White Space Begins Our Year.

by Chris Kamalski

(Each Wednesday (Although today is Thursday!) I will attempt to post a story or reflection about some aspect of the work that our missional community, NieuCommunities South Africa, is currently engaged in here in Pretoria. I’ll simply attempt to answer the question, ‘What stories are you co-writing with God in South Africa, and how does this story fulfill your unique mandate to apprentice South African leaders into sustainable mission around the globe?’)

"An inciting incident is a doorway through which a protagonist cannot return" (James Scott Bell).

For the past 7 years the start of the new year has dawned with a giant reset button known as Passion Conferences. A movement engaging the collegiate generation around the world to consider making much of their lives for the fame of Jesus while affecting tangible change around the globe, I’ve shepherded over 50 college students through these gatherings. Students have engaged in mission to China, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, New Orleans, Haiti, and local opportunities throughout the globe as a result of these powerful days where worship and justice are wed together, and the name of Jesus lifted high.

Shot 1 is happening today as Colletta steps into her story while leading NCSA in a racial reconciliation forum. Awesome!

At my first Passion gathering in 2005, the college leader gathering was shepherded by JD Walt, Dean of Chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. I was struck by his humility and deep theological mind. Following his writing online after the conference, I found this post that has haunted me ever since:

“When we come to grips with our own limitation in the face of unlimited need something happens deep inside of us. We finally cease to believe so much in ourselves and begin to believe in God. When we begin to believe in God, rest becomes possible. Rest is the presence of margins. Think margins–like the literal white space surrounding a page of text. The margins–the white space–this is the place of creativity. This is the place where one doodles the design of the next good thing in life. The margins of life are where creativity happens. And so rest, and consequently margins, and subsequently creativity are only possible for those who have not over committed themselves. Doesn’t this help us understand burnout? Burnout isn’t so much the inescapable presence of tiredness but the drudging absence of creativity.” (JD Walt)

What a climactic scene: White South Africans standing in allegiance with foreigners in line to receive citizenship papers in South Africa! How could this change the city of Pretoria?

With this in mind, Joe Reed tasked me with crafting a personal retreat that would begin 2011 creating space for creativity, fresh stories, and tangible goals to be set that would guide our work as a missional community this year. Burnt out myself and desperately looking forward to going on holiday with Maxie’s family in Jeffrey’s Bay for Christmas, I threw a few things together combining the concepts of looking back systematically at our lives throughout 2010, storyboarding as a narrative framework through which to set smart, attainable goals, all in the context of ‘enough white space’ that creativity would breathe again within our weary souls.

I’ll blog more intentionally on each aspect of this retreat in the next few weeks, but wanted to invite you to consider spending some time before January escapes considering what sort of stories you want to tell with your life this year. Our community had a powerful time sharing our storyboards with each other, explaining the narratives that would drive what we actually want to see God do in Pretoria in the next 12 months. I especially thought that Colletta Cole’s storyboard, which you see in the selection of images throughout this post, was provocative in nature. Her ‘Shot 1’ begins Thursday as she facilitates a discussion on racial and cultural integration within the South African context for our community and several invited guests. It should be a hard look in the mirror for us all come tomorrow morning!

And Colletta said that these were just 'sketches...'

Feel free to grab, steal, and use this retreat to shape your stories here:

Storyboarding Retreat (New Year’s Week 2011)

Storyboarding Climactic Scenes

Living A Good Story

I am so grateful creating white space for our community to dream within is a central part of my role in the training of South African leaders!