Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: 3rd Place

Forgiving Osama.

I had the privilege and crazy responsibility of trying to navigate reflecting on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to our community of South Africans this past Sunday at 3rd place. In the wisdom of the liturgical year, whoever selects texts for Text Week made sure that an American was saddled with a really difficult parable of Jesus’ on forgiveness and extending mercy, in light of 9/11 and in our interpersonal relationships. Let’s just say that Matthew 18:21-35 (plus Matthew 6:14-15, James 2:12-13, and Romans 2:4) were TOUGH scriptures to internalize, let alone teach. God wrecked me all week long! I also found myself using the epic inciting incident from Jean Valjean’s life in Les Miserables as a visual of how mercy is the only thing powerful enough to triumph over judgment, breaking the cycle of escalating violence.

One thing I enjoy about teaching at 3rd Place is the instant feedback and commentary one gets via the live Twitter stream that evening. Here’s a sample of what our community was wrestling through this past Sunday:

Instant commentary from our community, wow!

Love how Pierre quoted from the Afrikaans translation!

Pierre Du Plessis, the lead pastor of 3rd Place and our good friend, even had his tweet picked up for New York Times feature on 9/11 feedback!


Pierre, making my words famous via the New York Times!


The Wisdom Of Obedience.

Nothing ordinary about obedience at all, even if it has fallen out of fashion.

Tom Smith rocked our community in early July with a two-week series on training withe Jesus in the sort of life that He lived on this earth, implying heavily that one of the values that has been lost in our obsession with all things missional has been the difficult act of obedience.  If I’m frank, obedience makes me uncomfortable, because it confronts the values that I speak out with the reality how how I often am falling short of them in my life. I’d rather stick in the intellectual discussion of a certain theological treatise, or pick apart a concept that society is wrestling with. Obedience brings this discussion to a guttural level, asking me if I truly take serious the implications of following Someone’s Authoritative Voice. I’m excited to pursue this aspect of Ordinary Time with our faith community this month.

Full downloadable PDF here.

Really challenged by this definition of obedience.

Do I prefer consuming information as opposed to acting out transformation?

May my obedience grow to match my information consumption.

The Wisdom Of Routine.

I’ve been shepherding 3rd Place through the Liturgical Year since Advent began this past November. A few weeks after our wedding, we entered into the second half of the rhythm of the Liturgical Year, known as “Ordinary Time.” Over the next five months, I’ll be posting a monthly reflection, prayer exercise, and engagement moving towards action that I introduced to our local faith community at 3rd Place.

The PDF writeup for “The Wisdom Of Routine” can be downloaded here.

My teaching at 3rd Place on the subject of Ordinary Time can be listened to here. Enjoy! 

Love the gear image.

"It is what we do routinely, not what we do rarely, that delineates the character of a person."

"It is decision time: Will we take Easter and Christmas seriously or not?"

Follow the Liturgical Year A texts at

"How were You (God) loving me even when Your presence seemed far away?"

"God has set eternity in the hearts of men"




Images of Life//Easter 2011.

Download the Images of Life//Easter 2011 pdf here.

Pierre Du Plessis, Lead Pastor of our local faith community, 3rd Place, has lovingly titled me “The Resident Liturgist,” meaning that I am shepherding our community into following Jesus throughout the various seasons of the church liturgical year through the rhythmic practice of a wide variety of creative disciplines, provocative questions, and simple actions all designed to engage our community across the city in a shared, consistent, grounded faith that moves within our world. I have been fortunate to craft write-ups that have been designed as downloadable pdf’s for the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and now Easter. You can find all these pdf’s here for your engagement! I am finding great life and value in helping to ground our growing community of young cultural creatives within a worldwide, historical framework that the global church is pursuing. In following the weekly liturgical texts from, we join hundreds of millions of Christ-followers in seeking to engage God’s work in the world, participating alongside him. Enjoy this extended season of Easter that we have titled, Images of Life!

Download the Images of Life//Easter 2011 pdf here.

Saturday: Full-Spectrum Birthday Parties.

Noa Du Plessis, hijacking her brother's party last year in enthusiastic love!

Bleary-eyed, Maxie and I met Christiaan Krit, a good ‘muso’ (music) friend of ours, for coffee at Seattle early Saturday morning. Tian is shepherding all of the musical elements of our wedding celebration, and it was past due time for us to all get on the same page regarding our upcoming Chraxie Celebration! We had a great time waking up via warm cappuccinos, dreaming of the elaborate musical entrances and exits that will frame certain sections of our wedding, all the while Maxie subtly reigning Tian and my ridiculous plans back towards reality (Me: “I think 10 jimbae drums would be amazing!” Maxie: “One is plenty, sweetheart.” 🙂 )

Then we headed over to Pierre and Rialette Du Plessis’ house for their daughter Noa’s 3 year-old birthday party. Full disclosure: Pierre whispered with an equally amused/frantic sparkle in his eyes that they were expecting 30 parents and 34 children (almost entirely under 5!) for this party, which made me shudder at the potential chaos that we were about to enter into, but instead Maxie and I found a bustling yard full of creativity (an amazing castle cake) and activity (almost that many children running around handing us random treasures they had found). Pierre and Ria are the lead pastors who initially planted 3rd Place as a creative new expression of the church several years ago, and have been good friends with Maxie for a long time. I’ve recently begun working much closer with Pierre and 3rd Place as their resident “Liturgist,” helping introduce and shepherd the 3rd Place community through the church liturgical year, a rhythm of regular introduction to spiritual disciplines and other faith practices that shape how this group of cultural creatives are following God in the way of Jesus.

The man himself! My good friend Rassie Fourie, introduced to bocce ball!

In the evening, we drove out to Rassie and Michele Fourie’s new home on the edge of a lovely farm plot (Their living room window looks out on a field of sheep!) to celebrate Rassie’s aborted 30th birthday, due to Mika, his newborn, having developed a nasty bout of bronchitis. We laughed at the similarity between our 30th birthdays, and how those we loved and their various sicknesses/accidental injuries shelving plans for ‘the most epic party ever!’ (Maxie partially tore ligaments in her left knee the day before I turned 30, and now Rassie found his big bash shelved because of his daughter!). Maxie and I have really connected with Rassie and Michele over the past few months, and realize that we share a similar heart for missional engagement, intimate community that births fresh expression of mission and participation in God’s work in the world, and a sense of global calling to multiple cultures throughout the world. We are eager to remain open to God for possible partnership and alignment of our respective callings at some point, and at this point simply want to grow in relationship as friends! (Rassie will be officiating the vows between Maxie and I as we marry in a few weeks, and has fast become one of my closest South African friends).

More than anything, the activities of this busy Saturday confirmed yet again the reality that much of my work in missional service here in South Africa stems, and should stem, from the careful and deliberate cultivation of friendships birthed first out of a shared relational connection. The work of God throughout our world is not based solely on shared strategic planning, nor smart execution of a desired outcome (though those things have their place), but rather out of friends joining together to lean into each other’s lives for the purpose of furthering God’s Kingdom.

All in all, a day well spent!

(Each day this week I will post a story or reflection about some aspect of my work and life that our missional community, NieuCommunities South Africa, is currently engaged in here in Pretoria. I’ll simply attempt to answer the questions, ‘What does a week in my life look like? while framing that within the larger question of ‘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 in the way of Jesus into sustainable mission around the globe?’)

Friday: Not Simply A Math Teacher.

Electric Guitar Shredder + Quantum Physics Student + Heart For The Marginalized. Imile has it all!

The morning was spent in a blur of wedding planning frenzy, sitting inside Moreleta Park Church where Maxie works trying to connect all the dots between this day (22 days before our wedding), the mountain of what we still needed to do, and the mini-Road Trip we are essentially hosting for 9 Americans the week prior to our wedding, an awesome but semi-daunting prospect. Maxie and I are deeply aware that our wedding serves as a catalyst for family and friends to come celebrate with us, most of whom have never set foot anywhere on the African continent, and who will likely visit South Africa just this once. Hence, we truly desire to host them well, providing a mixture of fun wedding week activities designed to introduce people we love to the South Africa we live and work in each day.

I then headed almost straight over to Imile de Villiers house, a gargantuan shared commune space that serves as one of the 3 Intentional Living homes throughout Pretoria. A loose network of friends and university/post-university students, there are 3 homes with 10-12 students sharing space together in an experiment fusing community and a common heart for missional engagement in the needs of one’s city together with the reality that for a college student, rent must remain as cheap as possible. Imile is one of several guys who leads this communal experiment, seeking to create intentional space for students to discover who they are, all while in the forging process of completing university degrees.

I met Imile (and many other Intentional Living people) first through 3rd Place, the local faith community I serve alongside in Pretoria. We spent several weeks together last June on a World Cup Worship Tour that Maxie organized through Moreleta Park Church, Imile shredding the electric guitar for our touring band while I attempted to shepherd and pastor the team alongside Maxie, all in the context of the first few weeks of the soccer World Cup as South Africa welcomed the world this past June. I was immediately struck by his genuine heart, soft spirit, and receptiveness to God’s mission within the world. Imile is truly an unassuming guy who leaves a large wake behind himself of those he has come alongside to bless. In short, we immediately hit it off and begun a coaching/mentoring relationship that has continued to this day.

As 2011 began and Imile told us that their communal Intentional Living experiment was literally moving into the neighborhood next door to Clydesdale, where our missional community resides, I was ecstatic to explore the possibilities of how NieuCommunities could partner alongside the IL homes, walking with them as their hearts for God’s mission influenced people throughout Pretoria. While this hasn’t materialized to the degree that I was initially hoping at this point, I’m still confident that after our wedding, God may be brewing something for us to pursue together.

Nonetheless, Imile and I greatly enjoy spending time together every few weeks, exploring all that God is inviting him into as he finishes up his last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Pretoria. Imile is completing studies in math and physics, and describes his course load with terms that lose me immediately (He was learning Quantum Physics last week for example). Yet his heart is clearly moving him towards a life of missional service, engaging in the meeting of practical needs for the marginalized around him. It seems like each break from school finds Imile gathering a small crew of friends around him and setting off to another city around Africa, visiting missionaries who are engaged in creative work that empowers Africans. Imile shares this same heart, thus leading to the central question of our time together most weeks:

How does a math and physics student engage in a world teeming with need all around him?

I love watching Imile wrestle through this, balancing the reality of why he has chosen this course of study (Why we pursue what we do is a complex reality for all of us to come to grips with) with what is spilling out of his heart. We don’t really know at this moment exactly where God is inviting Imile to engage after this last year of studies ends, but one thing is becoming certain: Imile is not simply a math teacher.

I cannot wait to see how God fuses together gifts in complex numerical theory with a heart bursting to see the poor and marginalized enjoy the dignity that they deserve. All I know is that I am privileged to have a front row seat as this story of redemption unfolds.

(Each day this week I will post a story or reflection about some aspect of my work and life that our missional community, NieuCommunities South Africa, is currently engaged in here in Pretoria. I’ll simply attempt to answer the questions, ‘What does a week in my life look like? while framing that within the larger question of ‘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 in the way of Jesus into sustainable mission around the globe?’)

What Would God Tweet? (Project 365, Day 139).

Aperture: f/7.1     Focal Length: 20 mm     ISO: 1600     Shutter Speed: 1/20 second

Chalk Church (Project 365, Day 125).

Aperture: f/2.8     Focal Length: 5     ISO: 800     Shutter Speed: 1/4 second

All Deserted Him And Fled.

Good Friday summed up in one powerful image. (More coming on 3rd Place's powerful Stations of the Cross interactive exhibit + Tenebrae Reading of the John passion narrative which I helped facilitate soon).

Torn//Lent 2011.

Torn//Lent 2011 pdf download

Torn//Lent 2011 teaching at 3rd Place

My Lent Fast


Listen to these startling words, whispered by God towards a lover long gone: “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead” (Joel 2:12-13a, NLT). David echoes this same sentiment in Psalm 51:17: “The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

What working with a stylist (Pierre Du Plessis), graphic designer (Janet Prinsloo), and fashion design/theology student (Elani Joubert) gets you in terms of an Ash Wednesday vibe!


Lent is a season within the rhythm of the Church year, preceding the startling explosion of the Easter resurrection, whereby hearts are torn, spirits are broken, and wills are bent towards walking with Jesus in the way of the cross. Robert Webber writes that what God wants of us is a spirit that is truly broken of pride and self-sufficiency and a heart that leads towards the presence of God in obedience to His will for my life. In essence, a fresh tearing of our souls, a deliberate wounding through which hardness of heart is softened and a return to dependency upon God is renewed.

We chose to theme 3rd Place's Lenten season around the concept of "TORN," taken from a phrase in Joel 2 where God instructs us to 'not tear our garments, but our hearts instead.' Powerful!

A 40-day practice of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving whereby we walk with Jesus on the road to the cross, Lent calls us to die to ourselves in order to renew the reality of our own resurrection within life gone stale. Joan Chittister echoes this call, writing “Lent demands both the healing of the soul and the honing of the soul, both penance and faith, both a purging of what is superfluous in our lives and the heightening, the intensifying, of what is meaningful.”

Torn. A journey into the heart of Christ, for the purpose of allowing Christ to journey deep within our own broken hearts. Welcome to the season of Lent.

To emphasize the season of sacrifice, we sat on the floor in front of candles + crosses, surrounded by flowing red cloth that everyone tore strips from to keep with them throughout this season. The sound of ripping cloth is haunting to this day. We confessed sin corporately while listening for what the Spirit was calling us to die to in this season.



The season of Lent asks us to “enter into a fresh conversion experience with Jesus Christ by an act of metanoia (turning), a turning from sin to Christ. To assist us in this pilgrimage Lent calls us to fast, pray, and give alms. The nature of these actions is to help us to actually embody what it means to turn from sin and put our trust in Jesus. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving is not only the act of giving something up…it is also the activity of taking something on…to turn towards a virtue that replaces our sin” (Robert Webber).


Pierre + Elani running through a last minute flow for our Ash Wednesday experience.

FASTING: “The purpose of this fast is to be liberated from the flesh…to liberate us from the power that flesh holds over the spirit, the power that brought Adam into ruination” (Robert Webber). The question to ask the Spirit is “What is my spirit in bondage from in this season of life?” followed by, “What is the Spirit desiring to free me from?” Fasting can encompass bodily actions (freedom from addiction to alcohol, caffeine, food, etc), to distractions (freedom from media, technology, etc), to internal vices (freedom from negative self-thought, sinful patterns, etc).

My notes. It's been such a meaningful experience helping shepherd a faith community through the rhythms of the Church liturgical year!

PRAYER: Prayer fills the space that fasting creates in one’s life. As Robert Webber writes, “Prayer is the actual experience of turning to God in dependence.” As fasting produces room within one’s busy, distracted life, prayer breathes fresh life and wind into that newly created space. Explore a fresh discipline of prayer in this Lenten season.

The sounds of a sitar player, a ringing metal bowl, and chanting filled the Story Space throughout Ash Wednesday. We were taken to a different place by the haunting minor chords!

ALMSGIVING: “Almsgiving is the symbol of the virtue we are taking on to replace our sin” (Robert Webber). In essence, giving testifies to the internal transformation taking place in our soul through the practices of fasting and prayer. Almsgiving is an ancient spiritual practice that takes seriously Jesus’ teaching that our heart will reside in the place where our treasure lays. How can you actively seek to fast from something in this season, and to then financially engage in a project of justice + mercy, putting your resources where your heart truly desires to reside? Engage a friend in this creative work, and tell the story of where God leads you among our community at 3rd Place.

Torn. A journey into the heart of Christ, for the purpose of allowing Christ to journey deep within our own broken hearts. Welcome to the season of Lent.

Torn//Lent 2011 pdf download

Torn//Lent 2011 teaching at 3rd Place

My Lent Fast

(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?’)

%d bloggers like this: