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

Monday, March 18, 2019


Over the past 10 years or so, I have spoken at UMBC Cru a handful of times. It's a funny intersection for me since I actually went to school there. I got a graduate degree from there and was there from 1991-1993, but was never involved in any campus ministry. The Cru gatherings are actually in the same Engineering building that I spent lots of time in which is both weird and funny.

I've always loved the community of students there. Very down to earth and unpretentious, but clearly pursuing a journey of faith and wanting to change their campus and the world for the better. I was asked to speak on ethnic diversity, the specific topics being the Biblical basis for diversity, appreciating diversity and stewarding privilege well. I hoping the talk was well received and I got some very kind comments after the talk.

Not 12 hours later, news of the New Zealand mosque shootings made their way around the world. Lord help us.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Burn

::: What I Gave My Kid Instead of a Smartphone

::: Take a Picture of a Spreadsheet and MS Excel Will Now Import It

::: Soft Robotics

Photo: Cru UMBC.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ember March Dinner

Special guest Nat Blessing, 2nd from the left, who was with us for 2015Prague and 2016Italy. Last summer, she was doing medical cross cultural stuff in Honduras. Our first Ember alum as a monthly dinner guest. First in hopefully a long, long line.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Emily WRGY T Shirts

Emily is selling some t shirts to help raise funding for her Gap Year. One day left - order here. Thanks in advance for supporting her!

Friday, March 08, 2019

Friday Burn

::: How to be Successful

::: The Difference Between People Who Move Abroad and Those Who Don't

::: Donations to Charity Plummeted Last Year, Except from the Super Rich

Photo: Todd Ahrend.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Self -> Serve -> Scale

[We've talked about Self->Serve->Systems with lots of Ember people in the past few years. It's not quite a complete thought and after sharing it with a workshop this past weekend, I think Self->Serve->Scale makes the idea more complete. This is what I would have said if I had thought of it in time. The idea of 'Scale' has also come up in a few recent conversations related to this topic and this excellent article, Scale or Bail, continues to make an impression.]

When the affluent serve the less fortunate, there are lots of dynamics at play, many that we need to take care with. We need to specifically be careful of doing something for someone else that they could do for themselves. This premise - that we should never do something for someone that they could do for themselves - is well outlined in two fantastic books, When Helping Hurts, and Toxic Charity. The image here represents a progression from Self to Serve to Scale and portrays one mental model which might help us think through some of these ideas.

Everyone of us starts out only thinking about self. At some point in our journey, for most of us here at this conference, we move from thinking about only ourselves to thinking about someone else - we want to serve someone less fortunate. This is, of course, a good thing.

But there are lots of us that stop at that point, when there may be one more step to go. We continue to serve when we really should think about scale. What do I mean when I say scale? It means the ability to grow and multiply your efforts. Take a simple idea and use it to affect a ton of people. If our great passions and actions stop at serving, we might be serving at the same soup kitchen for the next 10 years. If we scale something, we could be helping hundreds, thousands, that same community as well as many others.

You can only scale when you get the people you are serving involved. Your service project will never grow and multiply if you are doing for them what they could be doing for themselves. Not only will you stagnate the growth of your passion, you'll cripple those less fortunate than you. Scaling requires you to listen, it requires you to think about the assets in the people you serve, it requires you to uncover talent.

I'd like to highlight two quick examples of this. The first one is outlined in Toxic Charity by Bob Lupton. Dr. Lupton spent thirty some years working in the inner city in Atlanta. At his church, they had a food pantry and he suggested a slight tweak to it - turning it into a food cooperative. Instead of hand outs, they actually now had members and a small monthly income. They used this income to employ food buyers, who were actually from the community they were serving. Now they had insiders who bought food the less fortunate actually wanted to eat. People started sharing recipes, they started throwing community dinner parties. At one point, someone suggested the idea of starting a restaurant with all their culinary skills and passions, and they eventually did it. The restaurant is still in existence today. Someone had to think about scale as part of this whole project though - when they need a commercial kitchen, someone helped to find it. When they needed seed funding, someone helped write a grant. Lots of thinking about assets and talents.

The second example comes from the world of housing and construction. New Story Charity has a vision to end global homelessness. Last summer, they unveiled a solution to use a 3D concrete printer to print a home in less than 24 hours and at less than $4K. Scaling means they do this for a whole community, not just one house. Scaling also means that they have developed a robust pattern for partnership with locals as well as a people-centric design process - thinking about local culture and involving those they serve in the design stage. The vision of New Story is not building homes - it is ending global homelessness. In their own words: "One billion people live without a basic human need: shelter. Linear improvements will never reach this market. We need a quantum leap in affordability, speed, and quality to reach families exponentially faster."

This is an experimental mental model that we talk about with Ember kids and I'm optimistically expectant - one day soon, one of our Ember kids is going to make this happen and I will be thrilled. So come on Ember peeps, no pressure. Actually just kidding. Lots of pressure - the world needs you.

In the meantime, self to serve to scale. Dig in and take your passion past just serving. Scale it to really change the world.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Souls 2019

The team at Bay Area Community Church killed it on Saturday with their Souls Missions conference - truly an inspiring time. Love their missions team there and their lead pastor Greg St. Cyr drives that church to be more and more globally focused as time goes on. Some selected notes and commentary below.

Also, if you attended my workshop, thanks for being there! I had a great time with both my sessions. Here are my slides.

Todd Ahrend - The Traveling Team
* TTS - Todd was a phenomenal speaker, he spoke three times and his talks all flowed together and his content was excellent. World class speaker also in terms of his technical speaking ability. Some people may not like what he has to say.

The mission of God - once you see it woven through all the Bible, you won't be able to unsee it.
'Live close to my family' - almost a badge of honor for American Christians.
1600 times - peoples blessed through you
John Stott - the most important Bible verse is Gen 12:1-4
Kansas State - 'family' - football games, in the family but not in the game - similar to missions today
'All, peoples, nations, tribes, earth, languages' - read through the Bible marking those
Gen 12 - Jude - the plot of the Bible

**Is 49:6 he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

The Missionary Mall - Utah
Parents there were thrilled that their kids were going on a mission - buy whatever you want!
Mormons gives 2 years, Christians give excuses.

'What countries would you ask God to send them to?' You would think we were asking to send them to the moon - if you asked Christian parents this about their kids.

Savings, safety, my kids - what we value and everyone else does too so no one holds us accountable
We want the blessing of salvation without the responsibility of the nations.

I used to think God was interested in reaching as many people as possible. Now, I think that he is interested in reaching first and foremost a community from every people group.

I drive past seven churches in 20 minutes when I go to my church. My wife and I traveled some 1500 miles in the Gulf countries and didn't pass one.

Unreached - less than 2%,
Unengaged - all zeros across the board
Top 5 countries in need: India, India, India, India, China.

Movements - 1000 or more baptized believers within 10 years.
610AD - 1890: 0 movements
1890 - 1999: 13
2000- today: 70
More Muslims coming to Jesus in the last 19 years than in the last 1400 years combined.
Our missions methods
The Bible in their native tongue
Extremism makes some question their identity
Quran in their native language

A little lady in a nice church in Iowa told me she didn't want to bring that evil book into her house. I told her that I have 6 kids and 5 Qurans in my house but no television. The television will bring evil faster in to your house than anything else.

: Greg St. Cyr - Leading the Church to Reach the Nations
* TTS - Greg is the real deal. Incredible husband, father, pastor and leader.

First short term missions trip to Poland - 'Greg, you were made for this.'
8 years in Poland
Been 25 years as lead pastor at BACC
15 years in, mentor said to him, "See yourself as a missionary leading a thousand missionaries.'

'If Jesus comes again, I don't want to be in seminary.'
Learn to love maps, globes and hourglasses.
BACC has divided the world into 17 regions and wants to be in every one of those.

A short term missions trip is a fast track to discipleship.

Lots of quotes from John Mott.
Foundation: Christ's supremacy and the nations
Get a world map and globe, learn to persevere in private prayer
Theology of nations
Get a STM to go with you
Educational plan for congregation which includes preaching an annual series on God's heart for the nations
Continually cast a God-size vision for the nations
Designate a faith percentage of offering to missions while growing a culture of generosity
Implement a leadership pathway designed to equip future global missionaries, focusing especially on young people
Prayerfully initiate a partnership with a global missionary who shares church's vision and doctrine with the goal of discerning whether this is one of God's global partners.
Draft a global missions policy manual for elder approval

After his wife complimented him, Greg said, "Mary Kaye, you are the best."

: Michele Rollins and Amy French - STM leader training
* TTS - This team has developed an incredible process around supporting and training team leaders and a comprehensive manual for this. Really impressive. There is such clarity in vision that starts from the church's overall vision that informs how they do global work.

Role of the leader - disciple your team through a cross cultural experience
Not about a single moment or team
Supporting a God given purpose in another city

Shift - doing ministry yourself to equipping your team
Want to give authority and autonomy to our leaders
God puts perfect teams together.

BACC focuses on church planting among 1 - unreached, 2 - needy, 3 - urban - intentionally broad, let the Spirit guide them into partnerships.