Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: missional living

A Monster Slowly Dying?

(Each Wednesday 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?’)

This past Sunday evening at 3rd Place I reconnected with Nic Delport, a sharp young theology student at University of Pretoria who facilitates 3rd Word, weekly discussions on the Scriptures for our young church community. Nic has just entered into his practical year of studies, essentially a mixture of internship and practical learning opportunities that seems to include a bit of travel for most young South Africans, whereby they visit and learn from other faith practioners throughout the globe (Side note: What a healthy practice for Western seminaries to begin, although my hunch is that there is a lingering mentality that Africans ‘must travel West’ for the ‘best’ in theological thinking, which I find to be rubbish).

Needless to say, Nic had just returned from a month visit to the States where he spent time with his girlfriend who works for Disneyworld as an “African animals expert” of some sort (Another HA!). Sunday night, Nic walked straight up to me and asked to have coffee early this week, wanting to ‘share his experience with Americans’ with one of three Americans he knows in Pretoria. Amused and a bit curious, I quickly agreed, and set up coffee for Tuesday afternoon.

Our conversation meandered all over the place, from the familiar (“Everything is huge! I like Motel 6’s! The food portions are massive, and I love meat!”), to the ‘truer than I’d like to admit about my countrymen’ (“It seems like most people I met were incredibly overweight! People were largely disinterested in conversation with me, and rarely asked anything about my life and experience as a South African”), to the universal (a lot of shared laughter over cultural mis-steps that take place whenever anyone enters into a culture foreign to their own).

As we were leaving, Nic said something that stopped me in my tracks, and has my mind spinning even now as I type these words. Even though it was merely his observation, I wonder if he is onto something. Nic said, “I think the States are like a monster slowly dying, and that for most Americans the US is the whole world to themselves.” Granted, this perspective may be somewhat harsh, and not accurately reflect both the political, economic, nor spiritual realities of America’s standing in the world. I found myself instinctively wincing as he made these comments, simultaneously wanting to defend my homeland while admitting that in some instances, he may have a point.

With the growing chatter of China and India’s massive growth in almost every sector of public life, seen in arenas as serious as Time magazine features to the silliness of the recent Office episode spoof where Michael Scott voices America’s anxiety in hilarious ways, to the lingering effects of the recession and subsequent lack of new job creation, I wonder if Nic could be onto something.

Regardless of agreement with his assessment however, I found myself ‘on mission’ yesterday morning simply listening to the experiences of my South African friend, offering an ear in helping Nic process the wild mixture of emotions he faced while in the States last month. Sometimes I wonder exactly what it means to be an incarnational reflection of Jesus as an American in the midst of the complex reality that is South Africa. Yesterday, that simply meant coffee with Nic, listening as he reflected on time in my homeland. I hope it served him as much as it helped me…

The (1/2) Week That Was: March 12th-16th, 2009.

Fake astroturf makes for a sweet Apprentice pic! (Clockwise from me in army green: Me, Adrienne, Oupa, Melanie, Tony, Colletta, Curtis, Busi)

Fake astroturf makes for a sweet Apprentice pic! (Clockwise from me in army green: Me, Adrienne, Oupa, Melanie, Tony, Colletta, Curtis, Busi)

The (1/2)Week That Was: Spent Thursday morning with a fantastic group of South Africans (Cobus, the seminary graduate I mentioned previously, that I will likely do some spiritual formation/direction work with this year; Tom Smith, a pastor in Jo’Burg that leads a fairly revolutionary church called Claypot; Annemie Bosch, David Bosch’s widow and a brilliant thinker in her own right; a friend of Cobus’ named Marina) and Americans (Myself; Arthur Stewart, our NCSA Director; and Joe Reed, new staff member) beginning to read Transforming Mission by David Bosch. I’ve yet to post on this, but my friends have, and let’s just say that the discussion was profound. Take a look at what has been reflected on so far:

*Cobus’s thoughts; *Tom Smith’s thoughts; *Arthur Stewart’s thoughts; *Joe Reed’s thoughts

Suffice to say, our discussion was revolutionary–and that was largely confined to one page of comments (the ubiquitous page 49!). Much more on this discussion as it unfolds throughout this year. One minor thought prior to moving on: It was SO HEALTHY for me to get off of Pangani’s (beautiful) site and into a South African home to discuss this in mixed company (gender and ethnicity). The discussion crackled with different points of view, yet a shared common heart.

Friday was spent preparing for Rhythm (our Friday evening common meal, worship, and prayer gathering for our extended community–our version of a ‘service’), in which I was assisting Adrienne and Bryan in St. Ignatius’ version of contemplative (imaginative) prayer. We showed a powerful clip from the beginning of Finding Neverland where the boy who would be later written as Peter questions J.M. Barrie as to whether imagination has any place in life, which set us up perfectly for a guided experience in placing ourselves in the text of John 9:1-11. So profound to hear how God was (and is) speaking to our community as we ‘practiced’ sanctifying our imaginations by deliberately entering into a text as if it is alive and speaking to us still. I am still moved by our time, and was so touched on a creative level to engage my imagination as this burgeoning desire in me unfolds to engage my artistic/creative side through writing and photography. I even used pastels to paint a picture for a learning conversation on Friday, and it wasn’t half bad! Plus, we ended Friday night by watching the whole film of Finding Neverland.

Saturday and Sunday were a blur for me–super exhausted and drained from a great, heavy week here considering ministry options and engaging my heart. Need to find the balance between rest, grace, fun, and isolation–spent way too much time watching old Office episodes. Melanie and I (the two introverts) went together to separate movies Sunday night (Finally caught The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I thought was good in some parts, boring in others, beautifully shot, and made an excellent point about the ability to ‘re-start’ one’s life if you aren’t satisfied where yours is heading).

Today I met with Cobus again to continue dreaming about spiritual formation/direction stuff, and we also toured the city with the Twashane Leadership Foundation (TLF), a consortium of inner-city ministries in Pretoria that seek to care for the city and it’s inhabitants on a holistic level. Lots to chew on. Where I Am At The Moment: Staying up past my bedtime outside (A hint of the coolness of a Fall evening is nipping at my skin!).

On My To-Do List This Week: Getting up at O’Dark AM tomorrow to finish Grip-Burkman stuff (more on this later), ’cause Hal Burke, our consultant, just arrived tonight to lead us in a ‘grip’ (Pun fully intended) of team-training and personal leadership development exercises Wednesday-Friday this week. I’m actually stoked that he is here, although he seems to be a USC fan, which is horrible. More on this later AS WELL (Aly).

Procrastinating About: Financial stuff like finishing my taxes (Uggh), setting up a savings account (Huh?), and updating my personal donor records (DO IT!).

Books I’m In The Midst Of: Thinking the most about Transforming Mission right now. I’m loving the engagement of a group of people who love God deeply, have studied theologically at a fairly high level, are in various roles of leadership and influence, and yet are asking highly personal questions about missional living–such as Joe’s question of whether he should truly go through with getting barbed wire for his fence.

On The Current iTunes Playlist: Old-school Passion worship stuff.

I’m Thinking About: How I can live stategically and missionally for maximum impact this year (Sounds like a John Maxwell statement, but it is a deep thought of mine right now).

Next Trip: Down to Lorraine’s for my first Supervision with her group of Spiritual Director’s this Wednesday. Excited and curious about this!

How I’m Feeling About This Week: Pretty amped. Mission and ministry stuff seems to be slowly falling into place–The question is when/how/how much for me right now. I feel like I’m beginning to connect with locals such as Cobus, which is awesome.

Prayer Request: Three: 1) Discernment in how to provide spiritual direction and care to care workers in Soshanguve, as well as possibly to Cobus and friends from his theological studies. 2)Appropriate pace in moving forward in these ventures. 3)Discipline to catch up on things I have been procrastinating on, such as donor stuff.

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