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.
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!
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…