Linked List // Oct 2 2015 by Brandon Jones

Apologies for the time off - I've been traveling the past couple of weeks with limited computer/network access! Here is a bit of news I've caught over the past few weeks though:

  • 5 permissions needed by mission or non-profit workers. She applies it specifically to missionaries but I think the principles carry over to those in the development space. A very good article to think through if you know folks in either of these spaces.
  • I keep seeing articles like this and know that most android devices don’t get timely (or sometimes any) updates so I just really don’t want to jump wholesale into that platform.
  • Curious about the 10 most hardcore productivity hacks? Check that link. Good luck!
  • Here are some great tips & tricks for iOS 9.
  • My primary focus of study in this brief sabbatical time I have is on leadership development. I’ve got a list of books to read and have my eyes open for good articles to learn from as well. To this end, I found this piece to be quite helpful. It focuses on small group leaders but translates well into what we do. I’m also looking forward to the release of Servants and Fools which develops a Biblical theology of leadership.

Lament in Worship by Brandon Jones

James K.A. Smith recent piece on Ryan Adams’ cover of 1989 is the best piece I’ve read on this cover album. It’s not a review per se but instead discusses how it relates to worship.

I know that probably sounds funny (it’s certainly not a worship album) but what he has to say is really good and accurately places the album (at least in my mind). Long story short:

Despite lyrics that detail deep lament, Taylor Swift’s 1989 is incredibly upbeat, candy-coated, pop fun (basically the positive spin we want to pretend to be in). Adams’ version cuts through this sugary shell and brings you back to the heart break and minor chords that we mostly live in day to day.

Just like worship music should but all to often doesn’t.

As to the album itself: musically Swifts is definitely the better version but I really enjoy Adams take too.

Linked List // Sept 11 2015 by Brandon Jones

When Opportunity Comes Knocking by Brandon Jones

The Church in the west has an amazing opportunity at its doorsteps. Syrians are desperate for answers, relief and probably most importantly, a home. The country is actively being shredded by a civil war that led to the rise of an opportunistic extremist “state”. 4 million Syrians have actively fled their country. 3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced (and will likely flee if things worsen). As many of those affected are Islamic & Arab you might think that the wealthiest Middle Eastern countries would respond but unfortunately they aren’t.

It’s been a year since I spent time in the Middle East working with Syrian refugees. We were in a country where they could be but they couldn’t work - couldn’t go to school - couldn’t really do anything but be. So we, partnered with a local church, helped deliver parcels necessary for life (mats for beds, blankets, food, diapers for the babies and anything else necessary to survive). It was such an amazing time where we heard many heartbreaking stories but had many more reasons to hope.

Like - they were some of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. Some of the most hospitable. Every home we went to we were immediately welcomed in. Out of their lack they gave to us of what they had. Tea at one home. Some cut up apple at another. A little piece of candy somewhere else. We’d sit on bare floors in bare rooms and listen as they served and shared. I met one 12 year old whose family was trying to figure out surgery for the shrapnel in his arm. Another who lost several friends and family to gun fire as they crossed the border. And a woman and her daughter whose husband worked construction illegally just to try and keep some food in front of them. All of their stories involved trauma. They longed for their homeland. They clinged to any bit of hope they could find.

Amidst this trauma and brokenness many are searching out why. What’s the truth that undergirds their situation? Where are the lies? Many are crying out for God to speak to them in a meaningful way that provides some sort of hope, some sort of peace and maybe some sort of justice. What they’ve known and seen isn’t working.

Meanwhile in the west many of us claim the name of someone who understands the plight of the refugee: Jesus. After all Jesus started his human life as a political refugee running from an extremist regime (I’d call killing all the children Jesus’ age extreme at least - sounds a bit like what we hear of ISIS at least). And Jesus grew up understanding the importance of welcoming the stranger with open arms. His people find themselves as strangers more often than not (see Luke 10 as a starting point) and Jesus identifies our ability to welcome with the inheritance of his Kingdom:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)

And it’s certainly something that God’s people were supposed to understand (not that they always did). You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:21). The Israelites spent significant time as refugees, as captives, enslaved and oppressed between times of blessing and their own rule. How they were to treat foreigners themselves was well understood. Or at least should have been.

This history - this legacy - of hospitality and welcome should be something that runs deep in our blood. It’s how the kingdom is established and expanded. We were all once foreigners to Jesus’ kingdom but He welcomed us in. His rule and reign gave new hope - new peace - justice - grace - salvation. It should be something we gladly welcome others into. Crisis like these present real and tangible opportunities to live like Jesus. It’s an opportunity to not just pray but also see Your kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

It seems most of the articles I read root themselves in fear (for our own security, opportunity, peace). Headlines like, ”Muslim Trojan Horse?” riddle social media. They ignore the opportunity to live as Jesus and embrace the attitude that says “no“ to the kingdom of God.

Opportunity is knocking. Will we open the door?

Linked List // Sept 4 2015 by Brandon Jones

  • I love this article in ChristianityToday on mentoring as discipleship. So often we strive to so finely script discipleship that we render it inert when it should be more of an intentional relationship that might look a lot like mentoring.
  • I'm a firm believer in packing light these days. If you need a reason to, check out this article on reasons to consider it.
  • I found this to be a helpful article in the current political climate. With as much complaining and moaning (and at times serious name calling) we'd be wise to remember the call to prayer.
  • Taylor Swift, with a major party foul:

Swift's music is entertaining for many. She should absolutely be able to use any location as a backdrop. But she packages our continent as the backdrop for her romantic songs devoid of any African person or storyline, and she sets the video in a time when the people depicted by Swift and her co-stars killed, dehumanized and traumatized millions of Africans. That is beyond problematic.

Hopefully one day we'll have a better understanding (as Americans) how to treat colonial issues.

PSA: 1Password is on sale right now by Brandon Jones

My favorite password manager is on sale right now. In this day and age, if you don't use a password manager you should consider it. It's incredibly helpful for managing complex passwords that are hard to crack, keeping you as safe and secure as you can be with things getting hacked left and right. It even has a feature called watchtower which keeps an eye on vulnerabilities and tells you when you need to change passwords.

Essential Apps For Working On The Go // September 2015 Edition by Brandon Jones

I've updated this since it's original publishing in January 2015 to reflect modifications to my workflow.

I have done a lot of travel in rural areas (and in areas some would consider difficult) and it’s only going to become more prevalent so it’s an advantage to travel with as little as possible. This means (1) limit the paper books and reading material and (2) limit the heavy electronics, like laptops.

But I do a lot of work where it’s an advantage to have access to resources like books and other training materials. A lot of what I do is wrapped up in training and coaching and mentoring others; its often necessary to have material on hand for this. So, over the past year or so I’ve been thinking through how to do this well. One aspect of this is simplifying material and making it as accessible as possible. I’ve been particularly working towards this during the holiday season and I’m quite happy with the progress I’ve made: I’m at the point where I can travel with ease with just my phone and have access to anything important that I might need.

While I still need the computer for some things (particularly for coding, designing and other creative work), I can do a lot on my phone now. I thought I’d share what I’m doing for those that might be in similar circumstances and have similar desires. Without further ado, the essentials:

The Hardware

  1. iPhone 6+: This Apple device is a beauty. I didn’t think I’d like it due to the size when it first came out but then I saw it in action from a colleague. It’s the perfect size (at least for me) for traveling and working on the go. It was well worth all that I had to sell to upgrade (I’ll miss my SLR camera though).
  2. The Case: I want to do everything I can to protect a device like this so I have the best case I could find: the Tech21 case. It has that special goo they put in motorcycle helmets to cushion your head if there is impact. It’s slim, offers great protection and is no where near as expensive as something like the OtterBox. I have a cheap fabric (but cushioned) zipper bag (I think it’s intended to be a clutch purse or something) to throw it in if it needs to ride in a bag.
  3. Powerbank: We travel to places that don’t have guaranteed electricity so it’s nice to travel with power to make things stretch as far as possible. I’m using the Intocircuit Power Castle and find it works quite well. I’d recommend it.
  4. Head Phones: Long bus rides require music or sometimes just an escape from the horrible things on the bus TV (I particularly dislike the buses playing music videos that are borderline pornographic). I love the ear pods that came with the phone so they are sufficient for me. I know some people swear by other brands and types but they unfortunately are a bit cost prohibitive to try.
  5. Stylus: Sometimes it’s nice to have a stylus to draw a napkin diagram (or something similar). I sold off my iPad but have an extra cheap stylus from Amazon that I kept around for this purpose.

The Apps

  1. Something for notes: I use Editorial for long form plain text writing and sync it via Dropbox with Ulysses III on my computer. Everything stays perfectly in sync and Editorial itself is quite nice in that I can code workflows that automate different things. For an example of sync, I started this post in Editorial, then moved to Ulysses to flesh it out. For quick bits of info I use Drafts to either temporarily store it or to funnel it out to various other places (Drafts integrates really nicely with the Editorial workflows).
  2. Document Management: I have lots of training material and other documents relevant to work so it’s nice to have access to them. Together allows me to keep my document library synced between my laptop and phone. I love that on the phone any document favorited is automatically downloaded and available. Anything else can be downloaded on-demand. In addition, it allows for slick categorization and notes and other useful features. I used to use Evernote but the premium version is pricey and the iOS app had a horrible user experience (at least for me). I really like that I now have total control over documents (Together isn’t a cloud hosted service but rather uses personal iCloud storage for syncing). NOTE: This one isn't for the feint of heart. Together has some serious iCloud syncing issues. I wish there was something that functioned like it that synced with dropbox.
  3. Task/Project Management: I have lots of tasks to do and projects to manage. Everything that needs doing gets thrown into my task inbox.Omnifocus Is my app of choice here. I’ve been a long time user and can’t imagine switching (and I really don’t want to go with something that has a monthly fee).
  4. Scanning: Everything here in East Africa seems to be based on paper. I find myself needing to scan a lot. Scanbot makes this process easy and clean: it auto snaps on the document, takes the scan and then will upload to dropbox so it’s available anywhere I’d need it. I know there are others out there but I got it free and it does the job perfectly.
  5. Messaging: Messaging is a must to stay in touch with my wife and any colleagues while on the road. Built in messaging works OK (and iMessages has a decent security record which is a plus) but my goto messaging app is Threema. It’s incredibly secure and very easy to use. I recommend everyone switch to it (and am trying to get them to). It’s cross platform too!
  6. Mail: Email is still a primary form of communication and will likely remain so for some time. So, I need to be able to easily manage it on the road. Currently Dispatch gets that job done but I’m not settled in this category. I’m looking forward to seeing how Mail Pilot 2 turns out and I kind of like Boxer (but have had stability issues on iOS 8) but Dispatch wins currently.
  7. Calendar: I got on the Fantastical bandwagon a long time ago. It’s easy to use (I love the natural language processing!) and looks great on a mobile device. I haven’t had much interest in finding anything different although I hear there are other good solutions.
  8. Bible: A Bible app is important in my line of work since most of the training I do revolves around discipleship and church planting. I used to use the YouVersion app but have found it bloated and slow lately. As a result I switched to the Accordance Bible app and love it. It’s quick, downloads the books you tell it to and is easy to use.
  9. Travel Apps: Google Maps and Apple Maps work OK in the bigger cities (like Nairobi and Kampala) but are sketchy at best outside of them. Even in the city you have to be careful; Google Maps once dumped us in an empty field at the edge of a slum in Nairobi. Rego is another great app. It works somewhat like a personal Foursquare by allowing me to build private lists of places we go by marking their location using GPS. Another decent app is Tripcase for keeping track of travel documents (hotel reservations, flight bookings, etc).
  10. Mind Mapping: Mind mapping is the primary way I plan and brainstorm. Mindnode is beautiful for this and syncs fairly seemlessly between iOS and OS X.
  11. Photo Management: Photography is a hobby of mine so I place a lot of importance on this category. VSCOcam is my goto photo app. It’s easy to use, does awesome things to pictures, has an easy photojournal feature and (at least when I got it) was free for the base. It stays on my homescreen.
  12. Podcasts: If I’m not listening to music on the hard bus trips, I do podcasts. I love to learn so this is a perfect way to facilitate some of that. Overcast is my goto app for podcast management.
  13. Social Media: it’s important to keep up with family and friends. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allows me to do this. Unfortunately I can’t talk about a lot of the work we do as a lot of it involves working with people with messy stories that aren’t ours to tell so my facebook and instagram especially tend to revolve mostly around my adorable daughter. But lets be honest: that’s mostly what my family wants to see anyways.
  14. Books: Gerty is my e-reader of choice. I ocassionally use the Kindle app as well but I really like how Gerty functions.

Closing Thoughts

I really didn’t get into any serious workflow discussions in this post. There is a lot I could talk about there. I’ve spent a lot of time mapping it out and crafting it to work well anywhere. And it is. I’ve been able to be more productive than I could imagine using only a phone. If you are interested in any specific workflow discussion, let me know and I’ll prioritize digging into it. If you are interested in specific ways (beyond what I mentioned above) I’m using the apps, please let me know. Here’s to being more productive with a much lighter bag!

Reporting Back From CPx East Africa by Brandon Jones

I’ve successfully completed leading my first CPx East Africa (CPxEA). CPx stands for church planting experience and is [All Nations] flagship church planting & discipleship program. I’ve learned a lot about running a training event locally so I thought I’d pass on some basic details about the experience (for those that enjoy that sort of information).

The idea of CPxEA started about a year and a half ago and really began to take shape in November as I dreamed with visitors from Cape Town. I then drafted some local CPx grads from Cape Town into the process to help dream and plan and run the first CPx in the east African context.

Together we decided early on to run with it without any specific marketing. If we’d advertised & marketed it we would have gotten close to a 1000 signups but little real interest (there is a culture of moving from training to training and foreigner to foreigner). We wanted though to focus on those we knew were interested in CP through intentional discipleship. My colleagues and I specifically invited those we were discipling that were putting forth the effort to disciple others and see church planted.

In the end we had 20 students registered but 5 were unable to attend due to a variety of border and family issues. We wanted to have a smaller class size in an attempt to maximize time with students; this worked out well as all of the staff knew the students by name and even more importantly, knew their stories by the end of our time together. This ability to get to know the students I think will be invaluable in the coaching phase of CPxEA over the coming year.
 Another intentional decision was to cater predominantly to local culture rather than western culture. We did end up with 1 American student but that was quite random, last minute and unexpected. Surprisingly, we were also split almost down the middle in male-female numbers. I was actually encouraged and excited by this as women play a key role in mission.

Our venue was amazing but simple. It was very basic: dorm style beds, outdoor toilets, no running water (so bucket showers!) & mostly rice or ugali and a bit of veg for lunch and dinner. It was on about 70 acres of wildlife reserve so we would occasionally see antelope, giraffe or wildebeest as we walked to our training hall; being a lover of nature, I particularly enjoyed this as a quiet blessing from the Lord.

From a content standpoint, we tailored to who the students were: individuals in rural African contexts, some with limited education, sometimes struggling through life. This means we intentionally wanted to focus holistically on life & not just the practicals of mission. We ended up having 2 concurrent tracks that tied together really nicely in the end: the first was the CP & discipleship skills that made the program a CPx and the second revolved around worldview and personal development matters. About 2/3rds of our time was spent in track 1 with the rest of our time spent in track 2. We started the training off casting vision of the goal and ended by pulling most everything taught together in a comprehensive model of what sustainable and healthy movements look like.

For those that might be interested, track 2 included topics like financial management (both personal & business), time management, leading our families well, kingdom culture/worldview understanding & generally having vision for where our lives are heading. We went as deep as we could in the time that we had but we see this as the beginning - not the end - of training. We also did nightly discovery Bible studies (DBSs) walking through the book of Acts so that we could pull these varied threads from Acts together to tell the story of the first churches.
 Our time bringing things together worked really, really well; the students seemed to grasp it all in the model presented. It’s a slight revision to the common characteristics of CPM that David Garrison first wrote about that I found in a book called ”The Wheel Model”. 
 Our top 4 dynamic sessions were probably Discovering Church (taught by my friend [Noah Kaye]), Biblical Family Values (taught by my Kenyan friend George), African Traditional Religion vs Jesus (introduced by me & then facilitated by George & and my Ugandan friend Wilson) & then Business as Mission (taught by the senior leader in Cape Town, Neil Hart). The middle 2 were particularly important as they pressed into & challenged the traditional African worldview.

I had 2 primary short term goals & 2 primary long term goals to be worked out for CPxEA: a) Empower East African CP coaches & trainers (ST), b) Train East African disciple makers (ST), c) identify emerging East African CP leaders for coaching & mentoring (LT) & d) Identify potential AN members (LT). A worked out well, I think. B also went well, though we view this as the start of the process. C & D are both long term goals that will be worked out in the internship process & beyond.

I’ve wrote above about an “internship”; this starts now. Each student has a primary coach (this is the person that invited them except in the case of the individuals from YWAM). I’m primary for a few students as well but will also be working directly with the coaches & intentionally visiting all of the students that are following thru in the latter half of the internship (primary coaches are taking point in the first half to build relationship & authority).

We learned a lot in this process. Hopefully future CPxEAs will run more smoothly because of the groundwork laid here. It a joy and a privilege to be able to train, mentor and coach in this context. I look forward to the years ahead as result of the groundwork laid here.

Linked List // Aug 14 2015 by Brandon Jones

Our Founding Fathers included Islam - by Brandon Jones

One year later, in 1784, Washington theoretically enfolded Muslims into his private world at Mount Vernon. In a letter to a friend seeking a carpenter and bricklayer to help at his Virginia home, he explained that the workers’ beliefs—or lack thereof—mattered not at all: “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews or Christian of an[y] Sect, or they may be Atheists.” Clearly, Muslims were part of Washington’s understanding of religious pluralism—at least in theory.

Fascinating look at what the Founding Fathers thought of Islam. With all of the anti rhetoric being thrown around, it's nice to consider things like this.

Linked List // July 31 2015 by Brandon Jones

On Fake News & Christians by Brandon Jones

Don't Post What You Can't Confirm

You may say, "But what if I can’t tell if the story is fake or not?" I've given you several ways to check the veracity of a story, but if that does not work, there is just one solution: don't post it. If you have not, will not, or cannot confirm a story, do not share it. As Christians, we have a higher standard than even the journalist. We aren’t protecting the reputation of an organization or a website, we bear the name of our King.

If our friends and families cannot trust us with this type of news, many will not listen when we seek to share the good news of the gospel.

I've seen so many fake news articles flying around facebook and other social media venues (and occassionally thru email). It's important that we take the time to source what we are posting. Spreading lies and fake news does nothing but stir people up in unhealthy ways. Read more from Ed Stetzer here.

Linked List // July 24 2015 by Brandon Jones

It's been awhile since I've posted as I've been leading a training program with mostly no internet access. I'm slowly working through news I've missed and have pulled out a few interesting links for your enjoyment.

Marriage in Kenya by Brandon Jones

Kenya, the country I currently call home recently signed into law a new marriage act as well.

There are some good things about it chiefly:

  • It bans marriage under 18.
  • It entitles women to the estate in cases of divorce/abandonment.

Both of these items are important. Child marriage has historically been a major issue in parts of Kenya. Our language istructor told of her tribe where she knew of daughters the age of 12 being married off (read: sold for the bride price). Also, women have historically been oppressed and have struggled to gain equal rights under the law. This now adds some protection for them, if it is necessary (and abandonment/divorce can be a major issue).

But it also appeals to local culture in one specific way that is a bit worrisome: it officially legalizes polygamy locally. And actually, not just polygamy, but it gives the husband authority to marry new wives without consulting any other spouses.

For those living in North America, while you stress about marriage legality in the US, please remember the women of Kenya as well and the broken families that policies like this have the potential to create. Polygamy done in this way definitely wrecks havok on the family system.

ISIS & The Spread of the Gospel by Brandon Jones

When I met a group of Iranian church leaders in Sweden their fear was that Muslims would turn to secularism, even to atheism. Many have come to the church, but this requires the church to be a “safe space” for Muslims. The tragedy is that many churches are not welcoming for Muslims. They regard them as the enemy. Recently, in a shameful display in Texas, a group of Christians heckled a Muslim meeting and called on them to leave the country. The harvest in Sweden is partly a result of the church taking a stand for Muslim immigrants and against local nationalist parties. The church in Sweden is a “safe space” for Muslims. Is the evangelical church in America a “safe space” for Muslims?

Long story short: the brutality of ISIS is causing muslims across the globe to reconsider their faith. What will your response be? Read more here.

Linked List // July 3 2015 by Brandon Jones

  • I'd agree with this article: DuckDuckGo is the way to search (especially if you care about privacy/security).
  • If you are curious about what's going on in Greece (and feel pretty clueless) this is a good starting point.
  • Adware/Malware on the mac is becoming a more prevalent issue. Check out Adware Medic to scan your computer and clean things up if you are at all worried.
  • It's stories like this that make people so skeptical about charismatic things. "It's OK if we have to fake it a little bit," my mentor told me once, "because people need to see the power of God, and it's OK if we have to fudge things to make that happen."

Encryption & Privacy by Brandon Jones

Encryption protects our data. It protects our data when it's sitting on our computers and in data centers, and it protects it when it's being transmitted around the Internet. It protects our conversations, whether video, voice, or text. It protects our privacy. It protects our anonymity. And sometimes, it protects our lives.

This protection is important for everyone. It's easy to see how encryption protects journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists in authoritarian countries. But encryption protects the rest of us as well. It protects our data from criminals. It protects it from competitors, neighbors, and family members. It protects it from malicious attackers, and it protects it from accidents.


This is important. If we only use encryption when we're working with important data, then encryption signals that data's importance. If only dissidents use encryption in a country, that country's authorities have an easy way of identifying them. But if everyone uses it all of the time, encryption ceases to be a signal. No one can distinguish simple chatting from deeply private conversation. The government can't tell the dissidents from the rest of the population. Every time you use encryption, you're protecting someone who needs to use it to stay alive.

Read the rest of what Bruce Schneier says here.

I couldn't agree more. Encryption is something we all should care about. Privacy is somethiing we should all be cognizant to. There are people the world over whose life depends on it definitely but it should still matter just as much to you if yours doesn't. There are lots of tools to help facilitate this and lots of things you can be doing. I'll begin writing soon about some of these tools and some of these ways. For your sake (and the safety of others) please consider it thoughtfully.