What an experience. The Lord really provided because it could have been a huge train wreck but instead was an amazing time with a whole group of amazing students. Here's some highlights - this is a long post.
::: The Jones
Loved our time being able to see Andrew and Debbie again - they have both had a huge impact on my perspective of missions, leadership and the emerging generation. Being able to have them share with a group of Camp Juice kids was so great. Love their family. Our students talked about a lot of this for the rest of the week.
::: Cultural scavenger hunt and Bless Day
Two really useful tools in Ember's tool set - the cultural scavenger hunt and Bless Day. The big lesson with the cultural scavenger hunt is how you apply it - what are the observations you made about the culture and how would you interpret those if you were to try to plant the Gospel in that culture? The big lesson with Bless Day, at least for this one, is the idea of missional imagination - what can you imagine you could do with the resources that you have that might move people to the Kingdom?
I alluded to this story in an earlier post too, but on Bless Day, one of the teams ran into a homeless man and asked him if they could buy him lunch. They went to a Czech restaurant and sat down to eat. In the middle of their meal, as they were getting acquainted even with the language barrier, he pulled out his identification card and it turned out to be his birthday. They sang him happy birthday [in English in a Czech restaurant in Prague...] and then later took him out to get his favorite gelato. Beautiful story.
::: The Camp Juice kids
Loved all of these kids really. They were all really good friends before we arrived but they wholeheartedly embraced and loved our team - funny that I had met some of them in 2007 and 2008. In the end, everyone became a community - an interesting mix but a community that loved each other and had some great experiences contributing to something larger than just themselves. Alex McManus is right - cause creates community.
There is something special and unique about this group too - their families are directly involved in the missionary endeavor, most of them leading church plants in cross cultural contexts. They've lived unconventional lives and they show it. They are third culture kids with a pedigree of leadership, risk and adventure. I think Camp Juice has made a turn in ethos and I'm excited to see where that leads this community.
::: The Last Day
Our last day was spent hanging at the hotel and then going to dinner at KFC. After that, the Ember team presented paper plate awards to everyone. If you've been around various camps, you know paper plate awards are kind of goofy and ...campy. The comments back to us about the paper plate awards that we gave out were that they were so thoughtful and fit each person really well and really encouraged the person getting the award. Part of being a catalyst is erupting the good out of the people you know.
Later that night, we had a worship time and took communion together. Our main worship leader was Olivia Rapp, who is a phenomenal worship leader. During Summit, we didn't have a guitar so her and Madi used a ukulele and it was great. For the last worship time, Olivia teamed up with Jacob and Molly and they seriously led us. Communion together was beautiful.
My team was originally going to end the week with paper plate awards but I implored them about what we have seen this community do and become. It was no longer a gathering of missionary kids to have fun - it was now kids who could see a bigger picture about serving their world and closing our time together the right way could be significant. I'm glad we decided to do this - a sense of vision can be catalytic.
Our overall budget was right at $26,000, which was for a team of 9 for 13 days. Most of the expenses were in Prague, and we built in 2 days on the way home being spent in London for debriefing. I almost always build in time for decompression because it is that important. I'm still closing the financials but we will be a bit over in expenses. I'm not worried though - Ember started the summer with a good amount of reserves in our savings and we were prepared to go over a bit. I probably wouldn't do London again in the future - it's a glorious global city but super expensive.
Make no mistake, $26K is a ton of money. We all should be asking ourselves every single summer whether spending this bulk of money in 13 days is the right thing to do. My only other guidance is that we take the long view of answering this question - was it the right thing to do if you ask this 15 years in the future?
::: The Ember team
Loved this team - one of the best teams I've been with. Each person was a ton of fun and went out of their way to care for each other and become a team. When it came to the Camp Juice kids, they engaged them, did their best to become friends [which wasn't hard] and helped grow this gathering into a tribe. I miss each one of them and could have spent one more week with them. Maybe.
I have also added each one of them to an Ember Staff list that I update weekly. On most teams, you have one or two kids that can operate at a Staff level. I'm proud to say that everyone one of these students could be an Ember Guide.
Thanks to many of you for your support for this project and this team.