Category: Leadership

What I learned from Disney Part 2

D23 costumes


Disney is a juggernaut.  They own Marvel, Lucasfilm, ABC, ESPN, and your house.  I’m serious, check into it.  They might own your house.  But that doesn’t stop them from putting personal touches on their conferences.  Every night when we came back to the room, there was something special.  Chocolate strawberries, cookies, a note, cufflinks, a gift bag, cheesecake bites, etc.  Did I mention that we ate well?  Check out last’s week post here.

One highlight of the D23 conference was the costumes.  I estimate about 10% of people were wearing a costume to this deal.  Now I believe in the dignity of every human being, and that everyone is a prince and princess.  In one respect.  But that does not mean that everyone should be dressing up like a Disney character.  Check out some of the top costumes here and here.  Some things are not meant to be seen.  And once you see them, they cannot be unseen.

I tried to sneak in pictures with odd costumes.

I tried to sneak in pictures with odd costumes.


3 more things I learned hanging around Disney:

  1. You must build momentum and excitement in order to sell. Disney is a master of cultivating excitement.  The President of Marvel brought out the guy who plays the Falcon who is very funny and charismatic.  This was a great surprise and they made it seem like he was the celebrity guest.  But then they introduced Captain America.  The crowd went bonkers.  They followed this pattern several times where the director or producer would tease something, deliver, but then have a surprise at the end that took things over the top.  They saved the best for last.  The last announcement of a session was that they are opening 2 14-acre Star Wars attractions.  The crowd went bezerk.  So did I.  We will be able to drive the Millenium Falcon.  Are you kidding me?
  2. Wonder is closely related to surprise. Surprise is a key factor of wonder.  We rarely had one without the other.  Everyone loves surprises, especially when they shatter your expectations out of the water. Disney seems to be masterful at the “wow” experience.
  3. Story is king and emotion is queen. If a story wasn’t emotional (good or bad) then it wasn’t worth much.  In America right now, story is king.  If it’s not true for you, then it’s not true.  Experience is the judge and jury of all truth.  Disney said “We want to tell stories, stories that deserve to be told.”    Every film is emotional. And everyone can relate to it.  “A tear for every laugh, and a laugh for every tear.”



What I learned from bigwigs at Disneyland

D23 Mickey and minnie dancing

Where else can you watch the Rock hype up a crowd, Ellen taunt a director, Broadway stars who played Mary Poppins, Tarzan, and the genie from Aladdin perform, Dancing with the Stars champions waltz, Johnny Depp throw grapes at the crowd, and Ed O’Neill sing “Let’s Get it On”??  Disney’s D23 expo.

One week ago I got home from California.  I got to meet some of Disney’s bigwigs.  This is because I am friends with a bigwig named Josh.  He was the one being thanked, and I was his +1.  But it was a great +1.  We were basically insiders and got to do all the crazy fun things you hear of other people doing.  We went to D23, Disney’s superfan conference that only happens every 2 years and where they share what is in store in the future.  It’s basically like an Apple announcement meets a Ted Talk meets the Emmy’s.  It was a blast.  And hilarious.  Some of the sessions were so secret and we got to see brand new clips of movies that weren’t coming out for a long time.  You had to put your phone in this sealed bag.  Lots of security were walking around and when the lights would go dim, they would have night vision scopes to make sure no one was recording. (all pics in this post were taken by yours truly)

D23 piracy slide

I think 20,000+ people go to this and only 8,000 get in to the D23 presentations.  You can guarantee to sit in the front section for $2000 and up.  I believe that group of people is called the “sorcerers.”  People camp out to get in.  We talked to one mom and her son who waited in line for 4 hours and didn’t get in.

I learned a ton seeing how the Disney peeps think.  So for the next 4 weeks each week I’ll give you a highlight of the conference and then a couple things I learned while there.  I already mentioned some of the highlights so let’s go right to the stuff I learned:

  1. Everyone wants to be on the inside.
    1. Everyone wants to know secrets, the stuff that no one else knows. Or to get a “first look” or an “exclusive sneak peek”.  They even went so far as to show us a part of the movie that the actual actors hadn’t seen.  The new revamped Jungle Book kid who plays Mowgli (I had to look up the spelling of his name) was shown a clip of him with a tiger.  He was blown away.  He said “Wow.  That was me!  Are you kidding me?”
  2. It’s more fun to spoil than it is to be spoiled. The service was over the top.  People really seemed to care about other people—their co-workers and the customers.  And they loved it.  One of the Disney execs said “It’s actually really fun to spoil people.”
    1. Food is good. We should eat it.  Just kidding.  Everything was spectacular.  We ate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House for lunch one day and it wasn’t as good as some of the Disney food.  (I mean it was really good but…)
    2. I asked one Disney veteran what he liked best about his job and he said he loved making people’s dreams come true. That’s a pretty exciting job.

What have you learned from being around Disney?  The parks or the movies?

D23 Mickey and minnie


The trip of a lifetime is coming to a close…

all camp pic

This is a guest post by our incredible Young Life College Council stud Liz Ferguson:

Visiting Jerusalem was packed, full of people, holy sites, and messages of scripture shared. We visited the Pool of Bethesda, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden tomb, the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, just to name a few. With the takeaways that we learned in Jerusalem strongly in mind, we have been seeing the love, sacrifice, grace, power, mercy, and servanthood of the cross come full circle here at Young Life camp. About 125 Palestinian kids, their local leaders, and an assortment of passionate people from all over, have come together at the beautiful Camp Murad for lots of sunshine, pool-time, soccer games, program skits, and most importantly the truth of who Jesus is.

At camp, every leader must cross a rickety wooden bridge in order to get to the Leader meetings every night. As I walk across the planks that are each different sizes, shades of wood, and ages, it is hard to understand how the bridge still stands. Every time we cross the bridge it bends and stretches more and more. Yet, it stays strong and sturdy because of the one, strong, reinforcement beam reaching to the ground. The bridge stands as a symbol for us JMU folks, and the Young Life Leaders from the Middle East, who have come together with the central focus of Christ as the reinforcing beam. Like the planks of the bridge, each leader has been stretched these past few days, expanding and growing in incredible ways. Even though we speak different languages and come from cultures on the other side of the world, we rest on one bridge, as planks side by side held up together by the Truth of the Gospel and the desire for our friends to know Christ.

As Jake Johnson, our lone non-JMU (so sad!) team member for these past weeks mentioned yesterday, it is a humbling and surreal experience to serve alongside the Palestinian leaders. Every time we cross the beaten down bridge here at camp, we can rest in the love of the Father and know the planks are held together with a strong reinforcement, just as God’s love is our continuous reinforcement.

With confidence we know that the Lord has been working in kid’s hearts as the week progresses. We are able to witness the message of the gospel changing lives- as kids cross a different bridge. The most life-changing bridge- the bridge from Death to Life! The rest of the week we will pray for the kids to cross that bridge and we will celebrate in the scripture of Romans 6:11 “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

From Pete:  This is the last post of our trip.  We leave tomorrow night.  Thanks for going on this adventure with us.  Many blessings to you in your spiritual journey.



O Little Town of Bethlehem

guys in the Judean wilderness

The fellas in the Judean wilderness

Judean wilderness

The Judean Wilderness

YL college team in judean wilderness

The leadership of Young Life College at JMU

This is a guest post by the incredible Young Life College JMU staffer Carol Killian:

Expect the unexpected. This morning, our day began with a ride on a camel through the hills of the Judean desert. These were the very hills that God guided Abraham’s travels after he left his people as he was told in Genesis 12:1.  The camel-ride wasn’t our only bumpy outing though. Afterwards Pete surprised us with an off-roading jeep excursion over the rough terrain of the rocky paths.  We definitely had an incredible start to our morning and surprises always make adventures even better.

God came into the world in a very unexpected way.  Some may think the Son of God would enter the world in comfort and glory.  Displaying his power for all to see however, he was born in a manger and his honored guests were shepherds.  Today we visited Bethlehem.  We learned that shepherds held one of the lowest positions in society when Jesus was born and that they still do today in the Middle East.  We looked down into the fields where the shepherds in Luke 2 may have been watching their flock by night on the evening that Jesus entered the world.  There was a real live shepherd with his sheep in the distance and as we sat there I closed my eyes and imagined a starry night long ago where the sky broke into light and an angel appeared saying, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  The God of the Universe wanted to reveal himself to the lowest of the low.  He wanted these no named, unschooled shepherds to be the first to visit his son.  I imagined the joy and awe they must have felt when “they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger.” Jesus brought what Andre, our tour guide, likes to call an upside down kingdom.  Each person has eternal value and the Lord loves to make much of those who are forgotten.

One of my favorite things on this trip has been watching students have “Aha” moments.  Moments when they are moved by a new fact or a passage of scripture and it all comes together.   As we have been learning one thing after the next, Pete has been reminding us that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up.”  With all that we have been learning it amounts to very little if we do not act in love.  There are many hurting people in this world and God’s heart is for each one of them.  Tomorrow as we go up to Jerusalem, I am anticipating us to learn incredible new facts but for that knowledge to be grounded in love.

Don’t forget to check out our social media hashtags:  #jmuISRAELyhere and #JMUintheholYLand



Drinking from a fire hydrant in the Holy Land

Jordan river

The Jordan River in North Israel


A view from Mt. Gerazim

This is a guest post by rising sophomore stud Landon Dermott:

Have you ever put your mouth on a fire hydrant? Me neither. But I imagine it would be much like the time we have been having here in the Middle East. There is so much to be experienced spiritually, in knowledge, and in experience. And we are receiving it all at an unbelievably high rate. I always felt like this would be such a wasteful thing to attempt to drink from a fire hydrant—so much water would be wasted. However, this is exactly how the Lord is giving to us here. Abundantly. Our cup is full and it is running over. And we can’t wait for more.

Yesterday someone said, “It seems like our cell reception is better here. We can hear way more from God.” And this is true, but we also know that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So the difference is left to us. And it couldn’t be more true. There is something unique happening in each heart and life here as we are walking in the places that Jesus did, and places with so much biblical significance and rich history. And the greatest thing about it? So many folks are taking it home together!

The theme of this trip is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The goal is that we would all learn about the events of yesterday (the past), the people and culture of today, and what we can do to change tomorrow for ourselves and others because of all we learn. And that is what we are doing. We are learning the history at sights such as Mount Carmel, Megiddo, Jacob’s Well, Jericho, Bet’shean where we learned about that city’s struggle with the temporary things of this world, the Jordan river where many were baptized, Jericho, and the Mount of temptation. But the learning does not end there. We also went to a small city called Zababdeh and spent time with the people there. Everyone spent the day and night with a host family. Many found this to be one of their favorite parts of the trip so far—learning the culture of fellow followers of Jesus across the globe and connecting with them in a way many never would have imagined! And lastly, each night we have been getting together and sharing with each other our favorite things and discussing how we can let what we learn and experience on this trip not just be here, but be things we take home with us.

Our hearts are full. We have been drinking from a fire hydrant. But we can’t wait for more!


Don’t forget to check social media for our hashtag #jmuISRAELyhere and starting soon for the rest of our trip #JMUintheholYLand