Becoming Chris Kamalski

"There's a Writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us" ~Don Miller

Family Values.

(Each week 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?’)

'Father' calls us together for a little family values convo!

South African nachos. Lime coriander pasta salad. Salted popcorn roasted over the stove.

This smorgasbord of fine ‘man’ finger foods that I spread out for us (as Curtis Love, my teammate so aptly described the purpose of food at our weekly Learning Conversations) greeted a small group of 9 this past Tuesday night as NieuCommunities South Africa kicked off a fresh year of exploration, learning, discovery, and engagement in a common missional life, all for the purpose of apprenticing South African leaders into a life of sustainable mission around the globe.

Jody playing the exasperated dad to Noel's earnest efforts to please!

What followed this hearty food was an even richer evening of discussion around the family values that encompass the heart of how we seek to live and posture our lives as a missional fragrance within the heart of Pretoria. I watched as Noel, a young Zimbabwean who had just begun a university degree in Information Technologies (the first degree in his family!) wrestled with the necessity for a community to explore shared missional life with JP, a sharp theology student completing his master’s thesis on the role of aesthetics and beauty within the church. I listened as my fiance, Maxie, raised the critical point of whether our jobs and livelihoods encompassed our call towards missional engagement, or whether the common belief within most Christian circles of separation between one’s career and one’s service would continue within our midst. I emphasized with Melissa, JP’s girlfriend, who has just begun a terribly difficult year of practical service (an internship of sorts) as she completes her studies in health and human services, working with a population south of Johannesburg, and over 90 minutes from her home.

JP in contemplation (His girlfriend Melissa in foreground, Doug in background).

And my mind raced all the while, considering what I valued as a belief, and what my life confirmed or denied through my actions regarding mission.

Kindle Envy: I thought it solved all world problems, Joe!

And my mind raced, wide-eyed at the possibilities in this small circle of Christ-followers, all desiring to live a life of impact, investment, and engagement within the restorative work of Christ breaking out all around us in South Africa.

A study in contemplation, Curtis Love style.

And my mind raced, confirming yet again how grateful I am to be living ‘this sort of normal:’ a life on mission, walking alongside South Africans in the hope that somehow, the Spirit of God will breathe fresh from my life onto theirs, and that together, we may conspire towards all sorts of goodness in our world, drawing many unto Jesus.

I can’t wait for next Tuesday evening to come!

Love your neighbor. Jesus sums everything up well, no?

Public Manifest//Epiphany 2011.

(Each week 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?’)

Download [Public Manifest//Epiphany 2011 pdf] here

Listen to [Public Manifest//Epiphany 2011] teaching at 3rd Place here

Pierre Du Plessis, a growing friend, as well as Lead Pastor at 3rd Place, my faith community in Pretoria, approached me last October asking if I would be willing to help introduce the season of Advent to our community, an eclectic group of cultural creatives, young Afrikaner families, and university students. I responded with wild and immediate enthusiasm, anticipating the explosion of creativity between a central practice of the Christian church during the Christmas season throughout the centuries merged with the distinct flavor that a group of stylists (Pierre!) and graphic designers (Janet!), all my friends, bring to the table.

What started as a simple weekly practice in lighting 3rd Place’s “Advent Wreath” (a series of scented candles scattered atop a painting ladder) and a Christmas gift to our community (a weekly series of meditations, Scripture, and spiritual practices around the Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, all packaged in a simple ‘do-it-yourself’ brown bag filled with tealights) has morphed into a favorite shared memory of this past holiday season. I still shake my head in gratitude at how well received such a foreign practice was to this group of South Africans.

A few days into the New Year, I shot Pierre an email gently reminding him that whether he was aware of it or not, we had begun the practice of living within the rhythm of the liturgical church year, a series of peaks (Christmas + Easter) preceded by long seasons of deep valleys (Advent + Lent), all completely strange to the typical South African Christian. Pierre quickly responded “Let’s do this…I love the collaborative potential!”

Listen to [Public Manifest//Epiphany 2011] teaching at 3rd Place here

Thus, I find myself treading upon somewhat unfamiliar territory as I help introduce my faith community (3rd Place), and my missional community (NieuCommunities), to the practices, disciplines, teachings, and heart behind walking through the calendar year in a common rhythm, participated in each year by millions of Christians in every corner of the globe. There is a growing sense that I am helping to shepherd South African Christians into a richer experience of faith intersecting with new spiritual practices.

I couldn’t be more excited to invite you to participate from afar with us in this new season of discovery and growth with the Spirit of God.

Welcome to PUBLIC MANIFEST//EPIPHANY 2011!