Monday, August 12, 2019

Good Hope

Flying home from Cape Town later today after visiting Katie for 4 days, where she is working at an internship on social protection and poverty.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Last Match

The Poland ladies returned a few weeks ago and we had a decompression session a few nights ago. You should know this but if you don't, decompression is one of your big responsibilities if you are involved in cross cultural teams. It is the make or break, the smoking gun, the silver bullet. If you help students process their experience, they might change and grow. If you skip it, they almost certainly will not.

We worked through Ember's decompression toolkit, something that we have put together over the years of our experience. It includes things like having students write a few different summaries of their trip, exploring re-entry patterns, and thinking about missional imagination and idea models. As good as this is, I've said for many years that Seth Barnes has the treasure trove for debriefing here.

This was our last Ember project for the foreseeable future. Since these ladies are some of Emily's best friends, we've known them for years. Not only have them been involved with lots of Ember's projects, they've been an integral part of our lives. We've gone to the beach with them, they've spent countless hours at our house, they have eaten so much of our food. Could not think of a better last match for The Ember Cast.

This blog goes into pause mode for a little while. Thanks for joining us for the last incredible 16 years.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Travel Notes - Corinth, Spetses, Athens, Greece

To celebrate our younger daughter finishing high school and because our kids are going to be scattered around the world in a few months, we decided to spend 3 weeks as a family traveling through the Balkans.

Here are some details about our time in Greece. Greece is, of course, a travelers destination with lots to see and an incredible amount of places to visit, so you will have to accept the fact that you won't be able to do it all. For us, since we spent a few days in Athens last summer, our goal was to get on an island, see another city and spend some more time in Athens. See part 1 about Venice here and part 2 about Croatia here.

We left Croatia from Dubrovnik and flew into Athens. From there, we picked up a rental car and drove an hour into Corinth, that place from the Bible. We opted to stay one night near ancient Corinth instead of modern Corinth and we were definitely glad. Ancient Corinth is fascinating and the museum there is excellent. Well worth the price of admission. There is also a quaint little town right outside ancient Corinth where we had dinner the night before. Probably the best gyro I have ever had and no ATMs in this little village.

From Corinth, we drove about 2 hours through the mountains to Kosta, a little port. The only thing I know about Kosta is there is a parking lot that you can park your car there for multiple days for cheap. Our goal was to get to Spetses, a tiny island and an easy (!) ten minute boat ride from Kosta. No cars except for delivery vehicles are allowed on the island and there are 4 or 5 different beaches there. Lots of places to eat and hotels to stay in. We spent four nights there and it was beautiful. Our goal for these few days was just to sit and relax and our mission was accomplished. We did take a bus 20 minutes around the island one day to go to a different beach and Katie and I rode [electric] bikes back. Deanna and I also went on a horse drawn carriage ride and every meal we had on the island was excellent. We stayed in a hotel right down the street from the port - convenient because of too much luggage - long story.

As we were sitting on the sea wall watching the sunset one night, there was an older lady fishing with a hook on a line and clumps of bread. The first night, I only saw her catch small fish and she had me and a stray cat as the audience. The second night, I saw the real catch - a squid.

Our hotel, family owned and run, was managed by two brothers. As beautiful as the island was, they said it was dismal in the winter. Cold and rainy with no visitors - the same boring people in the nightclubs every night.

Our time in Athens was centered around hanging with the Streetlights team, although we did see the Acropolis Museum, had our good friend Spyri give a little reflection about the apostle Paul on Mars Hill, and a few of us went all the way up to the top of the Acropolis. The Acropolis is a little expensive but definitely worth it. If you go there with students, people aged 18 and under are free. Like I referred to in this post, 4 Ember students joined us for our time in Athens at the end of this little family excursion. And this excursion, man, this was one for the books.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Travel Notes - Croatia

To celebrate our younger daughter finishing high school and because our kids are going to be scattered around the world in a few months, we decided to spend 3 weeks as a family traveling through the Balkans.

Here are some details about our drive down the coast of Croatia. Stunningly beautiful, if you get the chance to visit, take advantage of it. See part 1 about Venice here.

We picked up a rental car in Umag after taking a train from Venice to Trieste and then a shuttle from there through Slovenia into Croatia. It would have been far easier to take a ferry directly from Venice to Croatia, but I'm not a big boat person. Also, renting a car through more than one country was prohibitively expensive. I've had good luck with Sixt rentals in a few places in Europe. Umag is a cool little beach town.

We spent one night in Pula, where we hiked up to some ruins and saw the Roman amphitheater. No tour, just a walk around. We then drove to Zadar and spent two nights there. You can drive from Pula to Zadar via the highway or on a little road that hugs the coastline - do the latter. It's about a 4 hour drive with stunning views of mountains and beaches and lots of places to stop for a break and food. Also lots of places to stop to jump in the ocean. June in Croatia is nice and hot so the ocean is perfectly cold.

Our Airbnb in Zadar was a bit outside of the old city so we didn't see much of Zadar. Instead, we planned it so that we could take most of a day to see the Plitvička Jezera National Park which was pretty incredible. Very worth the beautiful drive through the Croatian countryside. There are a few circuit hikes with some combination of lake crossings via boats you can choose from in Plitvička so do a little bit of planning before you get there. There are a few restaurants in the park so you can grab lunch and coffee there. The water falls are incredible but you can't swim in them although you can at the Krka National Park though but we didn't make it there.

After Zadar, we spent one night in Sibenik which also turned out to be a favorite. Sibenik is an old stone city on the beach that's been inhabited since around 1066. The King Kreshmir Heritage hotel is an amazing property. The property is brand new with an incredible staff and each room has a toilet/bidet combination. No cars in the old city of Sibenik so we had to hoof our luggage up lots of stairs. This was a common theme for us though this whole trip - it's a long story. Sibenik also has a quaint aquarium that takes about an hour to go through.

We got some recommendations for our trip from Paula, a Croatian friend of one of our kids and although we couldn't do everything on the list, the ones we did were awesome. One of the best tips was dinner at Baćulov dvor, a historic farmhouse where the owners give you a tour of the property and treat you to a traditional Croatian dinner. Really incredible experience including trying to find it, seeing houses that are centuries old and the great food. Paula arranged this for us - she's an up and coming travel professional so ping if interested.

Next was two nights in Trogir, another car-less, old stone European city. Trogir has 2300 years of continuous urban tradition and is busy with tourism. During our stay here, Deanna and I took a boat [boat count is 7 in 8 days at this point] to Split for an afternoon while our kids went to a local beach. We stayed in an apartment in a guest house in the center of the city - sort of like a budget hotel - and our host was named Diyanna.

Split was packed with tourists but worth it and one of our best decisions was taking the boat instead of driving. It is a large city so you might not want to deal with the traffic. Seeing the remnants of Diocletian's Palace is definitely worth it, especially the basement - pay the roughly $7 to get in. It will give you a nice break from the heat too.

Our final city was Dubrovnik and it was just as beautiful. We instead should have spent more time here as well. A huge walled city with lots inside and just as much outside the walls. We had a good amount of trouble finding our Airbnb here, it was just off one of the main roads but to actually get to it, we had to weave through a neighborhood as well as squeeze the rental car down a walled road with our mirrors in. Spend a whole day here if you can. The Dubrovnik airport is 20 minutes outside of the city and we flew from here to Athens.

Croatia is unbelievably beautiful - really stunning. It reminded me a lot of Iceland - that touch of wild with water, islands, mountains and rock, all tumbled close together. Granted, we didn't make it very inland in Croatia and all of the places we went were tourist attractions. But what we saw was fantastic and I would easily go back. The people were overly hospitable, there was lots of history we didn't even know about and so many old European cities. And believe it or not, we've never seen an episode of Game of Thrones but we saw a lot of the sights.

We definitely could and should have slowed the pace down of this, except there was so much to see. Paula told us in advance that Croatians don't serve coffee to go, instead Croatians choose to sit and enjoy coffee together over conversations. Next time, we get more coffee and slow it down.

Monday, July 08, 2019

WRGY Training Camp

Em is off to training camp for WRGY for 10 days. Proud and excited, go Em!

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Travel Notes - Venice, Italy

To celebrate our younger daughter finishing high school and because our kids are going to be scattered around the world in a few months, we decided to spend 3 weeks as a family traveling through the Balkans.

I believe that parenting requires both quality and quantity time [I picked this idea up from Mark Oestreicher] and this requires that sometimes, you and your kids go on a trip somewhere. And travel is one of the best way people learn important things: navigating the unknown, solving problems, resiliency, and of course, the world is a big place to see.

Below are some travel notes in case you are interested in trying the same thing or visiting these specific places.

+ The Journey
Fly into Venice, Italy.
Take a train from Venice, Italy to Trieste, Italy.
Take a shuttle from Trieste, Italy to Umag, Croatia.
Pick up a rental car in Umag, Croatia. Renting a car for driving in more than one country was very expensive compared to just staying in the same country and I'm not much of a boat person, which is why we did the train and shuttle. It would have been easier to take a ferry from Venice to Umag.
Drive down the coast of Croatia, stopping along the way, eventually to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Fly from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Athens, Greece.
Pick up a rental car and drive from Athens, Greece to Corinth.
Drive from Corinth to Spetses.
Spend a few days in Spetses.
Drive back to Athens.
Spend a few days with youth and community leadership dev org in Athens, Greece.

Venice is one of those bucket list cities, you really must see it. But it was very, very crowded - there were times where the smaller, tighter streets were jam packed with people. We stayed in an Airbnb right in the middle of the city and loved being able to do that. We also went to Murano for an afternoon. We were fortunate enough to have an old friend who lives in Venice and just started a lifestyle and travel curation service so she gave us great tips and advice. Like connecting us with a great gondolier - a gondola ride is a must.

Skip going in San Marco Basillica. Going in the Bell Tower is worth it when not crowded but you might want to try going to the roof of T Fondaco dei Tedeschi instead. Lots of places to eat cheap so take advantage of that and cicchetti is their version of small plates. Some of the places in San Marco Square that have live musicians charge you money for that, so do it only if you really want to. You can get to Venice on a boat directly from the Venice airport. There are tons of fresh food markets right near the Rialto Bridge but go in there in the morning. Spend an afternoon just wandering around, getting lost. If you have more time, take a vaperetto, which is the public waterbus, ride to Murano and watch the glass blowing demonstration in Ex Chiesa Santa Chiara. There is nothing like a gondola ride in Venice. Mestre is a neighborhood on the Venice mainland is starting to open up lots of hostels and hotels and the Venezia Mestre train station is right there. Join Genius Card Lifestyle, run by one of my local friends, for some local discounts.

One morning, I was walking behind this delivery man. His cart looks like an expanded hand truck, a bit wider with two extra smaller wheels by extension off the front. He will use those smaller wheels to help get over the many steps in this city - all those lovely bridges have steps. It made me realize that for all the beauty and novelty, transporting stuff in this city is difficult. Stuff like my luggage. Or if you run a retail store or a cafe, materials to run your business, which must come via boat and then to a delivery man and his cart like the one I was following. Our friends told us most restaurants get their deliveries in the middle of the night when the streets and waterways are clear of tourists. Some of us are aware of some of the logistical challenges in the developing world and this is a similar example - very expensive and laborious transportation costs.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Day 20

Today is the last full day of our family trip. We've had a great time and I'm thankful for such an opportunity to see what we have seen together. When we were planning this, we knew that if we were going to be in Greece, we wanted to see our friends at Streetlights, a youth community leadership development org in Athens. I also felt a bit of obligation to offer something to Ember students that had spent time with us this past school year. So we combined the two and a team of 4 ladies have joined us the past few days here.

Today is also our last and kind of only day of ministry with Streetlights. The ladies were delayed in London for a night so they missed Friday. But the neighborhood here is all about presence so although there was no formal ministry, there certainly was being present. Present in getting gelato and visiting a church and watching the jump-over-burning-flowers festival. Present in riding the bus and dinner on Fokionos. Being present among 30 or 40 some nationalities in one of the most dense communities in the world. This is what the future looks like: urban, Eastern, dense, pluralistic, multi-lingual, coffee until late in the night.

We send three of these ladies to Poland tomorrow to work with another Ember partner of ours doing some church planting. The ladies are eager, learners and creative. The picture above is them sketching and journaling with the Parthenon in the background. For our last Ember project for a little while, I'm super proud of this one.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Country 22

+ Croatia.
+ This is on the coast, overlooking Novi Vindolski.
+ Standing goal to get out of the USA every year - worked every year since 2005 except for 2010.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Friday Burn

:::A Summer of Hell is Coming to US Airports

::: A US Missions Agency and Spain's Technology Hub

::: There are Two Types of Airport People

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Visiting Church of the City New York

We finally got to go to church in New York City this past weekend. I've long been fascinated with churches in this city - the most influential and strategic city in the world seems to be experiencing a resurgence in new churches lately. Katie has been there all semester but this was the first weekend where it fit for us to be in the city on a Sunday morning.

I was thrilled that we were able to attend Church of the City New York. I've followed Jon Tyson's work for a while now and no one has thought more deeply about spiritual formation in a place like New York: achievement oriented, fast paced, affluent, postmodern, post Christian, and pluralistic. Sure we say that about the suburbs but it's not even close. Unfortunately, Jon wasn't speaking but his Chief of Staff delivered a phenomenal talk on the topic of being an ambassador. And like I expected and appreciated, it spoke to this specific context and this specific city.

Other interesting observations:
+ They meet in 2 schools for 4 gatherings on Sundays - 2 at one school in the morning and then another 2 at another school in the evening. Portable church.
+ Before the time for the offering, they have a responsive reading focused on generosity and blessing. They don't pass out baskets but give time for people to donate electronically.
+ There was a few minutes at the beginning of the service when someone shared a personal story of their experience in trying to live out 'Kingdom Values' [their current sermon series.] Really makes the community feel connected.

And this quote from the talk:
When the modern world says to us aloud, "You may be religious when you are alone," it adds under its breath, "and I will see to it that you never are alone." To make Christianity a private affair while banishing all privacy is to relegate it to the rainbow's end or the Greek calends.
- C. S. Lewis

I try to read everything Jon Tyson has written. My other church on the short wish list was Hope Roosevelt run by my friends Dan and Amanda Sadlier but the timing didn't quite work out right.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday Burn

::: McDonald's Serves as Mini US Embassies

::: Gladwell on How School Shootings Catch On
Link via The Weekend Reader

::: Crossing Cultures - The First 90 Days

Photo: McDonalds, Vienna, Austria. July 2007.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Loren Cunningham

Founder of Youth With A Mission, started in 1960, which now has about 20,000 staff across 171 countries. Loren travels to 30 or 40 countries every year and has visited every country in the world.

Ember has lots of YWAM friends and of course we run into YWAMers all the time. What a gift to the world Loren is.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday Burn

::: Remembering Sabika Sheikh
The most powerful thing I have read in a long time.

::: Algorithms, Human Rights Abuse and Justice

::: Micromobility Will Transform Cities

Photo: Ramadan July 2014, Aix-en-Provence.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Cultural Navigation in Chinatown

If you've followed along here for any length of time, you know that Ember highly values pre-field team training for any and all kinds of mission teams. The odds, statistics and anecdotes are true - the better your team is prepared, the better your experience. Leaders that ignore this step probably shouldn't be leading these teams.

Last night, some of our guides walked a short term team through navigating some areas of culture, specifically food, people and architecture. A lot of helping people understand culture is modeling how to be observant. Observe first, then interpret and then futurecast. It was a perfect night in Chinatown DC.

Remember, it's not too late to try to get your team ready.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

The Ember Cast Sabbatical Year [Or Longer]

Later this year, Deanna and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage, I will turn 50 years old and both our kids will be living overseas. In light of especially the last point, The Ember Cast will enter in to a sabbatical year [or longer] starting sometime this summer. We will shutdown all operations and put Ember into pause - I don't think it is a full stop but we are leaving room for that possibility too. This is not spur of the moment or a reaction - in fact, plans for this have been in motion since the summer of 2018.

I started thinking about this last summer because I wanted to give room for Deanna and I starting to be empty nesters. It's a good time to take a break from the rhythm of working a day job and a passion project during nights and weekends. We also knew there would be some personal travel next year - an anniversary trip for the two of us and possibly visiting Emily on her gap year and celebrating Katie finishing university [I know, it seems like she just started.] We are also taking a 3 week family trip this June with some Ember Summer Sends joining us for the last few days of that.

I also remembered my old pastor saying that most people in their 50s are spiritually coasting. And I had lunch with a sage who gave me wise counsel on turning 50 and implored us to dream about the idea of legacy. And I was reminded of Isaiah 49:6 - it is too small a thing... So the Ember break gives us time to think really deeply about what we want to give ourselves to for the next season of our lives. I'm excited for both the break and the opportunity to consider big, audacious dreams for the Lord.

Special thanks to the Ember Board for their 9 years in this with me and helping navigate a new season. In the meantime, we have some good things to finish in the next few months.

Monday, April 29, 2019

GP Team Mtg #1

Our GP Summer Sends and I just started reading Underground Church. It's a good read but not for everyone. But these ladies are ready to think about the intersection of leadership, cross cultural service and different expressions of Church.

Highlights from reading 1 included:
+ metaphors for disciples, including sheep, missionaries and apostles.
+ prevailing frameworks for Church: a hospital, a school, an incubator
+ the nothingness of starting something new might be the essence of discipleship

Remember, young people are more than capable of engaging with this kind of material. In fact, many of them long for the opportunity.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday Burn

::: Inside the Secret Team Dinners that Have Built the San Antonio Spurs' Dynasty

::: Facebook AI Powered Maps Help Vaccination Campaigns
Link via Justin Long's Weekly Roundup

::: The Pool - Charity: Water Engaging Tech Equity for Their Employees
...founders and paper billionaires from Uber, WeWork and Casper have pledged at least 1 percent of their shares to the new program, which Charity: water is calling The Pool. That all but guarantees that the organization’s 78 employees will share in the spoils from some of the most hotly anticipated initial public offerings in the history of Wall Street.
Link via Kyle Westaway's Weekend Briefing

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Creative Revenue - Commissioned Art Work

The Ember Cast believes that missionaries of the future will rely on a 'portfolio of revenue.' [credit for this term goes to Ben Arment.] In other words, they will need to actually make some money outside of personal donations. Since 2013, our summer teams have been required to dream and execute a Creative Revenue Plan - a way to make some income based on their talents and gifts. This unique income will go directly towards 10-25% of funding of their missions experience. Prayer and financial support letters are also required.

We ask students to dream up these plans by helping them assess their talents, skills and networks, and this is done as part of their application to summer teams. I'm proud to say that over $23K of revenue has been made as part of these Plans over the past 9 years and it represents students growing in skills such as pricing their product, making a pitch, dealing with customers and lots of hard work. All skills that benefit just about everyone.

If you need some commissioned art, like you have a picture or photo but want it drawn by a super talented artist, one of our Summer Sends is doing this exact thing. Contact me and I will put you in touch with Kate - all revenue will go towards her efforts for travel to Greece and Poland this summer. See more of her work here.

Photo: Kate's birthday gift to her mom, who is also an artist.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Ember Founder - Freelancer Not Entrepreneur

When I started The Ember Cast, I had grand dreams of multiplying lots of leaders. It was like that Faberge shampoo commercial from the 80s: "And they told two friends...and they told two friends..." When Ember started, you could not be in the missional, missions, church planting conversation without understanding multiplication [versus addition] and therefore including something about multiplication in your strategy. I dreamed that Ember would reproduce like rabbits. We were going to throw fire across the world!

Except it didn't work. Every student that worked with us only stayed with us for a season. When that season finished, they went on to do greater, even more amazing things. John attended a missions school in Mozambique, Drew worked with a bunch of water filtration projects in Kenya, Shannon discipled high school girls and women in prison, Trevin became one of the brainchild behind one of the East Coast's most potent short term missions sending churches, Tess moved to Philly to teach in the city, Hope dug into recovery for victims of human trafficking, DKnox serves on a college campus. A few of our tribe have returned to join us for short summer teams and we have loved that.

In 2013, I listened to a series of podcasts by Seth Godin called Startup School. One of the first topics was the question of 'freelancer versus entrepreneur' and this 22 minute talk reframed the unintentional organizational design of The Ember Cast. Freelancers get paid when they work and are not focused on scale, while entrepreneurs are organized for growth and build companies that grow the work. That distinction put Ember into clarity for me - I was a freelancer. I wanted to be focused on the work of mentoring global leaders. I wanted to be intimately involved in every project Ember was engaged in. Whether it was ProtoGuides, a culture learning weekend, a short term team training event or a summer team, I wanted to craft each one of those projects. The clarity with this understanding brought great freedom. Nonprofit and charity work must scale but like Jan Chipchase says, it must be a 'meaningful sense of scale.' For my involvement with Ember, right now, it means more freelancer than entrepreneur.

The effort you are trying to pioneer might be dealing with the same thing right now. You might be dreaming of multiplication but still find the extreme joy in being an artisan in your craft. You love the idea of becoming worldwide even though your discipline is your accomplishment. Maybe it's time to forget growth and be clear that your job is to hone your gift. That bigger might not be better. That your tribe needs you doing what you do.

See more on this idea here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Spring Break

Flying south for a few days. We are doing some thinking about empty nesting, limits and legacy. Grateful for a wise mentor to speak some timely advice into our lives.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Burn

::: By the End of this Century, the Global Population will Start to Shrink
A very big deal, but I won't be around to help you worry about it.

::: Mosaic LA - Here to Stay
Mosaic has an opportunity to purchase their gathering space in Hollywood. Here's part of a letter Erwin McManus wrote:
When my family moved to Los Angeles over 25 years ago, we came with the conviction that Los Angeles was the epicenter of human creativity. Creativity is the unique economy of Hollywood, and in the same way that Los Angeles inhales the world’s talent and beauty, it can exhale the gospel.
This exact vision was what captivated me in 2004 about Mosaic and Erwin's leadership.

::: The State of Social Entrepreneurship - 2019
Link via Andrew Jones

Picture: Perspectives, Lancaster Bible College, April 2019.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Bible Translation Mini Lesson

Last week, I took some of our Ember team to join me when I taught at a local Perspectives class. Perspectives continues to be one of the best mobilization tools around although it perhaps needs a bit updating and has limited reach. The real reason I take Ember people there is to help students of the class reimagine what cross cultural service with the emerging generation might look like. I'm really just showing off some of Ember's fruits.

Before the class, we grabbed a quick dinner with my old friend JMM. We worked together on staff at Camp Hemlock way back in the late 1980s. He's currently Director of Operations for the American Bible Society and has been a key resource in using technology to help speed up Bible translation all around the world. JMM's second oldest son is also currently on the World Race Gap Year, which is the same thing our Emily is going to do starting this September, so she was able to ask him a few questions about that too. We got a mini lesson in the current status of Bible translation, which was super informative, facts such as:

So many translations and versions in English but most languages have one.
Around 7100 languages. 2200 are questionable or dying. Total needing translation ~4900. Translation complete or underway - ~3300. Translations needed to start - ~1500
Indigenous churches can't really grow healthy unless there is the Bible in the mother tongue.
AI/Machine Learning can help translation - not just computers learning but even helping advise translators: "You translated this word two different ways, is that what you meant?"
Technology can help with other tools besides just translation efforts - typesetting, layout, etc - formatting Adobe InDesign in hours versus days so that the document is ready to print.

Thanks JMM for hanging with us!

Friday, April 05, 2019

Friday Burn

::: Is God Working in Iceland?

::: An 8th Grader Joins Social Media and Discovers That Her Mom Had Been Posting About Her For Her Entire Life

::: The Most Post Christian Cities in America, 2017

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

2019 Summer Sends

Periodically, The Ember Cast will execute what we call Summer Sends, sending a handful of older students that have worked with us in the past to serve with some of our trusted partners. Summer Sends represent somewhat of a progression - older students, usually a bit longer in duration than a summer team, and more autonomy. We are thrilled to announce that we are executing a Summer Send for 2019.

Ember is not running a summer team this year. Instead, the Sheng's are doing some personal travel since Emily is graduating from high school. We did the same when Katie finished by spending an amazing 3 weeks in Australia. This summer, the plan is to spend 3 weeks in a specific part of Europe.

Our Summer Sends are 4 students and they will join the Sheng's for a few days in Greece, serving with some Ember partners. After those days, 3 Summer Sends will continue on to Poland for about another 9 or 10 days while 3 of the Shengs and one Summer Send flies back to Merryland [take a wild guess on which Sheng is not flying back to Merryland...]

Thanks in advance for your support for this project.

[Reminder - we don't publish dates or locations on social media but can communicate privately.]

Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday Burn

::: Scott Harrison, founder of Charity:Water, on a Reddit AMA

::: Scientists Have Discovered a Shape that Blocks All Sound

::: Revolution Annapolis Wipes Out Nearly $2M of Medical Debt

Photo: Hanging with the Metzgers, Affordable Annapolis Lab Night #3. [Tell you more about this later]

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Iceland Travel Notes - 2019

My daughters and I spent a long weekend in Iceland last weekend - long time readers may remember when I took my older daughter Katie there in 2015. Here are some travel notes in case you are thinking about going and of course, you should go. Iceland is like no other place on earth and it's easy to get to, the people are friendly and you can get in a good adventure [but if you are me, not too much.]
+ You can not be overprepared for winter in Iceland so make sure you dress for it. Late March is just about when winter ends but for us, it was temps near freezing and blizzard conditions every day that we were there. There was a high wind warning one afternoon meaning lots of snow and recommendations that no one travels.
+ When we went the last time, I had no idea so I rented the cheapest car I could, a Toyota Yaris. We were lucky to make it home alive. This time, I rented a Toyota Land Cruiser because I knew I wanted something with 4 wheel drive and I knew we were going to drive quite a bit. I rented from ISAK 4X4 because I had seen their vehicles on Chris Burkard's Under An Arctic Sky short film. These guys even give you a rescue kit including a big shovel.
+ We spent one day and night around Laugarvatn, staying at the Laugarvatn Hostel, which is a family owned and run property. They've got deep ties to the area and gave us lots of local context. The geothermal pools at the Fontana are worth it and this is also very close to Gulfoss and Geysir. We stopped at the Kerid Crater on the way to the south coast but it was snowing madly and we couldn't see any of the crater colors. We had dinner at the Efstidalur restaurant, a farm property transformed into a hotel and restaurant.
+ We spent two nights at Hostel Skógafoss, close enough to the Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, and literally right next to the Skogafoss waterfall. It was, believe it or not, snowing our whole time there so we got recommendations not to drive very far but instead stop at the Sólheimajökull glacier, Reynisfjara Beach, the black sand beach, and Dyrhólaey, the southern-most spot in Iceland with a lighthouse high up on the hill. Getting to the lighthouse is a somewhat steep drive up a gravel road - 4WD recommended.
+ Had we more time and better weather, we would have driven up to Jökulsárlón Glacier, at least a 3 hour drive from Skogafoss and would have tried to stay on the eastern side of Vik.
+ Loftstofan is a Baptist church right in Reykjavik and a church that is not interested in the status quo. Interestingly enough, they have some partnerships with a handful of churches here in the DMV as well as being intentional about multiplication and church planting. The first church planters sent out from them land in Iceland this coming weekend. I've followed their work these past few years so it was fun to meet Gunnar face to face.

Grateful to spend a few days traveling with my kids.

Thursday, March 21, 2019