 2 - up to 18 months - real life
phase 3 - up to 2 years - then it gets better.

+ calling
God makes it known.
their list was 56 items in how God spoke to them.

Working all day with campers and then having a short session in the evening is a long day. But having this kind of opportunity with a global leader like Teal is rare. It is why we do what we do.

Ember X - camp day 2

Tim Arlens new incoming pastor of iccp gives camp a quick talk every morning. Its about an extraordinary journey looking for the unseen island, following a guide and finding true life.

Our team is doing great although we are exhausted. There are about 120 kids here and they are loving the experience.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Ember X - Camp has started

Camp has started. About 120 campers and 40 staff. This is morning worship. Great to see it come together.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Ember X - post work week

Tim Anderson and his wife have lived in Aix for a number of years and ICCP's camp has always been held on the property, affectionately known as Anderland. Tim is the pragmatic engineer that works together with Martin, the creative, imaginative architect and together, they mesh and take a vision and construct an experience. It's awesome to watch them work together.

If you are a parent, family member or friend of one of these Ember X kids, Tim's comments should make you proud. What he says is all true.

Ember X Sunday

+ Went on a three hour walking tour of the city center, including a ton of history, culture and missional topics and principles from Hillary Rivera, wife of outgoing ICCP pastor Dom. Amazing time. Churches, cathedrals, markets, fresh fresh fresh food.
+ Lunch in a park.
+ Free time in the city.
+ Sunday early evening [5pm] church service in a park with ICCP - first Sunday with their new pastor.

The team is doing well although we are all pretty tired. Work week has been very long days, very hard work, and even though the weather here in Aix is beautiful, it is a very hot, dry climate.

Camp starts bright and early tomorrow.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Ember X Saturday pm

After our final work day...
+ Mission strategy session including people groups, unreached people groups, the 10/40 window, and global urban migration. You know I loved this.
+ Team dinner in the city - so so good. Walking through city center. Team picture at the Rotund.
+ Introducing the topic of third culture kids. [Lots of them here in Aix.]

Ember X Sat am

Lots of final prep this am including major cleanup and touching up here and there. Interesting to see an idea in someones head take shape. They are definitely striving for campers to have an experience and not just go to camp.

Our team is doing great - working hard and loving being a part of something bigger than themselves.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Ember X Friday

Big work day at camp today before campers arrive on Monday. Today included lots of moving big creations,

Some of us went to go grocery shopping this afternoon after work day. Grocery shopping in another country is a must and is always a cultural experience.

Tonight over dinner, our conversation included a short devotional about contentment versus complaining [led by Ember former intern DK who is leading us all week], creativity versus artistry and the context of the iccp camp in Aix with creatives, artists and a post Christian environment.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Ember X Thursday

We spent most of the late morning and early afternoon in the center in Aix watching the 100th Tour De France right through a small section of town. On the United States' Independence Day. Amazing.

This afternoon was spent back at camp working on more work projects including some cleaning and painting. It's pretty amazing what a huge production this is and there are some very skilled artisans as part of this team. It's experience designing at its best. Our team did a ton of painting today.

Dominic Rivera and Teal rode the bus back to our villa with us after lunch in the city. While waiting for the next bus, we had a short conversation about mission and calling, ministry in Western Europe, learning to live cross culturally. Lots of use of the word context. This is one of the best things Ember can offer - face to face deep learning and insight from experienced, talented global leaders. Pizza from the pizza van this evening for dinner.

Some photos are here.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Ship

Ember X landed safely earlier today with all of the team healthy and all of our bags although connecting in Paris at Charles De Gaulle airport was close.

Other logistics included getting the rental van, meeting one of the host teams, and driving to the rent by owner house we are staying in. All went well with those details.

This one of the first sites of camp - it is a big ship. Lots of work cleaning, constructing and all that today. Jetlag will make most of us go to sleep early tonight.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Travel vitals

Passports, seabands, and the ember logistics playbook. T - 16 hours.

Ember X team mtg #10

Our 10th and final team meeting:

+ Packing a few team bags which includes camp t shirts we are bringing.
+ Any final logistics and travel questions.
+ The God of mission has a church in the world.
+ Praying it up.

Really great success with 10 team prep meetings, and even though it may seem like a lot, I would rather on too much prep than not enough. And you've been around the student teams that show up on the field and they are... well let's just say you put some distance between you and them... So we've had lots of fun becoming a team. We depart tomorrow - then the real fun begins.