Monday, October 22, 2018

Better Practices - Decompression

This is a series of posts that outline our better practices - tactical things that you could do right now that The Ember Cast has found highly profitable for growing global leaders. Feel free to use these ideas with attribution, meaning just say, "I got this from The Ember Cast."

Decompression and debriefing is one of the most difficult things to execute as a leader and the research is clear: if you do not decompress the experience with your team, your cross cultural trip will have zero impact. It will be as if your team never left their house. It is that important.

It's difficult because it comes at a time in the lifecycle of a trip when everything is winding down. Your team has just completed most of their tasks. You are probably traveling on your way home. The team has been away for more than a few days. Everyone is looking forward to being home. It is precisely at this moment in the trip when decompression requires you to stop imagining what it will be like to sleep in your bed and instead ramp your energy up for a few more days to properly engage your team for finishing well.

Here are a few suggestions for making this work well when your trip is winding down and you are sick of your team, salivating for some good Dim Sum and ready to sleep in your own bed.
+ The theme of good decompression is 'change.' You put this experience together for your students so that they would be different from it. They would be more joyous, more giving, more selfless. Do not be afraid of asking significant questions that will lead to change.
+ Resources for decompression are very scarce. Seth Barnes has given the world gold with his series of posts on the subject. Save off a subset of his great questions to use with your team.
+ If you can plan for one or two days at a neutral location, on the way home, where you can relax as well as have time to process what you have experienced. Granted it is difficult and expensive to add this to your trip. At times we have done this without other locations too, in airport terminals and restaurants, on public transport, on flights home. The key is not locale, the key is to do it.
+ I like to do this over a whole day, meaning I plan 5-10 questions, and we give the team free time at the beach or pool or whatever and we have a mini session for each question, time to journal and share, all spread over a whole day, one question every hour.
+ One of the questions I always use is asking the students to write a 20 second summary, 2 minute summary and a 20 minute outline of the trip. This is a fundamental one that helps them process the trip for themselves as well as for people who ask them about it. Most people will only listen for 20 seconds. A few will listen for 2 minutes. One day, they may get asked to write a report or give a talk for a missions agency.
+ We have a two page 'toolkit' for Decompression. It's ready to be printed out and delivered to your team. You should have one too - if you prep it now, it will be much easier to execute when you are only hours from home.

London, 2015.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Considering the Vacancy Tax
It could be something like: For any storefront that’s empty, after two months of vacancy, the landlord has to pay a tax of 20% of the average rent they’d be receiving. All the money would go to neighborhood improvements and policing.

::: City Street Orientations from Around the World

::: Mike Frost on NYC
What's happening here is your future, even if you don't live in Gotham City. Wake up and recognize the old, tired ways of doing and being church are changing. Cities like New York don’t have all the answers, but they're being forced to confront the questions more quickly than the rest of us.
This is why Ember almost exclusively serves in cities.

Photo: Decompression.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

For 2029

This is a team I helped lead in 2008, ten years ago, which seems both like yesterday and centuries ago. The old town, Sopron, Hungary. And look at my kids.

Most people that lead these kinds of things come home from something like this and declare success, almost before even landing. Team members do this too - I've never heard a student land at the airport and tell me that they are never doing that again. Instead, and I'm guilty of this too, we all proclaim this was 'the best team ever!'

Instead, let me suggest that you temper your proclamations. Influencing students is a long game, played best with patience, intention and modeling. 10 years out might be a good marker in time to make some of these declarations. Ask yourself: Are you still in touch with these students? Do you know what kind of influence they have in the world? Are they more kind, more in tune with their lives and the world around them, do they embody being a sent person even more than while on this trip? Maybe that helps you gauge the success or failure of your experience. Keep in mind - you are not the only reason they are doing great or doing awful.

Dig deeper though. What is it that you want from your students 10 years after they have this experience with you? You can't declare success or failure if you don't have goals. We have one major measurement for The Ember Cast summer teams.
How many are in intentional ministry/leadership? [Note - vocational, bivocational, volunteer, lots of variety in this]
I'll play too. On this team - about 70% that I know of.

Plan for the long term. Execute with the end in mind. Don't scream how great your trip was at baggage claim.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ember October Dinner

Our guest this past weekend was RM, who is in the midst of starting an agricultural training center to provide tactical farming skills for people interested in this kind of thing. The applications are broad, including being a grower state-side as well as in another culture. This starts this coming summer, based in PA to start with, and would be a summer long training and mentoring experience. Ping if you need a lead.

Some highlights from our time:
+ RM always had an interest in growing things, from the time he was very young. Gardens, farm animals, etc. Your past shapes your dream [Dream Year.]
+ A pivotal experience was being overseas and seeing this kind of thing in it's context in SE Asia.
+ Original plans included a global export business but that fell through.
+ The ability to grow things is fascinating to everyone. Neighbors always want to see you if you are growing something.
+ Lots of agricultural concepts are redemptive analogies - mustard seed, sheep, death to life.
+ There was a good discussion between the adults about scale and multiplication. I appreciated that because students don't hear that kind of conversation very much - scale or bail.
+ Advice for a young person: take every opportunity that comes your way and find a mentor.

Lots of students tonight. Special thanks to RM for being our guest.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Half of the World is Now Middle Class or Wealthier

::: 5 Month Old Baby Youngest to Visit All 50 States

::: Crossfit as Church

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ember Monthly Dinners

Last year, in an effort to invest in our Ember staff a bit more, we started hosting a monthly dinner where we invited some of the most innovative people we knew serving in the global nonprofit space to interact with our leaders. The conversation was always lively, centered around calling and missional imagination, as well as hearing the latest on the super interesting projects of our guests. As the year went on, the guest list blossomed into fabulous dinners with people involved in what the Lord was doing around the world.

These dinners start again this year and our first one is this coming weekend. We are pivoting slightly this year by including more focus on 'executing your dream.' If you are a local high school student and consider yourself an emerging global student leader, ping for invite details.

Monday, October 08, 2018


Ember facilitated a culture service learning experience with a group of 10th grade ladies this past weekend - we had a great time getting to know them and were super impressed at their passion for the world, their grit to getting things done and their posture of learning. We are better for working with them. Here are some of the elements:
+ A Friday evening session introducing the weekend and some of our Ember mantras and concepts.
+ Sat morning - serving with A Wider Circle
+ Sat lunch - cultural navigation in the Shaw neighborhood of DC
+ Sat aft - church at The Miracle Theater gathering of National Community Church
+ Sat eve - dinner and decompress near Eastern Market

Really appreciate A Wider Circle and their approach to poverty alleviation and they have a huge reach. I love their best reminder: that items should be in 'dignity-condition'. This summer one of our partners received a box of donated food and it was all expired. Many of us believe that it is totally acceptable to give our trash to those less fortunate.

Modeling cultural navigation continues to be a central theme for Ember and the students we work with and I'm thrilled at how we have grown in this skill. Shaw is a great place to do something like this - very safe, lots of opportunities for this kind of observation because its a big mixing bowl, a good place to walk slow and concentrate on learning.

Pastor Heather Zempel preached at NCC and in light of the past few weeks, it wasn't planned out that way. She did however preach a fantastic message from Rev 2 about the church at Thyatira. A standing goal for Ember is to expose students to different expressions of Church when we can and NCC is one of the most futuristic churches I know.

Special thanks to ProtoGuides Hailey and Audrey for serving with this team.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Friday Burn

::: When Church is My Idol

::: Goalkeepers
The Gates Foundation on the Global Goals

::: The Neighborhoods That Offer a ‘Bargain’ on Upward Mobility

::: "Are we sure what Jesus is looking for is well-attended church services?" - Francis Chan

Photo: Mosaic Hollywood, Sept 2018.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Thank You, Board of Director, Leslie Brettschneider

A million years ago, this high school girl named Leslie joined some of our fun when we wanted to engage students to serve local and distant communities, see the world and to call them to stop just existing and start living. She stuck around too, making the transformation from a student to a leader, helping us lead teams for four summers, including teams to Brasil, Cameroon, and Hungary twice. Leslie was also pivotal to some behind the scenes leadership development with SPACE. When I started The Ember Cast, she was on my short list of people that I wanted to lead with.

The rhythm of people's involvement with Ember is driven by seasons - we know I'm the only one who is sticking with this for the long haul. So Leslie's time on the Ember board of directors has come to an end after being here from before the beginning. I am immensely grateful for her time on the board. She has given wisdom and insight to our organization and has always given input with a bias towards action.

Leslie remains one of our bright spots and a model - see the world clearly as a student and you can intentionally carve out a life that serves others. From one of our favorite students to a leader powerhouse, she's working in the nonprofit sector in DC and making moves with some leadership initiatives with a church in the city. And she is the only one that has seen a rock concert with me on a missions trip.

Thank you Leslie. A future that has not even been created is in debt to you.

Leslie, 2nd from left, Nov 2017.

Monday, October 01, 2018


Been in San Diego and LA the past few days, part has been visiting family and part looking at a few colleges for Em. By my count, she has less than 40 weekends at home. Parents, don't waste your time or your attention.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Crispr Edited Mosquitoes

::: Welcoming Homeless as Property Managers

::: How to Run a Better Meeting
Seth Godin's advice on meetings and conferences - pure gold.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Post Sabbatical 2018

Ember things:
Provide a daily devotional for summer teams while on the experience.
Include a Code of Conduct within the team application so that this is understood at the inception of the project.
Dig into the possibilities of partnering with the Greece ministry from this summer in a deeper way.
2019 will probably look different because of a Sheng family trip.
Small pivot for yearly operations to run September - August.
I wrote a small report about the Ember IG team. Request access by clicking this.
I have felt a bit uninformed about the general LGBT issue and specifically the implications for church and nonprofit organizational culture so I spent time in some books and listening to some messages on the topic. Ping if you have something interesting or want to know my resources.
If you are in ministry today, you have likely been impacted by Willow Creek Church and the way they have innovated for decades. In case you missed it, they were/are in the midst of a leadership crisis and decided to continue on with the Global Leadership Summit anyway. Erwin McManus' talk at the Summit, within the context of this crisis, was profound and powerful. Although I didn't attend the Summit, I listened to it multiple times after buying the audio messages. Unfortunately, they are no longer selling audio downloads of the messages.
"I had the genetic makeup of a coward. What you fear has mastery of your life. If you are afraid of heights, you stay low. If you are afraid of crowds, you stay alone. What you fear establishes the boundaries of your freedom. And that is the beautiful thing. It is only in relationship to God, where the Scripture says, "Perfect love casts out all fear," when God is the only one that you live in relationship to in fear, it is only God that sets you free and sets you free in His love. Every other master that controls you by fear is a cruel master and will steal your life away."
Mark Batterson spoke a 3 part series on a theology of the city and how National Community Church will impact Washington DC for the next 70 years. Inspiring and challenging - would we all learn to dream like they do.
"If we get this right, we create a prototype for the urban church. Church as usual is not going to get us where we need to go. We cannot build spaces that get used one or two times a week. There are ways to do Church that no one has thought of yet."
I gave up Coca Cola and french fries except for once a week. I started playing a little bit of racquetball but it's only been a week. My cholesterol was out the roof.
Katie finished a 6 week internship in Dehli at end of August and flew directly back to school. Her internship was focused on analyzing whether giving preschoolers some advance education tips help them do better when they get to school. We are spending some time in SoCal in the next few days looking at colleges with Emily. In 11 months, Dea and I will be empty nesters. We have a Southwest Companion pass that will last through the end of 2019 and are looking to capitalize on it.

Monday, September 24, 2018

ProtoGuide 18-19 Fall Reading

StrengthsFinder - One of the best personal leadership and influence assessments. We take every ProtoGuide through this because knowing yourself well is foundational for leading others.
The Circle Maker - Part memoir about a church down the street that is one of the most innovative organizations in America. Not many churches and lead pastors have a vision that gives people chills. Every semester has one book that is on the list for just fun to read, this is that one.
Movements That Change the World - Addison breaks down social structures that are ingredients for every movement and catalytic leaders think in movements.
Western Christians in Global Mission - A good primer to put an end to thinking that we in the West know the best, have the most and are the only ones that can get the job done.
Multiplying Missional Leaders - On the ground, tactical leadership behaviors.

If you know someone else reading books like these with high school students, I'd love to meet them.

Monday, August 13, 2018

8th Grade Culture Learning

The Ember Cast facilitated one of our culture service learning experiences this past weekend with a group of 8th grade girls - we loved every moment working with them. This came about from a request from one of their small group leaders and they desired an exposure to global issues, an opportunity for this group to serve in a community and hearing from someone doing some pretty neat things. Elements included:
+ team building.
+ serving at The Well in Curtis Bay, which included some organizing and cleaning in both the Hope Chest [their clothing closet] and the CEO's office, strategy with a social enterprise they are launching in September, and being in the neighborhood making friends.
+ a culture navigation walk.
+ dinner in Fells Point.
+ In every apple, there is an orchard.

The Well in Curtis Bay is one of our best partners and we are constantly inspired by them. Curtis Bay has the whole package of urban fun and the environment was maybe a tad edgy for these girls but we wholly trust the team at The Well and knew it would work out fine. Middle school kids are not too young to learn about big global systemic issues and Curtis Bay was the perfect context for this weekend. Special thanks to 3 Ember ProtoGuides for helping guide most of these activities for a successful weekend.

Last big project for the 2017-2018 school year. My sabbatical starts as soon as you read this - see you in September.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The Table of Disruptive Technologies

::: Decades in Which Each Country Reaches Peak Population

::: The Power Law of Dunbar's Number

::: If you don't go, you don't grow. - Greg St Cyr

Thursday, August 09, 2018

If There Was No 40 Day Rule

+ Book a ticket back to Greece for the Fall.
+ Drop ship a load of supplies to them to the Greece team - face paint, athletic balls, sidewalk chalk, masking tape.
+ Start an ongoing conversation with DH from the Italy team - his master's degree work was based on innovation and entrepreneurship in faith based organizations. What are better practices of organizations that have this as part of their DNA?
+ Recruit pair of college aged students to spend a semester working and learning from BA and his family with a focus on church planting and church multiplication. Italy = the graveyard of missionaries.

Instead, I will have the self control to wait for 40 days or longer. In fact, my Ember sabbatical starts next week so none of this will get touched until October. The 40 days timeline is designed to temper emotions and if after 40 days, the passion is still there, well then let's do something with it.

Monday, August 06, 2018

IG Wrap

Loved the IG experience. So much fun and the privilege of seeing what the Lord is doing around the world is always stunning. Here are a few of the highlights - I'm writing a report with more details, ping if interested. Also note that locations of travel are not posted online.

The long term team and their work keeps growing and flourishing and it is really fun to be a part of. They have had tremendous momentum since 2016 and this year is no different. Like last summer, they had a strong group of college aged interns there all summer. The interns started a weekly football game at one of the local parks and that grew into a consistent thing. There is a community center that was recently acquired that used to be a government building and that now serves as a gathering location, weekly soccer and the location of the community garden. There are at least a few other social enterprises that are in flight. The city remains strategic to the refugee and migrant global issue and this team is a good model of serving and befriending that community. This team is also modeling the concept of Disciple Making Movements. Some of the most interesting principles include replication - 'who will you share this right after this?' and 'the Scriptures teach themselves.'

::: Greece
The context for the work in Greece was one of the most dense and culturally diverse neighborhoods in Europe, maybe the world, which makes for an incredible place. Walk out of your apartment and run into the nations. The leader of the org that we worked with, P, is one of the most catalytic leaders I have ever met. He has a style that empowers, a focus on identifying and developing leaders and a strategy to build the community and having these young people help him. The work looks like efforts with media, arts, music, English classes and street festivals along with a partnership with a refugee drop in center, where we served for one morning. Two of P's team were our Greek guides all through the city for 5 days and these guys modeled what they do and why and how they do it. I trusted them wholly with our team and they were 16 years old. We did lots of street festival type of stuff in the square, many nights until very late. The Greeks don't really sleep. Special thanks to Andrew Jones for connecting us.

::: Decompress
We decompressed on the Aegean Sea for two days. There was a lot of attention spent on this phase, including doing it at a neutral location, 4 sessions of retrospective questions with journals, and a relaxed schedule. Most leaders just want to go home by the time their team gets to this phase, trust me I know. But if you are a missions team leader that has ignored decompression, I would fire you. Ignore helping your students process this and it will be like the experience never happened. I also had the privilege of baptizing most of our team. We had some team drama.

::: Misc
+ Every trip, we host a missionary roundtable discussion, inviting partners and long term workers to a discussion where they share some wisdom. This year was no different - some incredible pieces of wisdom.
+ We had a few issues with smartphones and social media and before the trip, I believed that we could/should model the right way to handle these powerful tools. I'm not sure now that it is anything less than a total disconnection - just about all of us are addicted and much of it is for the wrong reasons. There was some mindless scrolling at the cost of real life engagement.
+ Three people lost bags and never got them back until we returned to the US. We are glad they got all their stuff back but not having all their stuff was super frustrating for all of them. There were also a number of people that were sick here and there. I spent more energy on those things than usual.
+ We overspent a bit by probably around $1500, still landing on finances.

More pictures here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

IG team home

Team arrived home late this evening, even the 3 missing bags. Fantastic experience but this is a personal favorite.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


We started our decompression phase last night with worship near the water, one of our team leading a devotional and the first of a series specific questions related to processing our experience.
The statistics prove this out: if you don't debrief a cross cultural experience, it will be as if you never went.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ember Sunday

Lots of the ministry here is centered on something similar to a street festival with kids in the community square. Lots of games, crafts, football, etc. This has been our agenda almost every evening while here and it feels like a different time zone. The square is busy until 1 or 2 am every night.

We have been led by two amazing volunteers who are here with us almost 24x7. They are 16 years old and have led us all through the city, run a good portion of the evening activities and teach vital concepts of how they do what they do. A vital picture of how to invest and grow young people.

We woke up early for the sunrise this morning to catch it over the city, going to the highest point. We then visited two churches, a Greek orthodox church and a small church plant, both right within this community. Tonight, more fun in the square.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Ember Friday

Team landed in Greece on Wednesday and were greeted by our hosts. The host ministry is situated in one of the most dense and diverse communities on all of Europe. Dreamed and executed by young people, they run some very creative  ventures in order to help their commumity flourish. Most of our time with them so far has been right in their city square running soccer games and craft stations. The square is as vibrant as anything I have seen.
This morning we also served at a refugee center which is one of their partners - about 60 kids today for English classes.
Communion and worship as a team on Mars Hill, directly from Acts 17. For in Him we live and move and have our being.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ember Tuesday

Time in the community center again this morning. There was supposed to be some soccer and games this am but no one showed. There was also a small gardening class going on - the garden is one of the micro businesses that is designed to provide skills training and an alternative income for refugees. I saw the proposal for it about 9 months ago and besides being an incredibly well put together proposal, this garden is one of the coolest things.

We were out and about in the city for the late afternoon and then at one of the cities largest parks for soccer tonight, where there were 3 games and about 90 people all together. There has been a team of interns here all summer and this is a testament to their work here, they started soccer on Monday nights at the beginning of the summer.

Our team is starting to dream about how the future might look different because of their time on this experience. The efforts of building a team, raising support, learning together, travel, losing luggage, learning ministry skills - all of that is the hard work that cultivates the real harvest: dreaming about impacting the future.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Ember Monday - Roundtable

One of the best things we do on short term experiences is a roundtable discussion with people that live in another culture. Some of the sample topics include talking about calling, current challenges, why what you are doing is strategic and advice for a young person thinking about this kind of future. This year's roundtable was this past evening and did not disappoint.

+ Panel included three different teams all serving in the greater area, some been here for 5 years, some just landed 3 months ago. Range from adults to 15 year old; parents, families, single.
+ On calling: came through divine and rational ideas; captivated by movement thinking; 250K towns without some Gospel presence in Italy; 100 years from Italy being a huge missions sending to almost no sending; 25 years from call to execution
+ Biggest challenge: not having teammates but this has freed up to know lots of people; take care of family first since they just landed; there are never ending opportunities here - knowing the best from the good; being patient, flexible, guilt based religion here; power distance.
+ Advice for a young person: find a mentor in this kind of work; be fanatical - do not give in to American culture; struggle well and persevere; date the right person; build on character then your gifting and then stick with it.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ember Sunday

Day out for the team:
+ Church - a local church here that has given new energy and passion to church planting, discipleship and caring for refugees.
+ Mt Etna [left]
+ Taormina

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Ember Saturday

Light day today. Some people are recovering from a few ailments but all doing okay.
+ Rest in the morning.
+ The long term team has a pretty mature internship program in the summers and we've been involved with some of the interns for the past few days. 4 of them did a little Q&A with us this afternoon.
+ On the streets in the late afternoon. Super hot in Southern Italy right now.
+ Dinner - Indian food.
+ Hanging with glow sticks in one of the city squares in late evening.
+ No sign of lost luggage.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Ember Friday

+ Part of the team, 3 people, still don't have their suitcases. So we took those 3 to do some light shopping this morning.
+ The rest of the team spent some time at a community center and played football and water games with some new friends.
+ This community center also hosts a community garden space, which is meant to be a social enterprise teaching some marketable skills. One of the most interesting things like this I have seen recently.
+ Afternoon and early evening spent in city center - lots of football in one of the largest parks in the city.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ember 2018 IG Travel Reading

When teams travel with me, I give them reading for the plane. When else do you have a captive audience for 12 hours like this? Here is this year's team reading.

People that Must - Alex McManus

The Psychology of Packing - Jan Chipchase

Advice to New Grads: Scale or Bail

[PS - Hopefully our team has landed by now]

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ideation - The Ember Cast style

Maybe one of these ideas - some new some old - is for you.

1 - Ember Concierge
In the global missions space, we have equated 'support' with money for far too long. Instead, sometimes the best kind of support is not related to finances but helping people get s**t done.

The Ember Concierge is a boutique support role that solves the plethora of issues that global citizens encounter. Sure, some of these problems can be solved with a friend of a friend. Instead, we solve these issues using our deep, priceless network of professionals who are not only experts in areas such as real estate, event planning, finance, logistics, technology - they also have deep interests in the nonprofit sector and understand some of the specific challenges of this context.

We take great pride in our job of helping global workers solve their problems to get from here to there and then, from there to anywhere.

2 - EmberDY
Do you have a God-sized Dream but are having trouble understanding or executing it? Do people around you think you are crazy? Are those you seek help from trying to pare your dream down?

Join us for Ember Dream Year and let us help you go from dream to reality. This looks like:
- monthly mentoring/planning meetings
- exposure to other Dreamers who have executed their dreams
- learn more about who you are and the One who planted that dream
- culminating in the execution of your dream

* Based on the book Dream Year by Ben Arment, limited to high school juniors and seniors.

3 - 2050T
A weekend advance, not retreat, focused on preparing for 2050. Significant elements include culture, team dynamics, social entrepreneurship, and missional imagination. This advance is best suited for teams and organizations that believe the future is to be created. Facilitated and highly contextualized for your tribe by Ember Staff.

4 - SCAdmin
In 2018, one of the largest issues on the planet is the migration of people - the population of displaced people is the largest in human history. Do you wish that you could make a small contribution to this migration? Can you spare 20 hours a week for administrative tasks? Can you juggle communications, finances, and interesting issues? Could you coordinate volunteers and tasks, partnerships and points of contacts, and coffee?

5 - Mission You
Self leadership is the most difficult leadership task and self-awareness is one of the most powerful tools to lead yourself. Spend a week learning about who you are the core, with deep dives into the StrengthsFinder, MBTI and APEST personality and temperament psychometrics. Combine these psychometric deep dives with lightweight service projects, a like-minded team of emerging leaders and travel to another culture and you'll return home with an incredible framework for leadership in the future. Limited to high school juniors up to and including college seniors.
* The inception of this idea was in the summer of 2008, even before Ember existed, but the idea never got momentum. World Class Cities Ministries is running something similar this coming October.

6 - City Guides
Part travel guide, part missional map, these 3 page city guides are written by Ember Staff and friends who have personally visited these cities. You'll find recommendations for logistics like food, lodging, transport and interesting sights written from the Ember lens, keeping in mind concepts such as ethnography, people groups, cultural distance, and innovation in the social sector.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Burn

::: National Geographic - a 130 year old company is #1 on social media.

::: How to Identify and Tell Your Most Powerful Stories

::: Flight Attendant Secrets

::: As a leader, train yourself to never gripe about what you allow. Never complain about something you tolerate. You are the leader—lead to the desired result. - Craig Groeschel

Photo: Cable car, southern Italy, July 2017.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Taylor - #reputationStadiumTour

Tuesday night.
Life goal 1 - since 2005 - travel outside the US once a year.
Life goal 2 - since 2015 - see Taylor on every tour.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Welcoming Home Emily

Our Emily arrived home last week from almost 3 weeks of travel in Asia. From all accounts, it was fantastical and she experienced a ton of stuff, including 2 countries, 4 cities [the smallest being 2M people!], villages, baby pandas, Chinese opera, the art of batik fabric, the Great Wall, 9 flights and almost 20,000 air miles, sea urchins, and lots of rice. I was jealous.

As you would expect, we are trying to help Em decompress this experience and we are doing this in a few ways. First, we let her talk and talk and talk. Most people, family members included, are awful at actively listening to their friends and family after they have returned from something like this. We also ask lots of questions. Last night, she showed us about a thousand pictures. Second, we encourage Em to have a light schedule. A good rule of thumb for recovering for jet lag is that it takes one day for every timezone traveled. Third, I gave her decompression homework based on our past experiences with Ember teams. Yeah, homework in the summer, how awful.

After working with hundreds of students on many, many mission teams over the past 15 years, I can definitively tell you: do not miss helping the people around you process experiences like these. The proper decompression is one of the best ways to ensure that these kinds of trips translate experience into action.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Paraguay is the First Country in Americas to Eliminate Malaria in 45 Years

::: Can This Cooler Save Lives?

::: Working at Charity:water
No swearing and no lying.

::: Leadership is disappointing your own people at a rate that they can absorb. - Heifetz and Linskey, via Tod Bolsinger

Photo: Congrats to Meghan for completing the Ember ProtoGuide experience.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Family Pictures

2017 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 SR5 Magnetic Grey Metallic. Photo by Joseph Yang.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sheng Send

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. - Goethe

Sending these two this week. Em flies on Monday with a church team for almost three weeks on a 'tour' of South East Asia, knee brace and all [long story.] Em will is also part of the Ember IG team so gets a few weeks at home before heading out again. Katie flies on Tuesday for a few weeks in Europe visiting with friends and then an internship in India for mid July to the end of August.

We are thrilled for them and trust what the Lord does in their lives this summer.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The Most Successful Ethnic Group in the US
Link via Next Draft

::: The World is Running Out of Japanese People

::: The 20%
the point of the article, and I’m not going to do it justice, everyone should read it, was that it was, effectively, directed at kids. Kids who are now adults. And it was an encouragement to spend more time with your parents because it said, effectively, by the time you leave high school and leave home to go to college, you’ve spent 80 percent of the total hours you will ever spend with your parents before they die.
Now, you can look at it the other way around. As a parent, by the time your kids leave high school or leave home, you will have spent or had the opportunity to spend 80 percent of the hours you’re ever going to spend with them together.
From a transcript interview between Tim Ferriss and Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race

::: Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. - Corrie Ten Boom

Photo: The Sea of Galilee

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Abuse and Misconduct Policy

Like many of you, I have been in disbelief as I have recently read about the sexual and power abuse that is happening in our culture. This disbelief has turned into anger as I've read about this same kind of abuse and power structures in our churches and student ministries. I am no longer in denial and you should not be either - we are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this abuse issue in our churches.

To that end, the board of directors of The Ember Cast and I have just completed working on a policy for abuse, misconduct and leadership with minors. We don't have a good name for this policy but it encompasses a few of these issues altogether: abuse, sexual misconduct, reporting, and conduct for leadership with minors. As of a few weeks ago, we have implemented a new process which includes background checks for leaders and a required review and signature of this policy from each leader. Leaders with partner organizations may also be asked to review and sign this policy, depending on their existing systems for addressing these issues. Of course, some of the motivation behind this is providing absolute clarity for leaders surrounding these topics. Another motive behind the policy is the spirit of the document: if you abuse a student while working with The Ember Cast, we will turn over heaven and earth to put you in jail for as long as possible. [Yeah a little dramatic.]

Here is our policy if you are interested in requesting read access.

Other resources that were helpful included Brad Feld's post on this subject, Andy Crouch's post about power dynamics, and the Protect My Ministry and GRACE organizations. Also, special thanks to friends at Mosaic Christian Church and Grace Community Church for providing examples of their policies.

Monday, June 11, 2018

IG Team Meeting #16

+ Team field trip to Washington DC.
+ Museum of the Bible
+ Sharing Your Story
+ DC Food Trucks
+ The Lincoln

Friday, June 08, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Advice to New Graduates: Scale or Bail
Must read - thanks to Kathleen

::: Missionary Attrition
Of the team/agency factors, the highest rated factors in the decision to return to a passport country as perceived by former missionaries were lack of missionary care, lack of integrity on the team, lack of freedom to pursue calling, team conflict, and confusion over role on the team.

::: Vending Machines from 3018

::: For too many, the opposite of fear is not courage, but conformity. - Alvin Reid via Justin Long

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

IG Team Meeting #15

Lots of meetings with this team, but they all love to spend so much time with yours truly.
+ Final set of videos on context.
+ Ember core principles - more examples.
+ Team member Shannon in real life.
+ Funding - this has stalled a bit. I'm not asking you for money but if you were interested, I would buy you coffee and invite you to partner with us.

Niall, Tommy, Emily, Deanna, Jolie, Sam, Audrey, Shannon.

Monday, June 04, 2018

To All My Anonymous Feedback

Never write what you dare not sign. An anonymous letter-writer is a sort of assassin, who wears a mask, and stabs in the dark. Such a man is a fiend with a pen. If discovered, the wretch will be steeped in the blackest infamy.
- Charles Spurgeon via Denny Burk. PS - I forgive you.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Eastern Europe is Shrinking Before Our Eyes

::: The Salesforce Tower and the Homeless

::: 20 Takeaways - The Meeker Internet Trends 2018 Report

::: Forever is composed of nows. - Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Real Versus Fake

I thought, like most people, that the paperwork in starting and running a nonprofit would be the most difficult thing about it. Instead, I learned about the real work. The truth is, like any other business endeavor, there is the real work and there is the fake work.

The fake work is what intimidates most people. The nonprofit application. Assembling a board. Getting the IRS status. Yearly filings. Tracking financials. Receipts to donors. Using Quickbooks. Believe me, if I can do it, you can too. All of these things and types of things, they are work. They are tedious, monotonous, they require a learning curve, and they are required. But they are not difficult. They are using learning financial software, stuffing envelopes, chatting with a lawyer, lots of stamps and envelopes. They are web forms, shopping for and buying insurance, putting money in the right bucket. But they are not impossible to learn. In fact, you already have most of these skills. You have a family budget and make decisions accordingly. You buy car insurance. You write a Christmas letter and mail merge it.

The real work, that is the difficult part. Inviting people to join you. Asking them to give up time and energy. Painting a vision for making the world better. Repeating that vision thousands of times. Engaging new interested parties and re-engaging people from the past. Running a volunteer organization where no one has to do anything for a salary. Telling yourself that the effort is worth it for one more day, month, season. Pushing momentum slowly. Being intentional about a culture, teaching and modelling what you do and why you do it - person by person, team by team.

In every project we all aspire to, there is the real work and there is the fake work. If you have a vision for a nonprofit, don't let the fake work scare you. The real work will require all of your heart and soul.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Summer Send - 2018

Over the past few summers, The Ember Cast has executed a series of Summer Sends, one or two fantastic individuals each summer that we send to trusted partners. It's a best of combination: a person or small team that has the Ember DNA and is committed to growing in character, competencies and capacity, a time frame that is longer than a typical student missions experience and hosting partners that we know well and desire to invest in a future missional leader. We fell into this and now have embraced it as a core competency.

Our Summer Send this summer is BM, seated next to MK [ProtoGuide 2016, 2016Italy, 2014X, 2013X]. This summer looks slightly different as BM is going to be living in the suburbs and serving part time in a local refugee resource center [details intentionally obscure]. We are excited for this knowing that there is a ton of work with this center and BM is easy going, likes to get things done and is super friendly and always willing to help someone out. If you recently arrived to a foreign country and didn't know a soul, BM would be a great first friend.

Thanks in advance for supporting BM as our 2018 Summer Send.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Beyond Success, 4 Lessons in Character
Jacqueline Novogratz's 2018 commencment speech to the NYU's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Novagratz is the CEO of the Acumen Fund and her husband is Chris Andersen who runs the TED talks.

::: The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

::: A Rule of Life for Redemptive Entrepreneurs - from Praxis Labs.

::: Forever is composed of nows. - Emily Dickinson

Photo: Paying the tolls. Italy. 2017.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Frames and Gutters

Last week, The Ember Cast also had the opportunity to work with a team of ladies headed to Caribbean for a week long cross cultural service experience [last post, busy week]. This team is serving with local hosts involved in education, kids programs and poverty alleviation, as part of their church's long standing partnership. It is always an honor to spend a little time with teams like these and share some of what we have learned about high performance cross cultural teams.

Our session included:
+ Frames for Teams
+ Personality assessment results both for individuals and teams
+ Gutterball - [going upstairs]

The statistics prove it: your team will be more effective with intentional team preparation, your team members will be more engaged when they come home, and team training is one of the best investments you can make with your time and energy. Our team doesn't have any more availability for this kind of thing for summer teams this year but we always have ideas.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Cultural Navigation

One of the best skills for anyone traveling to another culture to understand is cultural navigation - simply peeling back layers of a given culture to discuss deeper meanings. It's a simple skill that we believe anyone, especially students, can learn easily and a skill that translates across all kinds of life experiences.

Our latest training session on this topic included a brave team, our 2018 cultural navigation tip sheet and some of my secret 'plants' [Kate, Audrey, Emily] inside an ethnic grocery store. Gracious thanks for this team traveling to the Middle East later this summer for their willingness to experiment with us on this one. Tip: you can use any ethnic context [store, neighborhood, restaurant, etc] to practice this.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The Future Will Have Fewer Children

::: Instagram Will Soon Let You Know Just How Much Time You Waste on It

::: Man With Golden Arm Who Donated Blood for 60 Years

::: For too many, the opposite of fear is not courage, but conformity. - Alvin Reid via Justin Long

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ember May Dinner

Our May dinner guest was Pat Hatch who coordinates all refugee and immigrant refugee for Mission to North America, which is the domestic missions/church planting organization for the Presbyterian Church of America. Pat serves as the point person for refugee and immigrant outreach efforts for over 1700 churches, spread across all 50 states.

Pat has deep experience in doing things that haven't been done before. She founded the Foreign Information Referral Network [FIRN] way back in the early 1980s and ran it for 16 years. [Incidentally, our older daughter Katie interned at FIRN for a year during high school.] She also worked for the state refugee office just prior to God calling her to refugees and the the role for MTN, which had nothing like that before she came.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

Interesting things going on in refugee ministry right now:
For the Nations, Richardson TX.
A local church in Harrisonburg VA.
Immigration Law Clinics hosted by churches. People/churches can get certified to host these clinics in their local organizations.

On Pioneering:
Came into this current role with no existing structure or model. Had to make it up as she went along. Sometimes people will tell her that they are ready but their church is not. Sadly, she hears this quite a bit and it is opportunity to pray and perhaps meet with the pastor. Obey when the Lord calls - sometimes you pioneer before your church is ready.

On Refugee Misunderstandings:
Every relevant federal government agency is involved in vetting refugees.
Question from some well meaning but misinformed church people: "You are not going to work with illegals are you?"
Pat: "I'm not going to work with anyone who has not been created in the image of God and who Jesus did not die for.

On Advice for young people:
Call me I want to talk to you one on one.

Thank you Pat for sharing your wisdom and inspiring us.

Deanna, Audrey, Hailey, Emily, Meghan, Sherrill, Kate, Sam, Pat, Mandy, K [out of frame]
[I was the only male.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

IG Team Meeting #12

Kids Camp thing.

+ Crafts: photos of kids on cards with tissue flowers for Mothers Day
+ Adam and Eve
+ Skit
+ Music
+ Chick Fil A [Lord I have spent so much $$ at Chick Fil A this Spring]
+ Ember Guides Hope and Nat jumping in to help.
+ Other special guests.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The War on Malaria has Entered It's Third Phase

::: Farewell From the Pineapple Fund
5104 BTC was turned into $55 million for charities, from providing clean water, open mapping, to clinical trials of MDMA as treatment for PTSD.

::: This App Delivers Leftover Food to the Hungry

::: Facial Recognition Helps Trace 3000 Missing Children in 4 Days

::: "You can do with 12 disciples what you cannot do with 12,000 consumers." - Alan Hirsch via Justin Long

Photo: Warsaw tram. July 2017.