Speak Up Or Go Home

In cross-cultural ministry, I’m learning it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Twice during the three months I spent in Papua New Guinea in 2002, I heard one of my favorite foreign phrases, “You speak up to us.”

A brief history of Papua New Guinea (PNG)

We found two flags, one large

Before we left, they wanted to have a “cross-cultural” party. The only USA flag we found was massive…but we had a PNG flag too. Special day.

The people of PNG call their country, “The Land of the Unexpected.” People from thousands of tribal groups speak 864 unique languages from their villages, where many see the horizon as the “end of the world.” It’s one of the places known for headhunters and cannibals…in recent memory, “Oh, it’s been at least 40 years,” he said. Today, these groups live with a history and set of traditions difficult for westerners to comprehend.

Since the white men (and they were men) “discovered” the inland areas of the country, they’ve sought to “modernize” the “savages” and teach them all the “good things” of life. Unfortunately, many men had horrific intentions. Thankfully, some foreigners live with better intentions today. We learned as we listened, that regardless of intention, most foreigners speak from a top-down position to the Papua New Guineans.


You speak up to us!

We enjoyed many opportunities to listen to the people of PNG, learning much about their culture. One of my favorite days was spent driving and walking and asking questions and soaking in the area. We also shared in churches, worked alongside local people doing ministry in the schools, and enjoyed many local customs with the friends we made.

As someone who spoke in various settings such as churches and schools, I heard a phrase I haven’t heard before or since, “You speak up to us. Most foreigners come and speak down to us, but you speak up to us. Thank you.”


How was speak matters:

-Each person is created in God’s image.

-They understand their culture, we don’t. Short-term missions trips don’t provide enough time to master the cultural complexities of a place like PNG.

-You’re there, and will soon be gone. They’ll stay.



-Listen with fascination

-Learn what you can about the people you’re serving

-Speak with optimism and respect

-Insist on nothing

-Don’t take every “influential” opportunity

-Don’t be arrogant (I almost wrote, “Don’t be an arrogant jerk.”)



In short-term missions, our listening, respect, partnership and personal interaction typically influences far more than our words. Our words influence more when spoken from the right position. From my perspective, speak up or go home.


Coffee on the road

Coffee + Travel=A really good thing

They thought this photo would embarrass me. It's a source of coffee pride.

They thought this photo would embarrass me. It’s a source of coffee pride.

Perhaps the single greatest travel need, (he writes sarcastically…or not) is the right system to get good coffee on the road. In the middle of the Amazon, while camping in the cold, in hostels across Europe, on the verandas of Central American guest houses and in villages throughout Africa, we can drink really good coffee on short-term missions trips. How? Some of the tools I use:

The mugCoffee Mug

The Nissan Stainless Steel coffee mug has two features that make it great for travel:

1. A carabiner.

2. A no-leak lid.

I’ve used the mug in 30+ countries without problems. I like the option of sealing the lid and attaching it to my carry on as I maneuver through airports, without dripping while the coffee stays hot. Free hands; hot coffee.

I take this mug on the road with me everywhere. When I can pack it, I do. When my bags are full, I simply carabiner it to a handle and keep moving.


The methods


aeropressMy “go to” is the aeropress. The aeropress makes great coffee.

1. It’s quick (less than 1 minute)

2. It packs easily

3. It cleans in a moment

4. It’s only about $25

You’ll need ground coffee and a source for hot water.



The Moka Pot

I take moka pots when I go camping, or when I'll need to use an open fire.


I use the Bialetti Moka Pot when I’m not sure I’ll have access to a heated water source. I usually take this if I go camping. It’s a simple and traditional method where water is heated in the base, then boils through the finely ground coffee into the top of the pot. It’s quick, tastes great and packs well.

You’ll need finely ground coffee and water.


Bee House

My new favorite home brewing method travels well.

My new favorite home brewing method is the Bee House ceramic coffee dripper. While I still usually take the Aeropress, I’ve taken the

Bee House with me more lately. The Bee House is:

1. Small

2. Easy to clean

3. Takes about 4 minutes

You’ll need medium ground coffee, a filter and hot water.



The Travel French Press

I used to travel with a small french press. I can’t find the model I have on-line. I don’t use it anymore, and the best I’ve found would often let coffee grounds seep through the coffee. I haven’t found a good travel french press. Do you have ideas?


Do Not

Don't travel with your chemexWhatever you do, don’t travel with your chemex. It’s an incredible way of brewing coffee, but it’s mostly glass. It’ll break and hurt you. Perhaps you could use this at the follow-up party back in the US. The Chemex is not a preferred travel brewing method. At all. And you know this.


Hot Water

It’s important to have access to hot water. I’ve found that I can get pure water heated in most places around the world. However, I sometimes travel with a small water heater, very similar to this one from Bonavita. I’ll also use it to heat water for instant oat meal/etc.


Coffee Grinder

Hario Coffee Hand GrinderThough it won’t be as fresh, I’ll admit I sometimes grind coffee that I take with me (or purchase ground coffee on the trip). However, for the best and freshest grind, I do indulge myself by sometimes traveling with this (I use a larger) Hario Coffee Grinder.



I enjoy the taste and mission of Eurasia Cafe.

If you don’t believe you’ll have access to good coffee on the road, I suggest you take your own. Depending on the length of your stay, you may need to hunt down a source on the field. Might I suggest coffee from Eurasia Cafe? When I drink Eurasia Cafe, I know I’m helping people around the world through their mission to “make coffee count.”


One more method

Buy coffee when/if you can get it and skip the “hassle” referenced here. This method isn’t as fun, and requires an extreme amount of luck (or providence, depending on your perspective).



While I’d shamefully admit to 1-2 Starbucks Via’s a year, I’m thankful for the coffee opportunities around the world. I’ll note that I’ve got the Handpresso Travel Kit for easy espresso on my wish list…I’ve heard great reviews, and look forward to trying it out. Let me know if you’ve tried it and what you think…


So…please let me know what you do to get good coffee on the road. Are there coffee gadgets I missed? 



How the Lab & Mirror Help Me Grow

Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Through serving cross-culturally, I’m often surprised by what I see, and how I grow as opportunities to serve in community impact me.

Spending intense time with others in close community while seeking and serving God often causes some important things to take place. Growth comes through the lab & mirror.


The Lab:


Thomas Edison’s laboratory in Ft. Myers, FL

I remember high school chemistry with Dr. Flores. He would often walk around with a squirt bottle of water so he could soak anyone who was sleeping. In his class, which was also a laboratory, he’d often have us wear safety glasses, white jackets, gloves, etc. The Bunsen burners and chemicals brought risk, but the safety tools allowed for experimentation.

In the lab:

-New Discoveries
-Real life experiments
-Sometimes things worked, sometimes they didn’t
-New discoveries

Short-term missions, when done well, can be the safe place where we allow God to create new things in us as He works through new discoveries and our wonder.


The Mirror:

My wife has many talents, and one of these talents is that she’s a professional makeup artist. She’s even done the makeup for Johnny Cash! At her spa, she has a makeup table with a mirror surrounded by lights. The mirror magnifies and shows every pore and blemish. I learn things every time I look at it.


The mirror:

-Shows a view with clarity we don’t often see
-Can magnify blemishes (or our best features)
-Creates awareness in the midst of insecurities


Short-term missions can be a mirror that magnifies insecurities, highlights emotional and relational limits, and helps us see our strengths and weaknesses with more clarity.



Short-term missions provides opportunities for both greater clarity and opportunities for growth. As I serve with teams, my prayer is that we’ll all look in the mirror, and learn new things about ourselves, God, the world, and interaction with others. As we learn things about ourselves, we’ll at times be thrilled, but at other times frustrated or even hurt. I pray that in the midst of this learning process, the team and time with Jesus will provide a wonderful laboratory where we can grow as a person in a very safe place. Hopefully along the way, we won’t get squirted with Dr. Flores’s water bottle…


How have you grown through the lab and mirror?

Why Poverty Exists–in < 400 words

Genesis 3:6-7 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (NIV)


The Bite That Changed History

Sin continues around the world with a tragic ferociousness. The relationships broken that day lead to poverty now.
FruitAs Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden, four relationships were simultaneously broken:

-People with God-Sin
-People with each other-Conflict
-People with themselves-Regret & Shame
-People with the earth-Misuse

As Bryant Myers says with great insights in his book, “Walking With the Poor”, all poverty can be traced to one of more of these relationships needing reconciliation. Volumes exist with much more thorough diagnoses, but the root of poverty lies at the spot where sin first occurred.

People with God-As they ate the fruit, they sinned for the first time in human history. Sin often leads to poverty: corruption affects access and opportunity, wrong priorities affect how money is spent and selfishness keep answers in the hands of the greedy.

People with each other-When families live in harmony, they’re much more likely to avert poverty. When conflicts lead to divorce, rebellion, domestic violence and abuse, poverty often emerges.

People with themselves-Addictions, poor choices made with simultaneous guilt and more affect poverty.

People with the earth-I’ve flown over Haiti (brown and dry) and the Dominican Republic (green and lush), two countries that share the island of Hispaniola. Haiti exists with deforestation while the Dominican Republic is lush with growth. This island exists as one of many examples where misuse of God’s resources can lead to poverty. (I must note, Haiti is making great progress in this area…)


What does this mean for Short-Term Missions (STM)? The problems we see won’t be solved overnight, and providing things may bring smiles for a moment, but getting to the root of things takes time and tears…and some kind of reconciliation. Teams can be a part of this process.

So what can STM do in the midst of these broken relationships? Many things which we’ll continue to explore on this site. One important truth for all serving through STMs…reconciliation dwells at the root of poverty alleviation; we’re honored with the opportunity to join in the process.

How have you seen reconciliation lead to people flourishing?


The Image That Changed the World

All people are created in God's Image, with unique opportunities and responsibility

All people are created in God’s Image, with unique opportunities and responsibility

Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over…all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.


We’re created in His image. We can:

-Relate with God

Those we serve on Short-Term Missions (STM’s) are also created in His image. They can:

-Relate with God

At that church in a the very hot developing world town named after a “Frying Pan,” our team cleared the ground, prepared the soil and planted seeds (by ourselves) we would never see grow. We robbed the harvesters of an opportunity to take ownership in the garden they at least had requested. They had worked with us on other projects, but not their garden.

I love people and while on STM’s have often said with kindness, “Oh no! Let me do this for you!” Opening doors for elders is fine, but I should let people plant gardens on their property, share stories from their lives at the community center or work with the team to clean a neighborhood.

Smiles and love without allowing opportunity to create, relate to God, work and thrive rob people of dignity and purpose. It robs me of impact.

What does this mean for STM? Often, the best action I can take is to “impolitely” allow others to do work God created them to do, while serving with them as a partner, knowing they’re created for such things.

Who has given you opportunity? What has it meant to you?


There are some great resources when it comes to leading teams, working on the mission field, connecting missions and your church, etc.  It’s currently the least developed part of this site, but I plan on doing my best to use this area to share some of the very cool resources I’ve encountered along the way.  Over time, I’ll be adding quite a bit of information I’ve gathered…

For now, there are a few blog entries that deal with a few resources I’ve seen.  You can click the resources link on the line just below this to read more.  Thanks…


Short Term Missions & Thoughts From the Bible

One finds the passion and purpose behind short-term missions in the Bible. In fact, more than passion and purpose, the Bible shares methods, insights, cross-cultural ideas and more. From the truth that all are created in His image (Genesis) to the future where people from every tribe, nation and language will stand before Jesus (Revelation), the Scriptures share fascinating insights.