Friday, July 31, 2015


Camp Juice went in to Prague again today with what we called "Bless Day," a day where they were in the city to bless people. We didn't know how or what that would look like except that we asked them to consider the Spirit leading them to find someone to bless, we gave them some money, and told them not to do anything illegal or unbiblical. You know, don't get thrown in jail.

It was a beautiful day of students looking out for others intentionally to serve and bless strangers. Some teams used their money to make lunches, some teams bought lunch for people, and one team even had strangers chip in to their bless fund after hearing what they were about. In one case, a team took a homeless person out to lunch only to find out that today was his birthday. Of course, lots more to that story, but most of the experiences were ones that moved these students.

This was an experiment that we weren't sure was going to go great. It did in fact. In a city known for its atheistic perspective and resistance to the Gospel, sending missionary kids to do this was perfect.

More photos here and here.

Dear Praying Friends

Would love your prayers for the following:

1. I have a bit of a head cold and have lost my voice. My kids will be thrilled but at this point most of my job here involves communication. Thanks for praying that it comes back soon.

2. We found out a few days ago that the Arlen family, who two Ember teams served with in Aix in 2013 and 2014, had an awful tragedy. One of their daughters died in a car accident. We loved working with Tenny last summer. Thanks for praying for peace for their family. The Shengs and The Ember Cast are unbelievably sad about this.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wednesday Guest

To my right is Mike Kurtyka, who is the Europe Operations Coordinator for Christian Associates. In addition to that, he is on staff with Mosaic Glasgow Church. He was the third in a series of special guests that came to share with the Ember team in Prague.

Our conversation included fascinating current topics in global missions such as:
+ The migration of people - his network in Glasgow includes lots of people who just immigrated from a ME country and lots of opportunity to help them learn conversational English.
+ His story of calling, which included helping on the missions board of a church which is where he got a sense for global missions.
+ Don't be afraid to share your faith now as a high school student.

Loved our time with Mike.


We journeyed into the city center of Prague today with all of Camp Juice. That would be 34 people - think shuttle bus, metro and walking through the city. So to do that, you break up into groups, and your Ember team leads with such poise, grace and integrity. Beautiful - you would be proud of this team. They killed it today by being warm, inviting, engaging and desiring to have fun and do something significant.

Cultural scavenger hunt was the activity of the day and everyone had a great time exploring the city and having lunch there all while participating in these varied tasks. The deeper value to this was observing and decoding culture more than just at the surface level and our evening discussion proved that everyone got the idea. Not only that, it seemed like everyone had a great time hanging together.

If you are in global missions circles, you know that sometimes missionary kids can be a tough crowd. I'm super proud of our team - 34 people became a temporary fun community having fun together in a global city. What a privilege to watch this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tuesday - Guest

On my right is Rita Warren, chairperson for the international board for Christian Associates. Rita was our special guest last night - our second in a series this week of special guests to speak to our Ember team and anyone else who wants to hang.

Rita has been associated with CA for many, many years, and been serving as the board chair for the last season. I invited her to speak because she is a great example of someone who lives missionally, sees her life and family as integral to helping people serve cross culturally and invests their time, resources and passion for the Kingdom. Incidentally, Rita and her husband Michael received the first annual CA Generosity Award last night. Hearing the many people speak about the generosity of their lives was truly inspiring. Her family is also a great example of people involved in very significant roles in global missions but not being front line missionaries. She's impacted thousands of people in numerous countries without moving overseas.

Lots in our session with Rita but a summary of her advice for young global catalysts:
1 - Funding - the funding model is changing. You won't be able to be 100% donor supported in the short future. The Billy Graham association had 50,000 donors pass away.
2 - Travel and see the world. Short term trips are a great way to do this.
3 - Be open to the Spirit leading.

Loved our time with Rita and so appreciative of her hanging with us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Summit Camp Juice Program

Camp Juice ends for Summit tonight - the first part of the conference. Other families and students show up tomorrow - the general broader conference. We've had a great time with these kids.

We have tried to neither over program or under program and it has worked well. We typically start the day after breakfast with some light worship and a short devotional. Worship had to be adjusted since a guitar didn't arrive so one of the Camp Juice kids had a ukulele and ORapp leading has been fantastic - love the vibe. All of our students have or are going to lead morning devotions - yes your high school kids can lead other high school kids in reflecting from the Scriptures. We've been looking at some of the 'I am' statements from the Gospels.

The rest of our days looked like:
+ Saturday - arrival and intro session.
+ Sunday - traipsing through an outskirt of the city looking for our friend Tall Skinny Kiwi. An interesting walk through Prague.
+ Monday - lunch in city center and a dinner with TSK.
+ Tuesday - some shopping and recon in city center to do some planning for later in the week.

Our team is doing great and pivoting easy with how plans are adjusting. The Camp Juice kids that have hung out with us have been an absolute joy to be around. Thanks for your support for this team.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Unlike yesterday, due to some miscommunication, today worked much better. We spent lunch in the city center of Prague and then went out to Divoka Sarka to meet up with old friend Andrew Jones. If you've been around this blog for a while, you know that Andrew has had a profound influence on my views of missions. When I learned he was going to be in Prague at the same time as our team, it was a must to try to make connecting work out. It didn't work yesterday but it did today.

Andrew hosted our Camp Juice team out near where they are living now - it's a beautiful space with a few families living in community. While there, he and Debbie shared about their 30 year missions journey, their current calling as global nomads and the conviction they have for living simply while being able to move as God calls them throughout the world. They also cooked us a delicious traditional Czech gulash meal.

Anytime I get to spend with them is always phenomenal and I love being able to facilitate students meeting them face to face.

More photos here and here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday - Guest

Frustrating day in terms of program - tell you more about that later. But...

Most nights, we invite a special guest to talk to our Ember team and whomever else wants to join. It's one of our distinctives with student missions - we intro students to someone we know who is creative, entrepreneurial and innovative with the future of missions. Tonight was our good friend Teal Rapp, whom we have worked closely with the past 2 summers in Aix. It's always informal and done in interview style.

Teal is the director of recruiting for Christian Associates, and he Teal talked about his calling, his family's personal journey to vocational cross cultural ministry and things like raising support, language, immersion and what he looks for in people interested in serving overseas. This is one of the funest things we do with people that we serve with and should truly be an integral part of your student missions architecture.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Team all checked in to hotel or czeched in. Met most of the first group of kids. Intros first meals and getting to know them.

Water park and robes.

Adjustments to plans like you would expect on the first day. Tomoorrow is the famed monastery project.

Sir Tobys

Stayed at Sir Tobys hostel last night which was great. Dinner next door at Kozlovna for less than 10 euros a person and delicious food. A walk around the block to see the neighborhood and a quick planning meeting. I slept 3 hours longer than the boys.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


We are sitting at the gate nice and early. Flying out of BWI is a nice treat as we usually fly from IAD.

We had some visitors come to see us off which was super nice. Ember guides and other guests - so sweet. Sometimes when people start non profits it's hard to continue to stay plugged in to a local church. I love that our Ember guides own this team as their own.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Prague Team Meeting #11

Lots of team meetings with this team. We are as ready as we will be.

Team meeting #11:
- Dinner out at Bistro Bohem, the only Czech restaurant in the DC area [great food by the way.] One of the servers might be on one of our flights.
- Special guests included Eric and Christy and Ember guide Hope.
- A walk around the neighborhood which included walking through Little Ethopia and a little short tour in one of the markets by our own Meklit.

Departure tomorrow. This blog moves into more real time updates so feel free to mute or hide as you wish.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Prague Leader #2

I first met Katie Virostek in the summer of 2013 when she was on a team that The Ember Cast helped facilitate to travel and serve with our dear friend Ben Cloud and Amadeo Church, outside of Phoenix. Katie was a phenomenal member of that team and is one of those emerging global student leaders that we love to work with.

She's got lots of experience with Appalachian Service Project, meaning she knows more about home improvement than me. She also leads with a quiet but solid presence, is willing to sacrifice and be uncomfortable for a bigger purpose and takes joy in doing any job that needs to get done. Katie joined us last summer in Aix and worked with us all year as one of three ProtoGuides.

We are thrilled that she joins us on the Prague team this year, rounding out the third of three leadership roles. Our teams are usually pretty flat when it comes to any hierarchy between team member and team leader, but most teams still do require the talents of some who can project, structure, delegate and release. Her contributions have been vital these past few months as our plans have pivoted multiple times. That will probably continue to happen though - a lot can happen in the 4 days before we leave. And that's not even talking about after we land.

Photo: Katie in the upper right, running the famed Hula Hoop challenge.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Burn

::: A Team of 1
The team is in the field.
Fantastic read from Justin. Link

::: We Don't Trust Drinking Fountains Anymore
By 1920, most municipalities were providing free, chlorinated water. The public health benefits were obvious. Half of the decline in urban deaths between 1900 and 1940 can be attributed to improvements in water quality, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

::: Snapchat Streams Mecca

::: When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts. – Larry Ellison

Photo: bake sale. July 2015.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

When Adventure Starts

The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong - that's when adventure starts.
- Yvon Chouinard

Monday, July 13, 2015

Prague Team Meeting #9

Ninth meeting with our team and no one seems tired of each other yet [except my kids of me] because it's such a fun time with great personalities. We've got some momentum with our program so loose ends are getting tied up.

This meeting included dry runs of the various devotional talks that each team member is giving. Yes, high school kids are speaking in front of other high school kids about their spiritual life. No, I don't think that is very abnormal and you shouldn't either.

We also prepped for a bake sale that we held the next day, which raised a good amount of money. Bake sales are very easy creative revenue activities and are a great venue to have your team talk to strangers about what your team is doing and why.

We also talked about the concept of missional imagination [stolen from Alan Hirsch.] And then we went to see Minions.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Burn

::: Instagrads - This year's high school graduates have spent 4 years on Instagram.
Like the detention hall that brought kids from different social groups together in The Breakfast Club, everyone — the band geeks, the nerds, the football players, the country boys, the artistic kids — is on Instagram.

::: Colorados Push Against Teenage Pregnancies is a Startling Success
If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they actually want to.

::: The Most Useful Foreign Languages an English Speaker Can Learn and Why

Photo: team building with Meklit. May 2015.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Prague Team Meeting #8

If eight team meetings sounds like a lot to you for a short term team, it is. In our case, I'm glad we have so many of these meetings scheduled, and that our trip is actually a few weeks later in the summer, because we are currently finding ourselves in the middle of a second pivot. If you've been around Ember for a while, or cross cultural excursions in general, you know that plan A almost never works out. Instead, it's plan B. Ember moves down the alphabet fast sometimes.

We were originally going to do some traveling for Camp Juice. Logistics for that didn't quite land. Then we moved forward with another plan - using elements of a waterpark. Except I forgot a major detail - we did not have unlimited access to this. This week has been a lot of pivoting including changes in our decompression lodging and two awesome local projects that we had hoped might work out for our students but fell through.

We outlined Plan C tonight. 4 team meetings left, 16 days before departure. Sticking with Plan C would be nice. We also prayed for each Camp Juice student by name - that might be our time best spent.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Seven Years Ago

In 2008, I along with a team of other super talented leaders, took some 28 students to Hungary to serve at an annual conference for a missions organization named Christian Associates. The actual service part of our experience was phenomenal - this team pulled off something that I am still in awe of today, 7 years later. What proved even more amazing was how catalytic that experience was.

- That summer, Trevin met a team from South Africa doing sports outreach. He traveled there in 2010 through some mutual connections and continued to serve in different overseas and local projects since 2008, which gave him great experience and helped pave the way for a job helping run this kind of stuff in a local church. He is en route back home right now from another overseas project returning from helping lead a team for Bay Area Community Church, where he is now the local outreach director.
- That summer, Erin met a bunch of these like minded people with this Christian Associates tribe. Seven years later, she is on associate staff, helping CA with their training and development, using tools like 360 evaluations, the StrengthsFinder assessment and virtual team building platforms.
- That summer, Rachel joined us all the way from Seattle to help us lead this huge team of students. She got connected with Soma Communites all the way in Hungary and it's been a vital part of her extended family as she serves and blesses people in the education field in the Seattle area.
- That summer, Tricia had just graduated from high school, and this was the capstone experience for her interning with me in the area of student missions. This would be her second trip to Hungary as a high school student, and her third trip overseas, the other being to Cameroon. Seven years later, she is living across the country and serving in the medical field and has the heart of adventure.

My team leaves in 18 days to serve at almost the exact same conference, this time helping older students. Of course, my hope is that our program goes off great and that the kids have a blast. But even more, I hope that I can tell these kinds of stories of transformation and adventure and kids growing up to serve even greater causes than themselves - in seven years. Because if it happens in seven, the future has been marked.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Friday Burn

::: Melinda Gates talks with Christianity Today
Poverty, homelessness, vaccines and faith. Fantastic read.

::: How Fast American Changes Its Mind

::: Myanmars First KFC
People in Iceland raved about KFC too.

::: 'Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.' – Ray Bradbury via @DavidLivermore

Photo: Ember guides, the Lincoln, DC. May 2015.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Incredible First 6 Months of 2015

Today is July 1 and the first half of 2015 has been a fantastic season in my life. Not to say it's all roses - we are parenting two teenagers after all. But in the grand scheme of things, it has been pretty great.

I've done more traveling than usual, including a birthday getaway with my wife, taking my older daughter to Iceland and going with my wife to Seattle to officiate the wedding of some dear friends. Our health is good and my mom is doing okay and my day job, once pretty pitiful, is seeing some light. Ember has also had some fantastic engagements including serving with some college kids in Baltimore, a weekend with students in Philly, helping coach some young adult leaders, and architecting a student missions training weekend. And of course Prague is coming up later this month, which is a huge project and with a great team.

The opportunities that have shown themselves this year have been deeply aligned with both my personal passions and giftings as well as competencies of The Ember Cast. I loved each of those Ember projects - they required the best of what we could give and they were incredibly generative for me - they were what we do best. Intention, planning and being open to God's opportunities have made for a great 2015 so far.

Thanks for your support for The Ember Cast in 2015 so far.