Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Cities

Lordy, what a year.
01 - Philadelphia, PA, USA.
02 - Queen Creek, AZ, USA.
03 - Fairfax, VA, USA.
04 - Fairfield, CT, USA.
05 - New York, NY, USA.
06 - Deadham, MA, USA.
07 - San Francisco, CA, USA.
08 - Newcastle, NSW, Australia,
09 - Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia.
10 - Ballina, NSW, Australia.
11 - Surfers Paradise, QLD, Australia.
12 - Hervey Bay, QLD, Australia.
13 - Sydney, NSW, Australia.
14 - C*a, Italy.
15 - R*a, Italy.
16 - Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

[2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in Posts

Some highlight posts from this past year... I know 2016 was not easy for a lot of people. For me personally, as a family, for The Ember Cast and for my career [tell you later], it was an incredible year, even better than 2015, which I would have never imagined. Thanks to you all that support The Ember Cast and give to us Shengs your time and attention and friendship.

Summer Travel 2016 - epic travel this summer.
Leaving Your Kid 7000 Miles Away
The Med - part of Ember Italy 2016
Australia Travel Notes
Fridays Plane - one of Ember's leadership sends.
Announcing 2016 ProtoGuide - our Ember capstone internship experience.
Ember 2016 Philly Leadership - a first time leadership overnight that Ember customized.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy 19th!

Dear Katie --

Most every year for your birthday or Christmas, we've given both you girls gifts that represent being on the move - maps, globes, flashlights, headlamps, etc. Our hope is that these gifts would spur bravery in you, that they would catalyze enough courage for you to chart your way into the unknown. Adventure, which requires courage and bravery, is inherent in a life of faith.

You've certainly had a year of adventure alright. And we've been inspired by all of it - going to school 7000 miles away, applying yourself to new learning, building deep friendships with people from far cultures, seeing new people in new cities. It has been hard to imagine, as your parents, being more thrilled at what you are doing - the Lord has placed you in the perfect place. But of course, as your parents, adventure sometimes worries us. So maybe we need some of those maps and globes for ourselves.

But the world is not moved by the ordinary. It is moved by the passionate, the brave, the courageous, the ones willing to take steps into the unknown. In that sense, a faith and adventure filled life is not just for you. It might be also for those that don't understand passion or beauty or sacrifice or courage.

So we will continue to worry a little. But we also could not wish for anything more than for you to adventure on. Happy 19th!

Love DAD

Monday, December 19, 2016


Hervey Bay, QLD, Australia.

One of the best recent decisions we made as parents was to spend 3 weeks together as a family this past summer before Katie headed off to school in the Fall, a great adventure on the east coast of Australia. Emily had a lot to do with planning this. It was an incredible three weeks.

It meant some sacrifices and depending on your perspective, these were either large or small. There are some things around the house that need some attention - maybe this coming year. We skipped seeing some extended family. Because of some other travel commitments, by the end of the summer, I ended up taking about six weeks off from work, including some leave without pay.

It was all worth it. There are lots of people that can do just about all of the things you do - at your job, in your hobbies, where you serve others. But only you can be Dad.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Burn

::: Photos - Aleppo Then and Now
Unbelievable. Some of you might like an interesting observation about Syria from our older daughter Katie, who is going to school in the Middle East. This was written at the end of August this year.

::: A Chinese Garment Factory is Helping Rwanda Wean Itself from Western Hand Me Downs

::: What Keeps Students From Engaging in Missions
Fantastic article and right on. I would add one more relating to busyness and the idol of achievement.

::: Missionary activity is not so much the work of the church as simply the Church at work. - David Bosch

Photo: driving, Australia.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Don't Play the Busy Card

What could possibly be more important than your kid? Please don't play the busy card. If you spend 2 hours a day without an electronic device, looking your kid in the eye, talking to them and solving interesting problems, you will raise a different kid than someone who doesn't do that. That's one of the reasons why I cook dinner every night. Because what a wonderful, semi-distracted environment in which the kid can tell you the truth. For you to have low-stakes but superimportant conversations with someone who's important to you?
- Seth Godin on parenting, from Tools of the Titans [Link is for Amazon's Smile foundation, which contributes a percentage to The Ember Cast.]

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Random Student Mission Ideas for DecEmber

1. Renew your passport if you have less than 9 months on them. Rule of thumb is to have at least 6 months of validity left on yours - next summer will be too close.
2. If you are a nonprofit and you don't have insurance for your board of directors, investigate and price this out, with the intention to purchase it come January 1.
3. Get your financial systems ready. For me, this means the right Accounts, Categories and correct Customer info in Quickbooks. [I'm paying an accountant to help me do this right.]
4. Start planning how you will train your teams. What content will you use, who will help you, what will this look like? Remember there is a direct correlation between how you train your teams, what you want them to learn and what you think is important.
5. Who is in your leadership pipeline and what dreams do you have for them?
6. Jot down what your teams will and will not do for raising support. Will you allow them to create Go Fund me pages? Will you be okay with them posting about their support raising to socials once a month? Once a week? Once a day? Once an hour?

Friday, December 09, 2016

Friday Burn

::: 99 Reasons Why 2016 Has Been a Great Year for Humanity
This from one of the authors of FutureCrunch, which is a great newsletter.

::: The Role of the Local Church in Assessing Missionary Candidates

::: Innovation in the Middle East: Designing a New Bank in Dubai

::: "If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine - it's lethal." - Paulo Coelho

Photo: First view of Mt Etna.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

On the Biz

This DecEmber, I'm working 'on the business,' instead of 'in the business.' This means engaging an accountant to get some of our financial systems done the right way and tying up end of the year finances. If you are reading this, you are probably getting one of these end of the year receipts. Thank you for your support for The Ember Cast.

[My dad taught at a small private college his whole career - lots of faculty were considered family friends. This summer one of my college professors, and a good friend of my dad's, sent a check in, out of the blue, to support Ember Italy.]

Most nonprofits send their receipts in January. Not us - come January, we've got emerging global student leaders to catalyze.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Notes - The State of Youth Ministry, The Barna Group

This is a great little booklet that contains the findings of three nationwide studies among youth pastors, senior pastors and parents of teens through research commissioned by Youth Specialties and YouthWorks, both pillars of student ministry through the ages. Lots of good stuff in here, although the report is a little pricey. If you are a youth pastor or a senior pastor, you should get a copy. If you are local, and in full time student ministry, come borrow mine.
Discipleship is not as important to youth ministers in urban churches as it is to those in small towns or the suburbs. [Additionally, the report talks about the idea that the term discipleship may not mean the same thing to everyone, which is also an issue. But at the core, we are to be making disciples...]

White and high-income parents are more likely than others to say "talking about sexuality and dating" is a major expectation, while lower income parents are inclined to say they expect youth pastors to help their teen navigate family relationships and warn them about drugs and alcohol.

When youth pastors consider major challenges to the effectiveness of their programs, three-quarters agree that teen's busyness tops the list. No other potential obstacle comes close. Yet parents do not agree. Only one out of nine US Parents say their child is "way too busy." About six in 10 say the balance of activities "is good" and three in 10 say their teen "needs more to do."

The typical youth group:
12 adult volunteers, 5 of whom are parents of teens in the youth group
60 teens
1.4 paid youth ministry staff

62% of parents would at least consider moving to a new church for a good youth program

According to their parents, a majority of teens (65%) are fairly active when it comes to volunteering at least once every few months [the lazy teen is a myth that needs to be broken.]

Primary ways teens engage in service through their church:
55% days of service at their church
49% days of service in their town
44% a service commitment on a regular basis
35% service at a destination that could be reached in a day's drive
19% service at a destination in the US that is farther than a day's drive
10% a mission trip outside the US
[PS - Ember exists to help with all of this.]

Barna's future youth ministry challenges:
1. Rising Bible skepticism
2. Increasing loneliness
3. Pervasive pornography
4. Confusion regarding human sexuality
5. Me-first morality
6. Pressurized Christian identity
7. An era defined by achievement [I'm glad they identified this one]
8. Conversation-challenged disciples

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Burn

::: Youth Employment Incubator

::: Not Just a Pastor, but a Neighbor
With hundreds of refugees around him, So somehow seems to keep tabs in his head on all of them. The Well, the nondenominational evangelical church in Silver Spring where he is one of three pastors on staff, decided his mission work at Parkview Gardens was important enough that he should spend half his work time there and half in Silver Spring.
Great read about one of the staffers at The Well in Silver Spring, one of the churches we love tracking with. Link

::: New Data Disproves the Myth that Affordable Housing Lowers the Value of Your Home

::: One should never underestimate the significance of architecture in Christianity. - Diarmaid MacCulloch via Justin Long

Photo: Perspectives, Nov 2016, Newark DE.