Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 in Cities

01 - New Freedom, PA, USA
02 - Charleston, SC, USA
03 - Hilton Head Island, SC, USA
04 - Katoomba, NSW, Australia
05 - Southport, QLD, Australia
06 - Sydney, NSW, Australia
07 - Fairfield, CT, USA
08 - Washington, DC
09 - Sicily, Italy
10 - Athens, Greece
11 - Vouliagmeni, Greece
12 - Selbyville, DE, USA
13 - San Diego, CA, USA
14 - Newport Beach, CA, USA
15 - Los Angeles, CA, USA
16 - Sturbridge, MA, USA
17 - Abu Dhabi, UAE
18 - Al Reem, Abu Dhabi, UAE
19 - Tybee Island, GA, USA

Standing goal - out of the USA once a year.

[2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 in Books

Thirst, Scott Harrison *
The Power of Moments, Heath brothers +
Drive, Dan Pink
Unclobber, Colby Martin
Redeeming Sex, Debra Hirsch *
The New Copernicans, John Seel
Powerful, Patty McCord
Draw the Circle, Mark Batterson
Love into Light, Peter Hubbard +
The Messy Middle, Scott Belsky *
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson *

* highly recommended
+ did not finish yet

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Happy 21st!

Dear Katie

Happy 21st!

Now you are officially legal and officially responsible. Of course, you've been responsible long before this - responsible for the things you have seen that most of us have not.

You are also responsible for your soul. No one will care about your growth and development except you. This also requires you to think and act properly to those you serve and bless and deeply understand the why behind the what.

Mommy and I are thrilled at your life. We are your biggest fans. Keep living life to the full.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Better Practices - The 40 Day Rule

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."

We have a 40 day rule for returning summer teams. It is strong encouragement that no one makes a major decision within 40 days. Getting a new job, starting/stopping a relationship, dropping out of high school, etc. The motivation for this encouragement is to detach emotion from action.

It is easy to make commitments while still on an emotional upswing from a cross cultural experience. We think it's actually wiser to let emotions temper before making big commitments. If your decision is sound and smart, your plan will still work after you've calmed down and decompressed.

The other piece to the 40 day rule is to spend it praying about your experience. For your hosts, for your team, for the people you met, for yourself, that you continue to grow in grace and character.

If you are involved with short term teams, put in a system to help your participants make smart decisions after their time on the field. It might look something like this 40 day rule or not, but detaching emotions from decisions should be part of it.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Burn

::: How do European Countries Differ in Religious Commitment?
Link via Justin Long

::: How I Made Sure all 12 of My Kids Could Pay for College Themselves
Link via Terry Storch

::: Your Phone is a Tool Not Your Boss
This is incredible. Most of you should read this and do at least a few of these.
Link via Tim Ferriss

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Meeting Culture

A few weeks ago, I attended a lunch time gathering of supporters/partners for a little refugee drop in center we've been doing some work with. The main goal was to introduce partners to each other so they knew who was who. Another goal was to share milestones from 2018. They've got a Christmas outreach coming up so some of that was talked about too.

This center is in early stage start-up ministry mode. Founder working 24x7 on anything and everything. Communications is either non existent or all over the map. Partners don't know other partners, they only know the founder - he is the central hub and they are spokes. There is not much process and no one knows quite who is in charge of any given initiative or project. So much chaos. I love it.

In the Western world, we want a schedule and a point of contact. Our host said, "In the Middle East, we don't have deadlines."

Monday, December 10, 2018

From Intern To

One of the first summers of the existence of The Ember Cast, we partnered with Serve the City Baltimore to deliver a few talks for one of their teams. This was the first time I met Deanna [yes, same name as my wife], 7th from the right in the black shirt. She would later join us as an Ember intern - before we renamed our intern program to ProtoGuides.

Deanna joined us as an intern for literally almost everything we did. She was pretty much constant for 18 months, including two summer teams, lots of student gatherings, a few large scale training events, and at least four culture service learning weekends.

Since her time with Ember, she finished college, got married, moved to Philly for a season, led teams to Latin America and Asia, and is now going to be serving on a local college campus with her husband in vocational college ministry. We're thrilled for the Lord's call on her life and expectant about this next season. Ember might be partnering with her ministry with some things around our core competencies too.

Not everything we do works out great. And the cycle of return is at least four years. But there's a few bright spots that we keep in touch with that makes it stick: Emilie 06, Trevin 08, Tricia 08, John 10, Drew 10, Carolyn 11, Wendy 12, Deanna 13, Hope 14, Tess 14, Lindsey 14, Shannon 15. Keep on, the world needs you at your best.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Friday Burn

Big Tech has Your Kid's Data and You Probably Gave it to Them
... by the time a kid turns 18, there will be 70,000 posts about them on the internet.

::: Five Year Trends from the US Census Bureau
For the 2013 to 2017 period, among the geographic areas with 10,000 people or more, the locations with the highest median household incomes were, by county and county equivalent: Loudoun County, Va.; Fairfax County, Va.; Howard County, Md.; Falls Church City, Va.; and Arlington County, Va., were among the highest counties by median household income.

::: The IRS is now on Instagram
Tag away.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Senior Senioring

College envelope for Em... and it was an acceptance with a good amount of scholarship money. It's that time of year for many seniors.

This particular school is Biola, in So Cal. We've all loved and been impressed with the school. Most notably for me, they have hosted one of the longest running student missions conferences in the US.

Proud of our Em. More decisions soon.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Thoughts about Giving Tuesday

+ I don't want to feel this way because I know Giving Tuesday has great intentions. But it always feels a bit dirty to me. Like a flea market, where people are trying to get you to see the stuff on their table. It feels like the lowest level of engagement when it comes to working with charitable donors.
+ Even with that, it took a few simple clicks to create a fundraiser on Facebook for The Ember Cast and we raised a good bit of money relative to our budget.
+ There were a few people that I only interact with when they are trying to fund something. It's commonly referred to as ministry partnership but it really is sponsorship. If you are reading this, it's not your fault - you asked and I gave. To their credit, I asked if they would be willing to give to Ember too and they all did, one incredibly generously.
+ If you are giving or receiving, my encouragement to you is to set the bar really high when it comes to engaging with your donors and charitable organizations. I know for The Ember Cast, your attention and trust is worth way more than your donations.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The number of people with access to electricity just fell below 1B.
Link via The Weekend Briefing

::: Is our constant use of digital technologies affecting our brain health?

::: The World's Largest Migrations

Photo: The Louvre, Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Better Practices - A Humble Mindset

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."

There are many times when we think way more highly of ourselves. When it comes to mission teams, we sometimes believe and articulate that we are 'taking God to [fill in place or people]' as if God isn't there already. It's a fundamental error in theology.

Instead, articulated excellently by Tim Dearborn in the Short Term Missions Workbook: "Walk with humility. Remember, you are showing up late to a meeting. God has been at work among these people long before you arrived!"

This simple shift in thinking will put your team in it's rightful role with who they are, what they are to do, how they should relate to long term partners and who they serve and what the Lord might be calling them to the future.

Monday, November 26, 2018


On my last night here, we decided to go over to the Grand Prix to see if someone wanted to give away their wristbands to see Guns N' Roses. I'm not a huge fan and we only stayed for 5 or 6 songs but it was an experience and totally worth it.

I continue to be fascinated by Abu Dhabi. Cultural mix of very futuristic future and very old past. Lots of the world comes here for opportunity - you cannot help but meet people from places you might never go. A cab driver told me that Nigerians are taking over the world. The Filipinos are the most polite people I have ever met. Someone Katie works with said, 'Abu Dhabi changed my life.' Interesting focus on investment in the city and it's citizens. There is something about the desert.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

How to Neuter Entrepreneurial, Apostolic Leaders

1. Force them to go to school.
2. Give them too much money
3. Tell them all the reasons why something cannot be done.
4. Swamp them with paperwork and administration.
5. Give them people to lead who are excessively needy.
6. Limit their travel and keep them in their own culture.
7. Consistently correct them when they are provocative or prophetic in their communication.
8. Make sure any initiative they take must go through multiple steps of approval.
9. Insert 'conserve' and 'maintain' in conversations with them.
10. Have someone supervise them who projects his or her own strong pastoral gifting onto the relationship.
11. Tell them to stay when they want to go.
12. Make sure they have plenty of rules and policies to live by.
13. Give them a precise, detailed, inflexible job description.
14. Keep them safe.
- Beyond the Local Church, Sam Metcalf

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Big tech, Kibera and AI

::: Square Roots - Urban Farming

::: Robert Egger - Philanthropy Puts a Chokehold on Innovation
Egger was the founder of DC Central Kitchen.

::: My friend David Huey runs Hungry for A Day and they are kicking off their Thanksgiving project this week. Check it out here.

: 'Limited resources + Willingness to fail + Increasing passion = Exponential Innovation' - Craig Groeschel

Photo: Vienna, Austria. July 2007.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

NovEmber dinner guest - Icing Smiles

Once a month, The Ember Cast hosts a dinner with a select group of students and a special guest who are some of the most creative and innovative in the global missions/nonprofit space. The intention of this dinner is for our students to learn, interact and be inspired by these amazing individuals who have created something incredible from nothing.

Our NovEmber dinner guest was Tracy Quisenberry, founder and executive director of Icing Smiles. Icing Smiles a nonprofit org that provides celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child. In just over 8 years, Icing Smiles has mobilized thousands of volunteers including bakers, project managers and delivery staff to deliver cakes in all 50 states, including just delivering their 17,000th cake.

Our conversation touched on lots of topics including working in multiple vocations, starting something from nothing, having a laser focus on the mission of your organization and some of the struggles as a founder. Below are some other highlights. Thank you, Tracy, for helping inspire our students and helping Ember forge the future!
The Founder struggle
"Dig where you are"
The hardest job is to lead a team of volunteers.
Was always too hard on herself as a founder

+ Her career experiences as an international tax account for a large multnational corporation helped prepare her to lead an organization. There were also lots of things that she had to learn

+ Icing Smiles is not a faith based org but we would not be an org without my faith.

Q - Have you struggled with mission creep?
Definitely. Had an offer early on to be a program piece of a big, well known nonprofit, but it was an obvious bad fit.

Q - do you want your org to outlast you
Tracy - Yes! Absolutely.
Tony - No not necessarily. Seth Godin - entrepreneur or freelancer. I used to think about us multiplying lots of mentors and missions catalysts that were investing in high school students. But now, I want to be the artisan crafting each and every thing that we deliver.

Advice to 16 year old:
Don't be so hard on yourself. See the pieces of the puzzle,

There are 14 steps to delivering a cake.
"A cake is not just a cake - it is sometimes a breath of air when families feel like they are suffocating."

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Ember Cast Celebrates 8 Years!

EDIT: Duh. I had 2010 on the brain - it is 8 years, not 10.

It was exactly 10 8 years ago today that we held the first board of directors meeting for The Ember Cast, so today is a pretty huge milestone for Ember and it totally took me by surprise. I'm thrilled at everything we have done over this season and wouldn't trade it for the world. Super grateful for the Board [only 3 of us right now] and how the current and past Directors have paved the way and forged the future through the medium of Ember.

Some quick numbers over the past 10 8 years:
Almost 20 team training events and 16 Perspectives classes, all involving over 1000 people. Some 18 community impact projects, involving around 300 people, virtually all high school students. 9 summer teams, 115 people, 9 countries. Over 1500 people have been involved in some kind of Ember engagement. Around $202,000 raised and spent for student missions leadership. Some 18,500 service hours. Over 700 donors have sacrificially given for these efforts. Around 120 travel days. 14 ProtoGuides, which is who you should bet the future on.

Thank you to all of you that have given your support both with your attention, finances and encouragement. Special thanks to the Board for hanging with me to follow through on the idea that we can catalyze high school students to live very large lives impacting the future. And of course, all glory to the Lord for letting us be a small part of this.

PS - I am never bored.

Feb 2008, flying to Orlando for Humana 2008. Matt, Joyce, me. Note that I worked with my board before they actually became my board.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Friday Burn

::: A Dog Could Stop Malaria

::: The Irresistible Urge to Build Cities from Scratch

::: A Device that Can Pull Drinking Water from the Air

::: If #Yemen was 100 people:

-80 need aid to survive.
-60 have barely anything to eat.
-58 have no access to clean water.
-52 have no access to health care.
-11 are severely malnourished.

But Yemen is not 100 people. It’s 27 million people.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Conviction > Consensus

Decisions based on consensus typically end up with an ordinary outcome because by seeking to please everyone, you boil your options down to their lowest common denominator: whatever option is the most familiar to the most people and therefore gets the least protest and the fastest support. As British author Aldous Huxley once observed, "The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen."
Only conviction will take you somewhere the group never anticipated. Sometimes you need to forget everything you've learned - all the classes, the 'rules of the road,' conventions, what investors are telling you - and just go with your gut. It is your intuition, formed from your entire life's experiences, revealing something that nobody else can see. Take it seriously!
Herein lies that most important nuance of leading with conviction: You must surround yourself with others who also have conviction. Strong gut instincts surrounded by weak people or people afraid to speak up are bound to lead you astray.
For extraordinary outcomes, seek conviction in your work and build teams that value conviction over consensus.
- Scott Belsky, The Messy Middle

Monday, November 05, 2018

Better Practices - Missionary Roundtable

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."

Most student teams never deeply interact with their in-country hosts. Our teams aim to do different by scheduling and hosting a 'missionary roundtable'. The idea is simply a conversation between students and vocational missionaries about what they do and how they do it. It sounds easy because it is.

It does, however, require time and advance preparation. It must be scheduled. Guests must be given some kind of preparation on what to expect. Someone should host this conversation, which looks best like a talk show. Think about your favorite podcast - this is a curated conversation and someone is proactively leading it. Most fun over a meal. We always prepare questions that ask about struggles, strategy and advice for young people.

Cross cultural workers that have been in the field for any amount of time have a wealth of experience. We are crazy to serve with them for at least a week at a time and never exploit that wisdom to our students.

Roundtable, Aix, France, 2014.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Friday Burn

::: The 100 Charities that are America's Favorites

::: The 63,000 People that Run the Atlanta Airport

::: Places in the UK where no one lives

::: Successful leaders do consistently what other people do occasionally. - Craig Groeschel

Photo: McDonalds, Londrina, Brazil. July 2005.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

ProtoGuide Blogs

One of the pillars of our ProtoGuide Experience is having the students read and write. They are given a weekly reading assignment and they are to write about their experiences through the semester or year by posting on a blog. I still believe what Seth Godin says about blogs - that consistently posting to a blog is one of the best ways to lead your tribe. So we make the ProtoGuides write one too.

They read a variety of things, including books and articles, all designed to give a postmodern, innovative glance at the global missions space. And they write because no matter what you do, you must be able to communicate. The best practice for writing is writing.

Here's a few posts that you might enjoy:
A Day in DC
My College Essay
A Wee bit Irish
Are you a Rung

Thanks for reading. You can follow along by adding their blogs to your RSS reader [I use feedly.]

Photo: John and Drew, the very first Ember ProtoGuides. Philly, 2010.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Better Practices - Pre and Post Trip Assessment

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."

For summer teams, most summers we do a pre and post team assessment based on our core list of global concepts. Quite simply, we are asking team members to explain an important global concept both before and after the trip. We would expect that they might or might not know the concept before the trip and our hope is that after the trip, they would know it really well and have a real life example of it.

The pre assessment is an integral part of our team application and is executed as a whole section of questions on global concepts, such as indigenous, person of peace, or contextualization. The post assessment is done as a follow up to summer teams after they have returned home - we have not been as good at this as we should be. But of course, for students to understand it, someone has to teach it, model it, illustrate it.

There are lots of global concepts that are never taught to our students and yet are extremely applicable to them in their current context. Instead, many of us believe that these ideas should only be taught to adults who are committed to the mission field. Your summer team is an ideal experience where students can glean real life examples to lots of these concepts. Don't ignore such a huge opportunity.

Friday, October 26, 2018

QCommons Baltimore - notes

Some quick notes from the QCommons gathering last night in Catonsville.

: Jo Saxton
hospitality - it is not a gift but it is an instruction
leaders and influencers - you are to be hospitable
take this personally, offer this freely

: James Misner, World Relief
the evangelical church is the most hostile to refugees
WR has signs in their office instructing people how to use toilets because sometimes their clients don't know how
22M refugees worldwide - 66% of these are Jesus followers
We cannot buy a solution to the refugee crisis.
Congo and South Sudan [vs Middle East] are where most of the displaced people are today.

: Jeanne Allert, The Samaritan Woman
this talk was crazy good.
no notes would give it justice.

: Scott Harrison, Charity Water [huge fan]
solution agnostic - we use 13 technologies for the water issue
Dirty water is illegal in Heaven
personally traveled to 69 countries, been to Ethiopia 37 times
Do not be afraid of work that has no end.

: Bob Goff
People follow availability.
We go where we are accepted, not informed.
I make coffee nervous.

: Luke Casagrande, Grace Fellowship
God is omnipresent, we are singularly present.
Our phones give us an idea that maybe we can be more than singularly present, which divides and diminishes our presence.

I would have thought turn out would have been more - probably less than 50 people there. All 3 local speakers were excellent, as well as the broadcast ones. Liked the format - 9 minute talks with breaks for discussion, very TED talks like. The push for donating to money to World Vision right after Scott Harrison's talk was very odd - it felt weird to ask for money for a different charity than from the speaker we just heard from. I've followed some of the Q stuff in the past and have found the content helpful. Tonight was well worth it and loved having some of the Ember team there.

Photo: Hailey, Audrey, Hope [previous ProtoGuide and now staffer with The Samaritan Woman, which is why the barcode], Emily, me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

My Youth Pastor

My youth pastor, in the middle, at his retirement party, after almost 40 years of vocational ministry. No burn out, no moral failure, no abusing kids, no stealing money.

I learned a ton from him: being in his youth group, helping as a leader in his youth group, leading two summer mission teams under his leadership, and being on a teaching team with him. All the while watching his life and his leadership.

Me, Ron Jones, and Gary W, one of my oldest friends from my teenage years.

Eternally grateful.

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.