Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: NieuCommunities South Africa

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?’)

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!

Joe Reed (Project 365, Day 52).

Aperture: f/5.6     Focal Length: 55 mm     ISO: 100     Shutter Speed: 1/125 second

[Field Stories] ::: {Ke Nako!}

[Field Stories] – {Ke Nako}

Enjoy my latest [Field Stories] update on a wild month of spectacular celebration as the 2010 FIFA World Cup descended upon South African shores…

[Field Stories Apr 2010] ::: {Transitional/Rhythm}

A perfect way to procrastinate on a Friday: Skimming my latest [Field Stories Apr 2010] ::: {Transitional/Rhythm} life and mission update.  Download and enjoy by clicking the PDF link above!

Why I Am Returning To South Africa 4.

My dear group of Care Worker friends in Soshanguve.

Here’s How You Can Help Me.

I see 4 avenues of missional engagement with South Africans as the primary ‘currents’ within which I’ll swim as I return to South Africa for the next two years. Here’s the third avenue I see myself engaged in:

3. Spiritual Direction & Training of Care Workers in Soshanguve, a local township slum: I will continue my work with our sister tribe, InnerChange, an incarnational order that lives among the poor of Soshanguve, a local township slum area of 1.5 million South Africans about 20 miles outside of Pretoria. I will be partnering with Luc and Petunia Kabongo to train, mentor, and provide spiritual direction for their growing team living throughout this township by providing self-care and sustainable training for a group of 25 Care Workers. They are frontline hands and feet in the fight against the devastation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa (Highest AIDS rate in the world!) as part of a home-based NGO that provides medical care to those dying of HIV/AIDS & related diseases.

My role is to care for these care workers.

Why I Am Returning To South Africa 3.

Downtown Pretoria from the top of the National Zoo (We will move to a neighborhood to the left of this photo)

Here’s How You Can Help Me.

As I wrote yesterday, I see 4 avenues of missional engagement with South Africans as the primary ‘currents’ within which I’ll swim as I return to South Africa for the next two years. Here’s the second avenue I see myself engaged in:

2. Transitioning our Community to move into the heart of downtown Pretoria so we can mentor & send South Africans: As a missional community seeking to incarnate within a neighborhood as a redemptive presence for all who we live among, NieuCommunities South Africa will move into the heart of downtown Pretoria in May 2010, specifically a set of neighborhoods that represent a lower-income, cross-pollination of South Africans that are of native South African, Afrikaans (Dutch), and British South African descent.  This area is one of a few neighborhoods where South Africans of different ethnicities actually live together, and thus is an area of great promise for us as a missional community. We will work closely in partnership with a number of churches and non-profits located throughout the city, as well as with the large university student population that lives directly in that area.