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.