Tuesday, March 31, 2015


We had been driving for maybe about 45 minutes, it's about 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside and there is still a good 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground. And there, after turning the corner, in the middle of nowhere in Iceland, just below the Arctic Circle.... an Ethiopian restaurant.

In today's world, you never know where or when you will find one element of a given global culture in another. It makes life in our world fun and the ability and navigate cultures essential.

I've been in Iceland for the past few days - more on that later.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Burn

::: How to Survive as an Aid Worker Without Losing Your Soul

::: The British Church in 2050

::: Quartz's Favorite Startups from Y Combinator

::: "You will grow only to the threshold of your pain...if you’re not bleeding, you’re not leading" @samchand

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Our 2015 Missions Support Letter

Here is our support letter for this year. I'm thrilled to tell you that I think our team is going to produce some very very beautiful letters this year. And that our oldest, Katie, designed this years letter. She should start a mini business out of this.

I also got to thinking that I have never had someone contribute to a missions team just from reading a support letter [yet]. But in actuality, I've had quite a few people support some of our summer projects due to a long relationship from reading my blog. And for that, I'm grateful and gladly continue to post.

[Related: Older mission support letters: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Traveling in 2015 and Global Risk

Like many of you, I'm convinced that we are living in amazing times and a big reason for that is the ease of air travel. Also, like many of you, I've followed the global news for a number of years now and the world can still be a dangerous place. I've been thinking about this for a few months now, especially in light of the weight of responsibility The Ember Cast has with the leaders that are entrusted to us.

To that end, last week, we decided to engage a faith based global risk management firm in helping us in this area. Their core competencies include intelligence analysis, security best practices focused on global faith based nonprofit staff, and helping organizations think about global risk management. Board of Director, MPM, articulates it well here [printed with permission]:
"As Ember remains dedicated to engaging young leaders who are interested in exploring other cultures, we should also be dedicated to understanding all the risks to help that happen as safely as possible. Professional-grade risk assessment sounds like the right level in today's tumultuous world...especially to help allay the fears of any parents of emerging leaders. Risk is less risky when you can plan for it."
If you have any responsibility when it comes to sending young people around the world, I implore you to do some heavy thinking about this topic. If you'd like more info on who we engaged, get in touch.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Burn

::: Over The Past 150 Years, There Has Been A Profound Shift In What Humans Do With Their Time
You won't like the answer.

::: Four Myths of Global Leadership

::: How Ikea Took Over the World
The company, for example, did a study of 8,292 people in eight cities, examining morning routines. People are the fastest out the door in Shanghai (56 minutes) and the slowest in Mumbai (2 hours, 24 minutes), where they’re also the kings of the snooze (58% hit the button at least once). New Yorkers and Stockholmers are the most likely to work in their bathrooms (16%). But regardless of city, women spend more time than men picking out their outfit for the day, a process many find stressful.

::: 5 Global Cities of the Future
Link via Alex McManus

::: Many of our churches are almost out of time to be a church of its times and for its times. Len Sweet

Photo: Amadeo Church, summer 2010.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Perspectives - Lesson 10 - Resources

I just finished teaching Lesson 10 for Perspectives for two classes earlier this week and this was the pile of books I brought for some resources. Long time readers know that besides Jesus, Perspectives changed everything for me. Each one of these books is fantastic.

Church in the Making
Youth Ministry in a Post Christian World
Movements that Changed the World
The Forgotten Ways
The Short Term Missions Workbook
* all of these links are to The Ember Cast's Amazon Smile page

Get in touch if you want a copy of my class slides.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Prague - Mtg #2

- third culture kids
- geography
- spiritual, cultural and fun elements
- itineary

Creating this is going to be quite the experience.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Burn

::: Poor Kids of Silicon Valley
Stunning series about child poverty.
"America has the developed world's second highest rate of childhood poverty."

::: Where the migrants go, in one map.

::: Making Disciples, Not Hunting Them Down
Heidi Scanlon, NCC's pastor of prayer, and her ground rules for discipleship.

::: Engineering a Mass Transit App for a City Without Mass Transit
In Nairobi, private car ownership isn’t the norm: the bulk of its citizens rely on public transit. But when Nairobi’s formal bus system collapsed in the 1990s, the government failed to do anything about it.
So without a formal urban planning strategy, an enterprising group of Kenyans sought to fill the void.
The result was a crazy, lawless, and ├╝ber-popular mode of transportation: the Kenyan Matatu.

::: Fortune sides with him who dares. - Virgil via @dancumberland

Photo: Tess and Katie, Curtis Bay, Baltimore. March 2015.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Advantage of Princesses

One of our hopes in raising our kids around faith based global work is that they would engage it as they got older and they wouldn't resent it later. So far, I think, it has worked. They've been on lots of planes. They gravitate towards people that like airports. They have heard stories from countless young people who have gone far away at God's leading and then come home and had dinner at our house. They love adventure. They are willing to go at the slightest invitation.

Ben Arment writes about the advantage of princes, "They grew up in the castle. They understood how the kingdom was run. Leading an empire is no big deal to them because they grew up watching it being done. It has nothing to do with their capabilities. It has everything to do with their conditioning." Certainly, we don't live in a castle, but the principle holds true.

Our oldest daughter, Katie, is spearheading a showing of the human trafficking documentary called In Plain Sight. It's going to be hosted at Grace Community Church in Fulton, MD, the evening of April 11. We are proud of her for using her passion, network and gifts in this area this year and are excited to see how the event turns out. Pretty good for a 17 year old. Let me know if you are interested - would love to see you there.

Update - RSVP here.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Ember Curtis Bay

I love being around people that have started things from nothing and naturally, The Ember Cast has gravitated towards this as well. One thing that makes us unique is our ability to expose emerging global student leaders to the type of people that have done these kinds of things - creative, innovative and entrepreneurial to the core. Gospel centered missional leaders of the future will need to have the skill to find a way or make a way. Last Saturday, we had the privilege of seeing lots of this kind of thing.

DK [ProtoGuide 2013] and Wendy Usher [AZ 2013] have worked with us for a few years and we love the leadership they are providing at their respective colleges. On Saturday, they brought a bunch of their friends to serve at a service day hosted by Ember.

We worked with The Well in Curtis Bay and got to know Mandy Memmel, the founder and executive director. The Well is primarily a resource for women living in Curtis Bay but talk to Mandy and you'll find a catalytic leader that is hoping to change the very culture of their community by helping the women that live there first.

DK brought about 20 college students, which is no small feat. She's been making Ember proud by working on Towson Cru's service team, heading up community outreach initiatives for their community.

Wendy Usher has been working with an after school club of sorts with some kids from her community. Recently she has pivoted that into a mentorship type agreement and has found a small group of college students willing to serve and lead and tutor these kids. In a bold move, she brought 6 volunteers and 10 of these kids in her mentorship initiative to Curtis Bay this weekend. I know you might be thinking of the liability issues in this - trust me, I know. But besides that, exposing kids that are served every week to getting outside of themselves to serve others is a huge win and Wendy and her team pulled it off.

Getting high school kids involved in service projects is almost never a bad thing. But don't forget that somewhere in the past, God birthed a vision in someone. You really win when this person who found a way or made a way shares their passion with your students.

Absolutely loved every piece of this day including the fact that it was our first Prague team excursion. And The Well has one of the most organized clothing closet I have ever seen, accomplished by someone in their mentorship program.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Friday Burn

::: Your Guide to Slang in Other Countries

::: The World's Top Missionary Sending Country

::: A Quarter of a Million People Use an App to Brush Their Teeth

::: People Respond to Forward Motion
Classic Seth Godin.

::: Great leaders don't put out fires. They fill buckets. - @csfguy

Photo: Train, Brussels, Belgium. June 2012.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Prague Leader #1

In the summer of 2013, I met Tess, who, having just come home from Brussels with a team that was working with Serve the City, was interested in how Ember could resource her to do more of the same. It was the perfect project for us - a passionate emerging global student leader and an opportunity to dream and imagine something for the future.

The original intent was for Tess to return to Brussels to work on something else, but instead, she came with us to Aix last summer. We are glad she did.

She's joining us again this summer for Prague and we are thrilled. Her first significant contribution: help raise the bar on support letters.

Photo: Tess, second from the left.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Ember in Curtis Bay This Sat

Ember is hosting a service learning opportunity with a community development nonprofit in Curtis Bay this Saturday. I'm thrilled because we get to work with DK and Wendy Usher again this weekend. Both have been pillars of community impact projects at their respective colleges and it's great to keep up with them and see how their leadership is catalyzing their peers. They have both been involved with us for a few years and it's our privilege to serve with them.

Wendy's also been involved with some after school kids clubs in her community and this weekend, she's bringing some of the kids she's been serving so that they can participate in serving others. I'm thrilled for Ember to have a small part of this and excited to see how it will work out.

Leading community impact stuff like this can be easy. Developing catalytic leaders can be more difficult but the thrill is worth it.