Saturday, July 30, 2016

Italy Friday

Friday was debriefing day so we spent most of the morning discussing the week in detail. Unfiltered debate and missional imagination were key pieces of this.

We spent a little bit of time on the beach in the afternoon also working through more thoughts about the trip using the questions below. 

In the evening we went to a worship gathering at a center in the town of Ragusa. Fitting end to our time here.

We devote a whole day to debriefing because it is that important.

1 Write about - What did you love/hate

2 Story on an index card

3 20 second, 2 minute, 20 minute
4 Write about - When did time go fast (generative) 
5 Listing important people that you met
6 Envelopes - Tess has these
7 Write about - Something new you learned about God
8 Highlight points on thank you cards
9 Encouragement notes to others

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Italy Thursday

Today was our last full day of ministry. We started in a city in the south to hang with some refugees but didn't find anyone. This city is right on the Med and although incredibly beautiful, you feel helpless when you learn that a few thousand people die in this water every year. The boat graveyard, next to a refugee intake center, is one symbol of the refugee struggle. Our hope is that these waters are redemptive at some point.

The common term here is refugee 'camp' although 'camp' isn't quite an accurate word. In the city we were just in, the camp was a 3 story residential building right next to our hotel with dorm style rooms, a common sitting area, and a kitchen. This afternoon we visited another camp that was outside of another city in the countryside. This was an old rectory of a Catholic church and we spent time visiting. I also listened to a conversation between R, one of our hosts, and F who is here with a missions organization and one of the key players in this work in this region. The challenges are great involving cultures, worldviews, relief vs development and systems, among lots of other things.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Italy Wednesday

Checked out of the city today after morning in the fish market and hanging in city center.

Drove to a city in the south where we checked into our remaining lodging. We then met up with a friend in another suburb. This friend has lived the refugee life and like most of them told us a sobering story. His hospitality was second to none though and it was humbling to be hosted in that manner. Americans don't accept hospitality that well.

Dinner was with a contact who has been helping with a system for when people actually get off the boats.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Italy Tuesday

More time in the streets this morning, creating conversations and seeing where some refugees where hanging out near city center. Our hotel is in a great location close to significant areas in the center of this city, including a very large outdoor market, the train station, and the Piazza, one of the major city squares. My group had lunch at McDonalds today. I should clarify - I had lunch at McDonalds while everyone else brought in their food. Eating at McDonalds makes for a great cultural exercise.

The afternoon was spent hanging with the high school boys, sharing some music from both the American and African side as well as some stories about life on both sides. Lots of significant stuff happening here. You would be proud of this team and how engaged they are in this work.

Italy Monday - Missions Roundtable

One of the best things we do while teams are on the field is to facilitate a 'missions roundtable' where we gather current cross cultural people and curate an interactive conversation with young people around the ideas of context and calling. We were fortunate to be able to do this last night with Ryan, Shane and Hillary.

A very small selection from an incredibly rich conversation:
Sicily is relationship based you need an intro
250k towns villages without gospel preaching church
1% evangelical in Italy
Italy not majority urban
Most people here are in small towns
Felt like it was leaving home and not going home when leaving Italy
Migration is a huge piece of God's plan

Who you go with might be more than where you go
What you go with might be more important than what you go do
this means thinking a lot about spouse church agency team
Get good at gratitude
Solve big problems

20 plus years in business helped me get to vocational missions
I'm an execution guy not an idea guy, this is what I did in the business world
Little small steps of obedience
Your own directions that the Lord has been leading - talents
Follow how the Lord has been leading - your talents, gifting, passions
At the same time keep your antenna up
God uses all of it

Photo: Kelsey, Tess, Ryan, Shane, Hillary, EmCrum.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Italy Monday

Out on the streets in the morning. Soccer and games in the afternoon. There is a local housing 'center' very close to where we are staying where there are about 55 high school aged guys. Time in the park was lots of fun and good for everyone even though it was hot hot hot.

Tonight was dinner at Christian Associates staff friend Hillary's house. Fun to hear connections between Ryan, Shane and her. We also held a missionary roundtable with the 3 of them which is one of those most valuable things The Ember Cast does. More on that later.

Team doing well.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Italy Sunday

Went to church this am at a faith community that has pulled some resources and connections to be pretty engaged with the refugee issues here. Loved the service even though I didn't understand a bit of it. Had lunch with some expat families here in town. Lots of interesting connections and collaboration around this issue here.

After lunch, we drove part of the way up Mt. Etna, which is an active volcano. Gives tangible meaning to 'we throw fire.'

One of our team members wasn't feeling well around dinner time so we decided to take her to see a doctor, which in this city means going to the emergency room. Of course, we went to the 'wrong' one the first time. Always a cultural experience and lucky for us, our doctor spoke perfect English and trained in the DC area. MB is feeling a little bit better though and had a full clean bill of health, including a chest xray, an EKG and full blood work. That doctor though, what a gift.

More pictures here.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Italy Saturday

First full day here. More orientation/training this morning. Lots of walking to get to know the city including figuring out who is where. Our grouped walked the market area and an area near the theater today. The city is beautiful city, about 70 square miles with a population of about 315K people. It's pretty hot right now - mid 90s during most of the day. All of our logistics have been super great including lodging, location of the lodging, food and transport. Whole team is healthy and doing great. Mt Etna has been puffing away above the city.

More pictures here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Italy team landed

This afternoon was city map and orientation. All luggage made it and getting on 3rd leg was a run.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2016 Italy #8

Curated conversation with special guests, T & R, church planters from Poland: context, culture, church planting, leadership, vocation.
Packing party.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Australia Travel Notes

You probably gathered that we had a fantastic time in Australia as a family. 3 weeks together and we didn't kill each other. Here are some travel notes in case you are interested.

We spent our first week driving up the east coast. After landing in Sydney, we stopped in each one of these places, spending at least one night there while getting to our destination of Hervey Bay: Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Surfers Paradise [2 nights]. This was around 800 miles of driving, similar to driving from DC to just past Jacksonville, FL. Each one of the places we stopped at was very fun though with lots to see. The east coast of Australia is absolutely breathtaking. On the way back, we drove to Brisbane and then flew back to Sydney for our last week where we attended the Hillsong Conference. We used mostly hotels for these stops - most were moderate, one was very budget and one was super nice. We had to keep reminding ourselves that Australia is a big country and we wouldn't be able to see it all.

Driving on the other side of the road really messes with your head, especially when you are jet lagged. It will eventually be easier though. You'll use wipers for turn signals and try to get in on the wrong side of the car a lot. We rented a car through AAA which seemed to have the best deals. Since we rented and returned to different locations, it was a little more expensive and definitely required shopping around.

Hervey Bay is a perfect little quiet beach town. We didn't venture onto Fraser Island, which is the world's largest sand island and close. It seemed like the best access was to take a tour and we didn't want to spend the money or sit on a tour bus for a whole day, especially after the Lady Elliot day. You can rent a 4x4 and drive yourself on the island - maybe next time.

We took a day trip out to Lady Elliot Island during our time in Hervey Bay and this was definitely expensive and definitely worth it. If you know me, you know I dislike boats. But I got in one here because you can't be on the Great Barrier Reef and not get in a boat. You take a little 8 seater plane from the Hervey Bay airport and fly about 45 minutes to the island. Once you land, you get your snorkel gear, go on a reef walk with a guide, and then get in a glass bottom boat and go out to snorkel. The water was a little cold so we rented wetsuits which worked out great. Lunch is provided and then there are a variety of things to do after lunch. I wore a lifejacket all day too but still had to be sort of rescued - good thing our older daughter is a lifeguard. Still this day was worth it.

Most of the Australians we met were super friendly and love Americans. Granted, we were mostly in vacation spots so it was pretty laid back. I do think though that Australians are a 'say it like it is' culture. Food was delicious - our only nominal meal was at Hungry Jacks, which is the same thing as Burger King in the states.

We used AirBNB for our stay in Hervey Bay and Sydney. Both were great stays, much cheaper than hotels and owned by locals. The cottage in Hervey Bay was beautiful and was a rental property. The apartment in Sydney was much different in that aspect - the owner lived there most of the time. That's a different feel but not at all unacceptable.

We did a fair share of cooking our own dinners as well as making lunches. Grocery stores are plenty and look very similar to the US - lots and lots of choices. I'm in love with Golden Pikelets. Australians care about their food.

Ashfield, where our apartment was in Sydney, is very diverse, lots of Asians there, a very much day to day non-touristy Chinatown. It was the perfect location for us - 30 minutes to Olympic Park where the Hillsong conference was and 20 minutes into city center. Lots of great Chinese food and a good tattoo studio too.

We didn't see whales at Coffs Harbour, but did see them off the coast of Ballina as well as from the lighthouse at Byron Bay and in the boat and from the plane at Lady Elliott. At Byron, we also saw multiple schools of dolphins. We were a little early for the whale watch season.

The weather was beautiful in Hervey Bay - low 70s every day. We were in shorts and tshirts while most Aussies had their winter coats. Sydney was colder - 50s and 60s most days and we had 3 days of rain. Winter in Australia while summer in the States so we brought warmer clothes. Our trip also coincided with a 2 week school holiday in Queensland, the state of Australia where Hervey Bay is located.

We also spent a day in SF on either end to break up the travel a little bit and to see the city. We did some sightseeing on the way out. The way home included sleeping most of the day and staying up just about the whole night.

Most of all of these logistics were planned while we were still in the US. Travel hacking post at another time.

Must do's if you go where we went:
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Lady Elliot Island, Byron Bay lighthouse, walk along to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair along the Sydney Harbour Botanic Gardens [but they close the gates at 5:30pm], make your way onto the Sydney bridge, both Hillsong campuses in Sydney are standing room only.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Burn

::: 11 Ways to Love Your Returning World Racer
These are great decompression ideas for your friends that return from any cross cultural experience.

::: NYC's Ice Cream Turf War

::: Pokemon Go is Quietly Helping People Discover Their Cities

::: Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all. - Saint Augustine via Todd Adkins

Friday, July 08, 2016

Hillsong Conference 16 random

::: Erwin
+ "If no one is rebuking your prayers, they are too small."
+ "Every human feels lost and alone in the universe. The Church forgets this feeling. We have created a narrative that people are not desperate for God."
+ To atheists: "If there is no god, we can't damage you. You are an atheist but God is not. You don't have to believe in God for Him to believe in you."
+ "We are afraid to ask big from God because it might prove He doesn't exist. God doesn't need you to protect His reputation."

+ "God called me to a city but I'm going for a continent." - Chris Mendez, Hillsong Buenos Aires

+ Andra Day wrote and recorded a lot of original music for the upcoming remake of Ben Hur.

::: Christine Caine
+ "Difficult is difficult. Impossible is God."
+ "Make what you know about God greater than what you don't know about the future."

+ Hillsong has an an ethos of generosity and being sent. And I don't mean generous like if you pray more, you will be blessed more. I mean that they are authentically generous with what they have and I don't mean money. They have obviously released hundreds of their best leaders for things around the world and outside of Hillsong. Watch who leads worship during each set - it's a different person for each song. Pastors Brian and Bobbie sit in the crowd during almost every session taking notes. It took over 4000 volunteers to run this thing.

+ A recurring segment every day was "Let's Talk Church" when either Pastor Brian or Bobbie would give a talk. Wed - APEST, Thu - generosity, Fri - tears. These were all incredible talks specific to church leadership and each one had Brian in the crowd interviewing friends who embodied the topic.

+ It's obviously a huge operation - 30K attendees. It takes a long time to get anywhere. Getting meals is challenging. Masterclasses [breakouts] always fill up super early. So if you go, bring your own food, get to anything when the doors open if you can including main session seats.

::: Catherine Thambiratnam - International Development - Are Good Intentions Enough?
+ "'It is better than nothing' is a bad paradigm."
+ Hillsong doesn't sponsor orphanages, instead seeks to work with the option of family care.
+ 'Problem trees', root cause analysis is always part of decisions with partners, people they fund, work on the ground. 'Why is this?'
+ "There are a lot of white elephants around the world."
+ It costs $35K to buy a bus. But $60K every year to run it.
+ Know the difference between relief and development. Hillsong doesn't do disaster relief but they have partners that do.
+ It's always sexy to give to trafficking victims but not to give to the prevention of trafficking.

+ Very much an international conference - people from all over the world here. You'll hear lots of languages being spoken - very much like being in downtown DC or NYC or any other global city.

+ I loved loved loved doing this as a family. It was a joy to expose my kids to world class teaching and worship and it's been a great week as we finish our time here in Australia. Our kids know that there are lot of different valid expressions of Church but Hillsong is absolutely great at what they do.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Hillsong Thursday

+ If you know music from Hillsong, you would expect the worship to be amazing. Your expectations would be right - the worship here is incredible.
+ Long time readers will know that Erwin McManus has had an incredible impact on my ministry and leadership. His two talks today were some of his best - incredibly challenging and life giving.
+ Erwin quoted Phil Dooley, "It's not about church growth, it's about the transformation of a nation." Phil had a breakout, referred to here as a masterclass, but it was full by the time I got to it.
+ Christine Caine spoke this evening and was phenomenal.
+ Obviously, this is world class preaching and teaching and I'm so grateful that my kids get to experience it. For all the grumbling about the megachurch, most every talk here has been theologically Biblical. Experiences like this should also take into consideration that there are other valid expressions of Church.
+ If this is what the Church looks like in Australia, I think Christine Caine is right, this is revival. The American church could learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Hillsong Wednesday

+ There are lots of people here. So people movement is a bit challenging, like seating, bathrooms, food, pick up for kids etc.
+ Brian Houston did a fabulous session on Eph 4 and APEST - really great content. The bonus was short interviews with some of his personal friends who each embodied each of the roles. I loved how he termed Hillsong in this : 'apostolic grace.'
+ 'The apostolic are the only ones that can recieve messages from the prophetic well.'
+ There was a segment called Spheres which was all short talks from various people in a variety of domains hence Spheres. Speakers included an Olympian, a teacher, a singer who had just competed in the X Factor, Hillsongs global communications director and a whole heap of others. So so good.
+ One of the Spheres speakers was a sneaker designer for Nike who was a part of the design for the first sneaker focused on the disabled community. Look this up.

Monday, July 04, 2016


Arrived in the Ashfield suburb of Sydney last night. Attending the Hillsong Conference that starts tonight. Excited to do this together as a family. 2 weeks together so far and we haven't killed each other.