Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: Incarnation

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.


Granny's Family (and likely, my host home) in Soshanguve

Granny's Family (and likely, my host home) in Soshanguve, the local township near Pretoria North.

Submerge |səbˈmərj| verb [ trans. ]: descend below the surface of an area (usually of water). Synoymns: immerse, plunge, sink.

Sub-merging [is] going beneath the surface of a consumer society’s demands and aspirations and finding life with Christ among the poor…Cities exert disproportionate influence in shaping twenty-first century culture.  As author and teacher Ray Bakke observes, cities operate as magnets that draw in the world’s people and as magnets that “breathe out” urban culture everywhere as the desirable norm…[We are] unprepared for and unaccustomed to the pressing level of urban poverty.  Nearly 1 billion people in the world, one-third of urban residents, live in slums.  Even more alarming, slum populations are growing faster than any other demographic sector.  More than ever, seeking the welfare of cities means being prepared to seek the welfare of the poor (John Hayes, Sub-Merge, pps. 14-16).

I am writing this in the middle of the night (literally) Monday morning, a few hours before I need to wake up and begin my 11th (!) week of life, mission, and service here in Pretoria, South Africa.  I’m up mainly because I just spent a few precious moments on Skype (bless all technological geniuses!) with my family (Hello Gerdts’, Linda, Woods, Fullmer’s, and of course, Kamalski’s) as they gathered for a Southern-style Easter.  But I’m staying awake a few minutes as I feel the Spirit beginning to shift my heart towards the major experience of these next few days, namely that of submerging into, and living with, friends of our community who stay in Block KK of Soshanguve.

I haven’t written much about ‘Sosh’ yet, and frankly, don’t intend to at this juncture either.  Soshanguve is the local (one of many, and encompassing a much larger urban sprawl outside of Pretoria) township about 20 minutes outside of Pretoria.  South African townships, in the most general sense, were former areas in which the urban (largely black) poor lived, often near Afrikaaner or British South African (white) suburbs/cities.  Think of them as complex slum/rural/poor neighborhoods, although that generalization isn’t entirely helpful either, as there are nice portions of the township as well, and many of the Blocks in Soshanguve have running water, sewage, and electricity (although these ‘features’ may be somewhat different from modern, ‘Western’ ideas of adequate services).

Do think size though.  In an impossible estimation, most people consider between 1 to 1.5 million people to live within Soshanguve.  I’ve posted previously about my experience in Soshanguve participating in the funeral services for my roommate Johannes’ brother.  I simply can’t do justice to the immensity of need, human life, and activity that pulses through Soshanguve (and the innumerable similar townships in every major urban center worldwide, including areas within California that we would potentially call ‘urban ghettos (I don’t like the stereotypes associate with this name):’ East Palo Alto, East San Jose, The Tenderloin, Compton/Watts, Santa Ana, portions of Riverside.  What has been humbling to consider are two diametrically opposed factors: Our world is much different than the world I typically inhabit, and my reality often prohibits me from even being able to see with honesty how others live. I don’t write this in a judgmental fashion (either upon myself, or on the ubiquitous category of ‘others,’), and yet I wish to learn, grown, and open my eyes to the wider world (even to our ‘neighbors’ nearby in Sosh).  

In an effort to open our eyes, our apprentice community will be spending the next three days living with our friends out in Soshanguve.  We have no ‘purpose’ other than to simply ‘be with’ our friends, living life as normally as possible with them.  We will (try and) help them cook, clean, run errands, tidy the house, and travel with them to complete their daily business.  We’ll sleep in their homes, share meals (and the post-meal dance party!), and communicate as best as we possibly can.  We’ll be treated as royalty, as hospitality is a deep art form throughout South Africa, particularly within the township.  We’ll be uncomfortable at times, we’ll stick out like sore thumbs, and we’ll be exposed to our own sense of well-being, warts and all.

I expect these next 48 hours to be profoundly impacting, and hopefully a taste of what true incarnation (living with and among) looks like.

More to come, and prayers would be coveted!

Granny's neighbors across the street in Block KK, Soshanguve.

Granny's neighbors across the street in Block KK, Soshanguve.

%d bloggers like this: