Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Celebrating 20 Years

Besides Jesus, no one else has had a larger influence on my life. Here's to the next 20. Love.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How Some Organizations Do Debriefing

If you are like some organizations - churches, schools, mission agencies - you probably decompress your teams around the idea of what you already do or what you already know. Your goal is to get people more engaged with what you are already involved in, what exists now, what things you are currently resourcing. I'm not saying that is a bad thing.

What might serve us all better is what Alan Hirsch calls missional imagination - what can your students dream up that no one knows about... yet. Instead of helping your students get plugged in to what you know, maybe you should help them engage something they know that you don't.

I am not saying this is simple or easy. This requires you to unleash people. To empower them and send them out. Untether them and allow them to dream. Risky, brave, filled with potential for failure. That's the apostolic.

Photo: Debriefing in Bandol. July 2014.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Window Seat

Our oldest, Katie, is flying home right now. After spending two weeks with the Ember 14X team, her and Olivia spent 10 days in Madrid working with Mountainview International Church and a basketball camp they ran for their students.

This is her first international flight alone and, of course it's no big deal to her but mom and dad were tracking her connections pretty closely. Her first leg landed late and she had to make her way through Heathrow. She boarded with just 2 minutes before they closed the doors.

I never thought that either of my kids would be so brave. When I was growing up, the ideas of risk, bravery and pushing the envelope were not valued at all - in fact, they were distinctly frowned upon. Consequently, I'm a big chicken. But I'm glad my kids are changing the pattern.

Photo: window seat, BA 265.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Burn

::: As full-time pastors become a thing of the past, seminary grads are taking on secular jobs.
Link via Skye Jethani

::: How to Survive Air Travel

::: 5 Things Netflix is Showing Church Leaders About the Future

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The 30 Day Rule

We have what we call a 30 day rule with Ember - you aren't allowed to make any major decisions until at least 30 days after you return from a missions experience. And you spend those 30 days praying about decisions that you think you need to make.

30 days removes the emotion from your experience. It gives you enough margin to think about your experience with more logic. And it helps with growing a passion deeper in your heart. If it is a real passion God has ignited, 30 days will make it even stronger, not lessen it.

When I bring this up, most everyone scoffs at me. I can understand - they want things now. But trust me on this, when you go on something like this, you will change. 30 days gives the change enough time to make it last.

Reminder for Ember 14X - August 14 is your date.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ember 14X Wrap

Long post - feel free to read it or skip it.

: Aix
Again, like last year, being in Aix was so fun. It's a great little city and I love some of the elements that make it up. Elements like expats there for the business opportunities, lots of third culture kids, a technology hub and close proximity to Marseille, which is a key gateway to North Africa. If those things interest you too, keep Aix in the back of your mind. This year our team understood, even more than last year, some of the unique difficulties of ministry here, like when one of our missions roundtables guests said something to the effect of "It's hard to raise missions support when you live in a wedding destination." It's a beautiful city and embodies European and French culture with a distinct appreciation for food, art and beauty. The weather is beautiful, the scenery is gorgeous and the churches are scarce. Some have said France is a graveyard for missionaries.

: Kids Week and ICCP
I didn't convey this real well as things unfolded but the plans for Kids Week had to be drastically changed. Originally scheduled to run Monday to Friday, we were instead shutdown after the day ended on Wednesday by local authorities due to some minor safety concerns. However, we were able to have an end of week picnic in a local park. There was a huge outpouring of community support so ICCP has found themselves with lots of attention, which is hopefully a good thing. The theme of the week was Kingdom of Grace, so everyone, including some pretty upset parents, were encouraged to respond… well… with grace. There is, of course, a bigger story going on here and it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

You know mission trips - stay flexible because things always change. It's a theme for Ember too, our plan A never works out. As I get older, I get less and less flexible. And I am more and more annoyed at myself for being less and less flexible. This is a personal decompression topic.

ICCP continues to be one of the most innovative communities we know about. Their level of intention, sacrifice, and creativity all for the sake of the kids in their community is unparalleled. It is a beautiful thing to see. Tim Anderson [KW director] and Tim Arlen [lead pastor] led this initiative with grace and integrity and I wish our team could have spent more time with both of them.

: Culture Aixchange and Missions Evening
One of my personal highlights of our two weeks in France was the culture exchange. Since the staff was such a good mix of French, American and various other cultures, we had originally wanted to host a culture exchange. The goals for this included having the kids to share about their cultures and having the staff to get to know each other better by doing something fun. This didn't work out for the original schedule but when Kids Week closed down, we were actually able to execute on this and it was a great success. See more notes on it here.

The other highlight for me was hosting a small group of missions people at our villa one evening for dinner and a time of discussion. Among the people included the lead pastor of ICCP, who just moved to Aix a year ago from the States; a Dutch guy who is a serial ministry starter and is going to plant a French speaking church out of ICCP; an American wife of ICCP's former lead pastor who also ran a local wine and cheese touring business in Aix; and someone who is considering coming on staff at ICCP and two of the guys who came to Kids Week from a church in Virginia. Moderated gatherings like these are one of the best things we do. Most trips like these never make the time or space to have students intentionally interact with experienced cross cultural people. For Ember, this is as important as the project itself. More here.

: Financials
Big picture financials - use these to compare keeping in mind that Europe is very expensive.
Airfare: $1230
Food: $157
Insurance: $8
Partner gift: $50
Ground costs: $185
Lodging: $618
Excursion: $18 [Les Baux castle tour]
Costs per team member were about $2266 for 14 days which equals about $161 per day. We got a great deal on our flights through British Airways nonprofit program. Last year, it cost $2250 per person for 10 days.

: Team
I loved working with Teal Rapp. He's one of the most easy going, highly relational leaders that I know. He cares for his family and teams phenomenally and gets fired up when people are engaged and empowered for God's mission. Since he was on staff with ICCP and lived in Aix, he was perfect to be a part of our team. Having his kids on our team was phenomenal too. [His oldest, Olivia, and Katie are working together in Madrid right now.]

The rest of our team was phenomenal as well. Each and every person contributed significantly to both Work Week and the short Kids Week as well as being fully engaged in whatever we were doing - seeing the sights, decompression, helping out around the house.

We made some improvements compared to last year about leadership and most of our team was returning. In addition, John helped prep our team with some very targeted prayer points the week before we departed. We engaged the older students in some various leadership roles which was a great help to me.

: Why This Matters
In the short term, I'm pretty sure you'll see each person grow in at least one of the missional concepts that we were exposed to from the experience: international church planting, people of peace, cultural icons, a community that is incarnational, bivocational ministry. In the long term, you'll see at least some of these kids do something phenomenal but it might take a while so hang on. Thanks to all of you supporters, investors and blog readers - your support is incredible. I love each person on this team like they were one of my kids.
'You don’t plant churches you plant sons.[and daughters]'- Oscar Muriu

Pictures and Videos

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Lessons from the Eiffel Tower
Classic Seth Godin and so true...

::: Why People Still Move to Unhappy Places

::: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Nonprofit Leadership
From Peter Greer, CEO of Hope International.

Photo: The 'American' section of a grocery store. Aix-en-Provence, France, July 2014.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Random Ember 14X

Some random stuff from our time in France. Writing it down so I don't forget.

+ With 11 people, logistics like airport security or public transport can be tricky. This year, our plan was that I walk through security with Deanna [because of her insulin and her pump] and everyone else goes between Hope and Tessa. If anyone has extended time with security, Tess stays with them. Worked great.

+ Most of our travel through airports was fine and this is an issue because Deanna wears an insulin pump and travels with backup insulin in various forms as well as traveling with a backup pump. Coming back through Heathrow was the worst though. She has a great system for this though and each time, we learn a little more. But the people at Heathrow were just jerks.

+ Emily was not feeling well for most of the time we were in France. She had nasal congestion, a sore throat and her ears were clogged. We took her to a doctor on the last Saturday we were in Aix. Someone told us about a doctor that speaks English but you had to mention that you were the friend of so and so to get an appointment. Going to the doctor is definitely a fantastic cultural experience, so you should try it. Emily actually had blood drawn for the first time ever, in another country. And… she tested positive for mono. I can't believe how much she worked while having mono.

+ One night at dinner, our team of 14, ate 6 baguettes. Does that seem like a lot?

+ Our lodging costs averaged out to be about $52 per person per night. The villa was $46, the hostel in Sanary sur mer was $52 and the Holiday Inn MRS airport was $58. Don't get me wrong, the south of France is incredibly expensive. We were fortunate to do it very cheaply.

+ Les Baux was incredible. Bandol was amazing too. Pictures don't do either of them justice. They were both very worthwhile to visit. I know some people saw our pictures and thought, 'Wow rough missions trip...' But I won't apologize for that - my job was to value our team and the incredible work they did. Decompression on the beach on the Mediterranean Sea is part of it and you would be super dumb for not taking advantage of that.

+ In our whole time, we did not see any other evangelical faith based groups of people there. No youth groups, mission teams, handbell choirs. Not one. But we did see Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses.

+ This year in Aix, I actually felt like I knew where I was going. That was interesting to me, especially as you hear people talk about their first year in a foreign city.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

14x decompression outline

We spent most of the day Sunday going through the following list of decompression topics. It was broken up into hour long segments so that the team could have an hour to think/write on the given subject for that hour while doing whatever else too. It wasn't quite as intentional as I had hoped but everyone was almost too tired to think.

Steal these if you want.

1 Write for 10 minutes or more in your journal - recap or a summary of your time.

2 Write about:
What did you love/hate
When did time go fast (generative)
Something new you learned about God

3 Write down a list of people to pray for.

4 Write a summary of your time that fits on an index card.

5 Prepare three responses to when people ask about your time. 20 seconds, 2 min and 20 min. Most people will only listen for 20 secs. One day sooner or later you may need to talk for 20 mins to supporters, a board, or a church about an experience. Get the practice now.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Flying home.

Final Team breakfast

Last team breakfast. I'm going to miss this team a lot. No drama at all and they worked to their absolute best.

We are now all checked in at MRS and ready to board our flight to London.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sending Katie and Olivia

Prayed and laid hands on Katie, Olivia and John this afternoon. Our time together came to an end too soon. So proud of all of them and the bravery they possess.

Hard for a dad but good for the world.

Sending John

We send John off tomorrow as he heads to Greece next, the first of 5 or 6 or who knows how many more destinations.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Post kids week staff party.


We checked out of the villa today and made our way back into Aix for a few hours. Emily has been sick all week so we also ran her to a doctor where they gave her some meds and tested her for strep and mono.

No one likes being sick in another country but it's always a cultural experience. She said it was the first time she had blood drawn in another country. That's Ember spawn talking right there.

Tonight we have a farewell dinner on the beach with all the kids week staff and then our team stays the night in Sanary ser mer, a little seaside village. Tomorow is decompression.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Friday morning was spent taking the Kids Week structures down and cleaning up the general property. In the afternoon and evening, we had a little concluding picnic at a local park with all the families of the kids. The French call this an 'apero' [I think....]

There has been a huge rally of support from the community around Kids Week and ICCP and interestingly enough, the theme of Kids Week was 'Kingdom of Grace.' So it's been a great example of the leadership and volunteer staff thinking and believing the best instead of being angry or mad.

Wrapping up things over the next few days. A big part of that is being very very very intentional about decompression and debriefing. Most teams, including many of mine in the past, spend little to no energy on these topics. Do not make that mistake. [Debriefing resources]

Family mission trip selfie

Best Missions Advice

I love asking people who are working in the field of missions to give their best advice to students thinking about global leadership. Here are some of the answers from last night.

+ Live on a budget now.
+ Travel - it helps your perspective. Get out of America if you can.
+ Learn another language. Almost every other country except the US is multi-lingual.
+ Pray every day for unreached people groups.
+ The love of Christ compels us.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Spent most of this afternoon doing some property tear down - the authorities will not be allowing us to finish the week. We are, however, having a fun end of Kids Week picnic tomorrow at a park in Aix.

This evening, we hosted a few missions people here at the house. The lead pastor of ICCP, a few people in transition to various cross cultural ministry positions, Hillary who ran a wine tasting business as a bi-vocational project, and Frank who is partnering with ICCP to start a French speaking church in the Provence area. So so fun and one of the core functions of Ember. Working on a project is great but students really want to hear from the people you work with.

Culture Aixchange

In light of some drastic changes in plans, we helped facilitate a culture exchange activity in Aix this morning with all the staff. Great Great time. Culture exchanges are a great backup plan if you need and always pretty simple to execute.
Here are some questions we used in addition to having kids take pictures to help with the results and discussions. The goal was not to win but to get to know your team and learn something new.

+ During your Aixcursion, take a picture of each restaurant that that you come across that specializes in food from a culture other than France.

1 Find a flag from a country other than a country represented in your group. How do you determine where someone is from?

2 Figure out something that you all have in common that is unusual and take a picture of something to represent that.

3 Find the most stereotypical things or people that symbolize the countries represented in your group.

4 Find something that one country thinks is rude but another country thinks is normal.

5 Pose at a fountain and attempt to recreate it. Why was it designed to look like that?

6 Take a picture of everyone's feet around something of cultural significance.

7 Find a license plate from the furthest place from Aix that you can.

8 Find something that you can only buy in Europe that Americans want. Is there anything that you can only buy in America that Europeans want.

Update: Here's a few shots from this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Photo cred goes to Sarah A for these.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Plan B or C or D

Unfortunately the authorities have shut kids week down for at least Thursday due to some minor safety issues.

If you've been associated with any of my student missions projects you know how often things don't go according to plan A.

As an ENTJ this drives me crazy. As a futuristic, I was already on next year. Well sort of.

We will do some missional imagination with this.

Costume day

Tessa and her minotaurs.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Les duex garcon

Deanna and I went and had an early anniversary dinner since we celebrate 20 years later this month.

Obviously I love being able to get away for one evening leaving our team in very capable hands. Its healthy for students to hear and be led by other leaders. And its always fun to see the fruition of your leadership decisions from 6 months ago.

John, Hope, Measu and Tessa have helped lead our team so well and not just when we had a night out.


Some of the program which includes music, drama, teaching, and in the afternoon, counselor games.

The theme for the week is Eph 2:8-9.

Tim holding court

Tim is kids week co director and here he is greeting some kids coming on Tuesday morning.

Kids week is held on his property and he and his family have lived here in Aix for many years. Originally from the US, they have lived in many places around the world before France.

He is a great example of engaging your vocation well. You can have a great job that you are really good at that helps you live in a strategic place in the world while using your 'free time' to help make a difference.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Start

This image is one from the start of Kids Week. It symbolizes months of coordination of lots and lots of people. This is what we work for.

You know that our team has also been involved in this for months too. That's probably the best first step in planning a project like this. The students on your missions experience should be involved in it longer than just 2 weeks.

Making friends everywhere we go

Kids week staff kick off

Kids week staff meeting. Every morning at 7am. Dedicated devoted passionate.

Sunday, July 06, 2014


Day off today which meant doing some local exploring. We went to Les Baux and Carriers de Lumieres and both were amazing. Seriously - the pictures don't do either of them justice.

ICCP had church in the park this evening, which is what they always do the Sunday before Kids Week starts. Of course part of this week is to experience a different expression of Church.

We talked tonight about worldview and context, which is always fun. Visiting the sights is always fun, but we always try to teach some of those concepts even when we are being tourists.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


Full day of work at the kids week property today. But we are done and ready for kids that show up first thing Monday morning.

Almost every night, we have team time where we talk about the day. Most team times, some of our team will lead us in a devotional. Sometimes we will also talk about a missional concept. Tonight, Tess and Katie V led us as we talked about praying with intention. and of course, it's awesome to be lead by our students. We also talked about our roles for next week - everyone is super excited to jump in for Kids Week.

If you didn't know it yet, your students can read and understand the Bible and communicate that clearly to their peers.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day

We had a full day at the Kids Week property for another day of work week today. Lots got done with still lots more to do and our team is still doing great. We have one person who slept all day to try to get over a little cold but I think she's on the mend.

In the evening, we went back into the city of Aix-en-Provence. ICCP was hosting a worship night so we dropped in on that for a little while. Then we went and watched France play Germany in the World Cup. Almost everyone in town had the game on tonight and most of the big plazas had TVs out for people to watch the game. Even if you aren't a fan, watching the World Cup in a European city in such a fun experience.

We then had dinner at a little shawarma place owned by a good friend of Teals. R is so generous, welcoming and warm and it's fun to see the fruit of a good, deep friendship cultivated over many years between people who live on the opposite side of the globe from each other.

More pictures here and here.

Happy 4th of july

Someone hung a British flag here today for the 4th of July. That's what you get working with an expatriate community.

Aix has a huge international community. Lots of corporate offices here as well as a lots of global nonprofits using Aix and Marseille as a sending base.

Thursday, July 03, 2014


Dinner tonight after our first day for work week. Long day with lots of manual labor but the thematic elements are coming together. Team doing great and having a blast.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

At the gate

We never wear team shirts, it's kind an edict I have. Never wear the same thing when we travel. You know those teams, you avoid them in airports.

I'm not against team shirts per se but you can do better to build a team. The shared t shirt is easy. The shared team identity takes a lot more work but you know it is so worth it.

I Just Love Airports

I hear this statement all the time from the students that orbit Ember [but it is not totally me - the one who gets motion sick.] They proclaim it like a badge of honor. Compared with the more general population that never leaves the country or is too anxiety-ridden to get into a plane, saying it out loud seems like an attempt to set them apart.

And it does. We exist for these kids. Not for the ones that don't care about how the world outside their neighborhood looks or those that couldn't care less about how cultures cluster or those who decide its too much trouble to get on a plane. And granted, it is a ton of trouble. But it might be worth it.

And because we exist for them, we put a lot of stock in them. We are thrilled at their efforts to make the world better. They matter and we do our best to help them do it better. Oh...I'm off to the airport in 8 hours.