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.


  1. Great writeup.

    "Belong before believe..." -- Includers say "YES!!"

  2. thanks matt! haha oh you includers =)