Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: CRM

We’re Moving To Cape Town!

We're moving to Cape Town!

We really feel that the message we heard while we were in Cape Town was that the best way to really find the right path forward would be to move and then navigate the right channel from Cape Town. Not simply in the ‘Let’s just go with no plan way’ but in the the ‘Lets become part of the community and then out of that figure out how best to serve the city we feel called to’. There really is unlimited potential with unlimited need all throughout Cape Town, and we feel invited into this city to share in the work of Kingdom restoration within and through Capetonians! We’re simply trying to navigate the right step forward. We’d love to share more of what we experienced and heard during our discernment time there in early March to all who are interested. One really rad thing has been that both Chris and I are finding ways to focus on what we feel we need to be about, as opposed to carrying roles that simply do not fit us in sustainable ways. We’re working on getting that written out…We have definitely realized that we really want to be part of a missional community wherever we are in the world.

To learn more about what we discerned while in Cape Town, please click here!

Thanks for walking with us!

The Breathtaking Empty Space of an Open Door.

Beautiful Instagram by Maike McNeill of welovepictures fame!

Read the latest [60* Stories] update, “The Breathtaking Empty Space of an Open Door,” here as well.

[The Breathtaking Empty Space of an Open Door]

“Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it. Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent. I give you my restlessness. I give you my doubt. I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside. Help me to listen to those signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead thorugh the breathtaking empty space of an open door” (A Prayer for Major Life Transition in Common Prayer).

As it became increasingly clear in early January that Vancouver was a closed door for us due to timing with visas and role issues, we embraced the reality that this unexpected turn in our next steps brought. A close friend encouraged us to “love the curveballs” thrown our way, returning to God in dependence, drawing near to each other as (relative) newlyweds, and uncluttering our life to create fresh space for desire, calling, and the “things we can’t not do” to emerge out of a return to our core vision and sense of self. In this chaotic process, we increasingly found peace in the reality that as we listened to God and our own longings, the city and Kingdom work currently underway in Cape Town kept rising to the surface.

A world-class, creative, multi-cultural, urban city nestled in the bowl between Table Mountain and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town had long been on our personal radar as a possible destination to raise our family within South Africa at some point in the future. A key realization as we sat with our longings was the fact that many of our key relational networks and partners had existing or fresh work taking place within Cape Town, and that South Africa is where we currently have influence and favor. A deepening desire for fresh, collaborative work to emerge between churches, non-profit organizations, all leaning towards the empowerment and holisitic formation of South Africans throughout the Western Cape and beyond have only grown upon our return to South Africa these past few weeks.

Simply stated, we are deeply excited about the relational, vocational, and collaborative possibilities that reside within Cape Town, and feel a growing sense of calling towards the city, to the point where we must follow Abram’s lead and “go to the land where God will show us” (Gen 12:1). A few partnerships we are listening alongside:

  • Bridges of Hope, a key global partner alongside ROCKHarbor church that includes an academy for orphaned and vulnerable children as well as holistic community development within multiple townships in the Cape Flats
  • Key local leaders including Chris Jones, a professor at the Stellenbosch University who is highly connected to justice initiatives throughout the Western Cape, especially in the area of rehabilitative work among juvenile prisoners, as well as other local leaders who run foundations connected to community development in the city
  • The possibility of adjunct teaching within the University of Cape Town or other schools for Chris, as well as looking into sociology programs for Maxie to study within
  • Local church partnerships in the area of spiritual formation, retreat, and liturgical year rhythms similar to our work with 3rd Place these past few years (Invia is run by friends of friends)
  • The possibility of birthing a fresh missional community/organization within NieuCommunities or alongside one of these partners within the city that combines our shared passion for holistic spiritual, emotional, physical, and community development and the empowering of local leaders to live out their calling in the stories they invite South Africans into

We aren’t quite sure of the ‘what or how’ as of this writing, but invite you to listen, pray alongside, and speak into our discernment process as we literally hit the road today towards Cape Town. We’ll be meeting with local friends and contacts within Cape Town for the next two weeks, literally walking the streets in an attempt to move towards the land God will show us. NieuCommunities has graciously extended our transition within Church Resource Ministries through the end of March to allow this emerging sense of place and calling to firm before we make a final decision as to our next steps. Maxie and I will then return to Pretoria via Jeffrey’s Bay in an attempt to allow the breathtaking space of an empty door to emerge. We anticipate making a final decision toward the end of March, and will be in communication shortly after that!

[A Financial Update as We Discern]

As you can imagine, our longer than anticipated transition has not enabled us to fundraise the loss of Maxie’s salary after she released her work as the Director of Pure Hope in November, anticipating our possible move to Vancouver. Currently, we are still employed by NieuCommunities/CRM through the end of March, and will communicate our next steps towards the end of that month. If you feel led to partner within us in this transition, a transitional gift would be deeply appreciated and felt. Please support our work here or by contacting Chris privately.

Ash Wednesday at 3rd Place.

Lighting tea lights as a form of prayer.

Download the Ash Wednesday Liturgy I edited and helped facilitate for 3rd Place here.

“Ash Wednesday, an echo of the Hebrew Testament’s ancient call to sackcloth and ashes, is a continuing cry across the centuries that life is transient, that change is urgent. We don’t have enough time to waste on nothingness. We need to repent our dillydallying on the road to God. We need to regret the time we’ve spent playing with dangerous distractions and empty diversions along the way. We need to repent of our senseless excesses and our excursions into sin, our breaches of justice, or failures of honesty, our estrangement from God, our savoring of excess, our absorbing self-gratifications, one infantile addiction, one creature craving another. We need to get back in touch with our souls. ‘Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return,’ the old Sacramentary formula warned us from God’s words to Adam and Eve, as the ashes trickled down our foreheads. We hear now, as Jesus proclaimed in Galilee, ‘Turn away from sin and believe the good news’ (Mk 1:15)” (Joan Chittister).

Love the movement in this shot. Kneeling to receive the ashen cross on one's forehead.

Amazing how beautiful barren branches can be. An apt metaphor of the soul's journey of growth.


Responding to the question of what we are fasting for the season of Lent.

Maxie Kamalski reading a portion of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.


Loved Pierre Du Plessis' comment that at times, we must 'receive' Communion as opposed to 'taking' it.

On the way to 'receive' Communion.


We are here (Ash Wednesday).


Fasting pride...


Ashen crosses all around!


A Facebook fast...appropriate! Love the potential of not finding self-worth in what is posted upon Facebook.


My favorite Ash Wednesday image, shot by Pierre Du Plessis. "Giving up substance abuse as distraction and a form of numbing" POWERFUL! This is why we are on mission in South Africa!

A Playground In Vancouver.

‘Vancouver is a playground awaiting your leadership + vision.’

Rob Yackley’s words continued to ring around our ears as we processed all that we had just dialogued about.

Had Maxie and I been invited into a process of discernment and dialogue or was it just our imagination? Barely a month removed from our honeymoon, we had the clear sense the the later half of 2011 would bring not only a fresh season (the Kamalski’s as newlyweds!) but also a fresh invitation into a listening posture, seeking to understand if God was having us explore a new environment where our visions, personalities, and presence could birth something fresh within the Kingdom story within our world. We knew a few things were clear as we began to wait, ears to the ground:

  • Chris’s two-year commitment to walking alongside NieuCommunities South Africa, helping our missional community transition from a neighborhood in a subhurb far removed from the life of the city, as well as begin to discern how to best apprentice South African leaders into sustainable mission, was well underway as 2011 ‘turned towards home plate.’
  • Maxie was likely ending a long 5-year season in the birth, growth, and launch of her non-profit organization, Pure Hope, a gap-year ministry for students that exposed South Africans to issues of poverty and injustice all throughout their city, and invited the wider church to become educated and engaged in the reality most South Africans live within, as Pure Hope entered into a new season of strategic planning and involvement with Moreleta Park Church, its launchpad.
  • We sensed something missional, globally-focused, and utilizing our shared gifts in partnership and mutual life was likely beginning to unfold before us.

Enter Vancouver, a NieuCommunities missional community that had been ‘on ice’ (pardon the pun) for several years now due to staff transition throughout our larger mission organization, CRM, as well as natural growth within families serving in the wider Vancouver area (babies!) and the need to transition this NC site away from the hosting of a traditional 10-month missional apprenticeship into a fresh season of asking how best to serve, empower, and apprentice Canadians (and all Vancouverites) into the stories God is inviting them to author with their lives. Beginning the morning before our wedding, we begin listening to God together with many within our organization, repeatedly returning to the idea that a fresh set of eyes, ears, and hearts was needed within a strong leadership couple that would help to rebirth and give central leadership to a well-networked area of East Vancouver. To quote Rob’s thoughts after one of our many conversations:

  • “I keep thinking about you guys in Vancouver. I remember what you said about a sense of connection there, and I think you and Maxie are just what Amy needs to help rebirth that community. I know you want to be part of something new, and I think a rebirth of a new kind of NC in Vancouver would give you that kind of experience. That community’s historical integration with local churches and with the poor also seem to be in line with your and Maxie’s bent. I think the chance for you to play a significant leadership role alongside the collective director could be really cool. And the idea of you being in the same city as Tim Warkentin-two potential global gardeners living in the same neighborhood–could be really significant too.”

Maxie and I kept exploring Vancouver, flipping through websites, looking at potential programs for Maxie to possibly begin to study at for a season, and we kept returning to this simple reality:

We need to listen on the ground. Thus, as you scan this email, we are stepping foot onto Canadian soil as winter descends, beginning a process of prayer, vision-casting, and conversation with a number of people, all seeking to discern the same reality: Is God inviting Chris and Maxie to give central leadership in helping to rebirth a fresh expression of mission and God’s Kingdom in the heart of Vancouver?

We are not certain–but we are certain of this: Will you please journey with us as we walk the streets through December 19th? Please pray for:

  • Clarity and confidence as we discern the Spirit’s direction for our next steps
  • Potential alignment with the people, potential community and leadership, and city of Vancouver
  • Growing awareness and conviction to engage our lives with the needs of a large, multi-cultural, largely post-Christian city
  • Peace and passion as we begin to dialogue towards a decision sometime around Christmas.

If you are interested in partnering with our work, please go here.

If you feel led to prayerfully listen on our behalf, and feel led to share that with us, please email Chris at

We love and need you more than ever! ~Chraxie

Under Construction.

The InnerChange South Africa team and property, both under construction. (Pictured L to R: Julie, Rebekah, Luc Kabongo, Johannes Manganye, Emily Rhoades; Not Pictured: Petunia, Moskie, Bahati Kabongo).

Incarnation is extremely difficult within the context of one’s own family, let alone towards neighbors next door. To deliberately choose to live among fellow South Africans in Soshanguve, a township just outside Pretoria, is another matter entirely. I have great respect and admiration for my dear friends within InnerChange, an incarnational order made up of communities of people who vow to live among the poor and marginalized of our world, in as similar a manner and way of life as possible to those around them. I count Luc and Petunia Kabongo as some of my dearest friends here in South Africa, and really value spending time facilitating spiritual direction, reflection, and internal prayer with their team one Tuesday morning each month.

Generally, I arrive just as breakfast has started and join the team for a common meal, followed by one of the my favorite things that InnerChange does as an order, which is spend part of each Tuesday morning praying for an individual + team as an entire order. A team member from one of their 20+ communities sends around a widely distributed email, and ICSA uses symbols from each region of the world to both remember, and intercede for, this particular team. I love sharing in the wider work of what my CRM family is up to around the globe! We then spend time interceding for each other, and the work of mission that God has placed within our hands. Usually, Luc or one of the other teammates then leads a short discussion around some missional content for the morning.

Luc then ‘turns the mic over to Chris,’ which I find awkward since there is no sound system present! It has been a long journey in discerning how best to introduce concepts of listening, discernment, reflective prayer, and spiritual formation to a mixed team of men and women, Africans and Westerners. I find myself constantly having to shift worlds. A simple example of this is the fact that for many Africans, silence of any form is a foreign and relatively unwelcome occurence, as opposed to a central discipline of spirituality for many Western Christ-followers. I try to blend a mixture of reflective journaling, spiritual formation exercises, and open sharing (again, a relatively foreign concept for Africans who are typically used to listening respectfully to any pastor or ‘leader’ who speaks with authority). It’s been a stretch at times, but I am beginning to see some fruit in simply ’tilling the soil’ of a different form of spiritual experience.

InnerChange South Africa is under construction in all ways at the moment, so walking alongside their team as ‘spiritual director’ is really interesting right now. As a team, they are growing (from 3 to 6 full-time community members), doubling in the past year. As a physical presence within Block HH in Soshanguve, they are more and more well known, embarking on a massive renovation/expansion of Luc and Petunia’s home in Soshanguve for the purpose of hosting guests as well as a central ministry location for their growing missional reach.

I love what God is up to in the lives of my friends!

Apparently, something smells.

August 2011

God is at work in Cambodia…

Seed Stories [July 2011].

The CRM family, at work in Japan post-tsunami.

Every quarter, CRM, the larger mission organization NieuCommunities is a part of, sends out a newsletter that has a simple aim: To tell stories that highlight brief snapshots of God at work through the larger family that CRM represents worldwide. At last count, CRM has over 450+ missionaries in 25+ countries worldwide. A global family, our organization is truly multi-cultural, with over 25% of our staff being non-American in ethnicity, which is quite remarkable for an American-based organization. Enjoy a few stories from the extended family!

[CRM Seed Stories, July 2011] <–Download Seed Stories PDF here.

The CRM family, at work in Russia.

Imago Christi is an amazing CRM ministry based out of Colorado.

Thursday: The Art Of Conversation.

My mom won't like that I'm reposting this photo of our Skype moments after Maxie and I got engaged, but it explains so much about the realities of life and mission half way around the world from your folks. Making memories via Macbook Pros!

Cracking my eyes open, I headed over to Joe and Natalie Reed’s house early Thursday morning for breakfast with our NieuCommunities Staff team, which is always a fun time around the table as the Reed’s have 3 children under 5! Malachi, their youngest, is in the early walking/touching everything/exploring stage, which means that he experiments with things like how to tear his bacon, egg + cheese biscuit all apart in every which way, dropping pieces of cheese all over the floor in an effort to follow his big sister Keziah around the table. Usually, I lose my shoes at least once every Thursday morning, this week being no exception, as Keziah loves playing under the table being silly (This week’s episode: Keziah as a horse, Malachi riding her by sitting on her head!).

We lingered over the breakfast table with the crisp autumn air bringing a chill into the dining room surrounding us, creating a sluggish, yet homey feel to the morning. It has been a long series of weeks for our team, from moving forward in new ministry initiatives to saying goodbye (for now) to Jody and his Rwandan fiance, Francine, to someone preparing for marriage in our team’s midst (Woo-hoo!). It seemed like no one really wanted to move forward into the morning’s activities, in which I was going to introduce some meditative reflection around the concept of God desiring connection with us, and then facilitating group spiritual direction for our team.

So we made the call: Let’s just scrap morning plans, keep chatting, and leave early! We did just that, and I must tell you, I think everyone sighed a bit, refreshed with the freedom to choose what we needed most as a team in that moment, as opposed to forcing ourselves forward. Sometimes giving yourself permission to choose what you truly need is the hardest thing, is it not?

The afternoon was spent in a flurry of wedding/my life is changing and I am becoming ‘two’ not one activities, which seem a part of each day in this season, and which I actually kind of enjoy most of the time. It truly is a revolutionary thing in our society for two people to make a willful choice to commit to each other, and then join separate lives together in a merged and growing union. I find it surreal that this is happening between Maxie and I, and yet am growing both in excitement and a settled sense of peace that this is what I want more than anything else.

Hence, a 2-hour Skype with Johnny Wilson filled most of our afternoon. Johnny is a part of the Church Resource Ministries family with me, and has served as a part of the Staff Care and Development team for several years now. Johnny has loosely coached me via Skype for this past year, and mentioned to me once Maxie and I were engaged that he had facilitated hundreds of couples in working through a marriage enrichment curriculum entitled “Prepare and Enrich.” It’s essentially an assessment that both individuals take that is scored and then expanded upon for Johnny’s eyes only, consisting of 7 or 8 topics central to most struggles within marriage (The classics: Sex, Family, Conflict, Communication Styles, Finances, Expectations, Spiritual Beliefs, etc). This was our 3rd session with him with another coming prior to our wedding and likely some followup afterwards.

It really takes some effort to get used to counseling/sharing via Skype, particularly when bandwidth limitations prevent the usage of video most of the time (Bandwidth remains expensive and not unlimited for most in South Africa). Presence with another involves focus and largely looking at someone, and when this is not present, concentration is super hard! Nonetheless, Johnny shared some valuable insights with us and continues to cheer us on as we head towards marriage from his home in North Carolina. The big insight from yesterday: Continued understanding just how much marriage is a choice of commitment and love that is something to be built into, and grown throughout the years. I was blown away when he mentioned that he has been married to Sue now for 40 years!

All in all, a tiring, but great afternoon!

(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?’)

So What Do We Do When The Police Come To Take Our Lives?

So grateful to work globally alongside saints such as Norris!

Yesterday I received my monthly donor support letter from CRM, our parent mission organization. At the start of each month, a story from a CRM missionary somewhere in the globe is distributed as a way to say thanks to the thousands of individual donors that support the 425+ CRM missionaries serving God in 25 countries worldwide. Norris Williams works with (largely) underground church planters throughout the Middle East. Whenever I hear a story about him, it puts my work here in Pretoria in such perspective! I thought I’d post his story in its entirety in the JPG above. A question asked of him at a recent church planting training alone demands the read: “So what do we do when the police come to take our lives?”

The downloadable PDF version of this story is here: Norris Williams Letter

I am humbled to serve God in the same family as this CRM brother, and hope to live with such undaunting courage! Enjoy the story above…

At Some Point, We All Must Go.

Sending out Doug + Colletta Rhoads from our midst to plant a new missional team within Block KK of Soshanguve.

Shortly after I returned to Pretoria to begin work as Field Staff a year ago, our missional community quickly realized that NieuCommunities still found itself entering into a season of transition. Initially we believed that as several Field Staff had moved into different areas of mission around the country or with CRM in other parts of the world, a transition of leadership was what God had in store for our community. In October 2009, that change was clarified, resulting in a dramatic shift of focus (from hosting a 42-week missional apprenticeship program each year, which largely served North Americans, to seeking to apprentice South African leaders alone into sustainable mission around the globe) that caused us to move into the heart of Pretoria, eventually settling within the Clydesdale neighborhood.

Back to my initial sentence, however.

As I returned to help shepherd this transition of place, mandate, and staff, the Spirit of God clearly helped us see that the transition we thought already largely completed was in fact just beginning. As the ‘formation guy’ for our staff, I scrambled around for anything relevant to help us discern the Spirit’s voice in this process, ultimately landing on Parker Palmer’s brilliant take on the ancient Quaker spiritual discipline of A Clearness Committee (Download Palmer’s PDF here):

Parker Palmer defines the purpose of A Clearness Committee as follows:

“Behind the Clearness Committee is a simple but crucial conviction: each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems. But that inner voice is often garbled by various kinds of inward and outward interference. The function of the Clearness Committee is not to give advice or ‘fix’ people from the outside in but rather to help people remove the interference so that they can discover their own wisdom from the inside out. If we do not believe in the reality of inner wisdom, the Clearness Committee can become an opportunity for manipulation. But if we respect the power of the inner teacher, the Clearness Committee can be a remarkable way to help someone name and claim his or her deepest truth.”

Later in his article, Palmer describes what the Spirit can do in the midst of a group of people seeking clarity of vocational call for a dear friend, writing:

“The Clearness Committee is not a cure-all. It is not for extremely fragile people or for extremely delicate problems. But for the right person, with the right issue, it is a powerful way to rally the strength of community around a struggling soul, to draw deeply from the wisdom within all of us. It teaches us to abandon the pretense that we know what is best for another person and instead to ask those honest and open questions that can help that person find his or her own answers. It teaches us to give up the arrogant assumption that we are obliged to ‘save’ each other and learn, through simple listening, to create the conditions that allow a person to find his or her wholeness within. If the spiritual discipline behind the Clearness Committee is understood and practiced, the process can become a way to renew community in our individualist times, a way to free people from their isolation without threatening their integrity, a way to counteract the excesses of technique in caring, a way to create space for the spirit to move among us with healing and with power.”

For several weeks I helped facilitate a weekly space in which remaining members of our community (some Field Staff, some former apprentices, some other CRM people working in different collectives) came together for the express purpose of listening without comment or agenda, asking honest, clarifying questions that helped a person come to a design regarding what God was asking them to do with their vocational call. Interpersonal, family, work, mission, and many other dynamics were at play, but a common thread emerged that was simple, yet profound:

When we intentionally allow the Spirit room to move among us, seeking to listen for His voice, God always shows up and speaks.

Jody playing the exasperated Father to Noel's eager son in a skit.

After a season of this, we began to enter another season of clearness and discernment with two other groups of people near the end of 2010, Jody Thomas, and Doug + Colletta Rhoads. Jody was an apprentice with NieuCommunities in 2008 and had a profound year through which God grew a tremendous burden and calling to work alongside Zimbabwean refugees within South Africa, ultimately possibly leading towards full-time missional work within Zimbabwe itself. He had returned for a 9-month internship with NCSA for the express purpose of testing this passion. With just over a month remaining, we are excited to report that not only is Jody engaged to a wonderful Rwandan named Francine, but that Jody is moving towards returning to NieuCommunities at the end of this year as Field Staff with his new wife, having clarified his call and sensing that a further season of development and work among the existing Zimbabwean community here in Pretoria (There are many!) is where he is to focus at this time.

The Rhoads walked a much different path than Jody. Doug Rhoads has been involved with NieuCommunities since 2005, and is the longest remaining Field Staff among our team. Colletta Rhoads (Formerly Cole) was an apprentice alongside myself and Curtis Love in 2009. Not only did she sense a call to South Africa, she fell in love with Doug, marrying him this past June. Returning to our community in early August, they had a growing sense that God was moving them towards life and mission within Soshanguve, a large township outside Pretoria that another CRM team, InnerChange South Africa, works within. Yet they were unsure of the what, when, and how.

Clearness begins again, and was difficult at times with the adjustment to married life, shared ministry, and the individual callings Doug and Colletta were now bringing together. Ultimately however, in January the Rhoads began exploring starting an Ethne team out in Block KK of Soshanguve, another expression of CRM that focuses on work with a specific ethnic group of people. Through a long process, this has been confirmed!

Curtis Love praying over the Rhoads at the close of a late summer evening.

Thus, our community found itself circling Doug and Colletta two weeks ago, engaging in the bittersweet custom of laying hands on them to send our dear friends out from our midst…this time not out of the country, but to a sister city + sister mission within our little tribe. As we commissioned them outwards, we prayed over them, realizing that in a deep way, we are all sent ones. To be involved in this work means to embrace the inevitable reality that at some point, we all must go, following the wind of the Spirit as faithfully as possible.

We’ll do the same thing with Jody in a month, and at some point, with everyone in our community. The Future Kamalski’s will even be sent out at some undetermined point in the future…

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