Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: Prison

Gesit By Die Huis.

Prison makes sense if one has nothing to do.

Sitting with our friends in Enthomjeni Youth Prison this morning working through our Life Compass curriculum with them, Maxie was beginning to explain how each of the guys should take a personality assessment (Extrovert/Introvert stuff..) that a local educational psychologist would score this week in preparation for her visit with us to explain how personality affects choice and life direction this coming week. The personality assessment has a space where you list your current occupation (Favorite past response to this question: “Robbery.”). We were joking with the guys this morning that none of them were allowed to write in ‘prisoner’ or ‘house break-in,’ which they all found hilarious, and if an effort to not discourage they guys, Maxie wisely suggested that they write down what they used to do prior to being in prison.

One of the kindest, most interesting guys in the course this time is a young man named Wayne Poe. Wayne mentioned that he loves to swim, which Maxie and I both found super interesting, as a lot of South Africans from more impoverished backgrounds haven’t had the privilege to learn how to swim before, and have somewhat of an innate fear of water. When we were leaving prison this morning, Maxie pulled out Wayne’s paper and simultaneously smiled and sighed with the weight of his answer as to his previous occupation:

“Gesit By Die Huis” (Translated from Afrikaans, this means “Sitting Around The House).

We laughed at the irony of this response, while shaking our heads at how ensnaring poverty truly is. We both found ourselves wondering, If Wayne was given enough opportunity to pursue swimming instead of sitting around the house, would his lack of boredom have prevented him from a life of crime?

[Our most recent ‘Field Stories’ update ‘Refusing to Perish,’ about our work with fellow inmates like Wayne, can be downloaded here]

[Our latest ’60* Second Field Stories’ email can be read here]

Imprisoned? (Project 365, Day 197).

Aperture: f/5.6     Focal Length: 49 mm     ISO: 100     Shutter Speed: 1/249 second


Jailbreak (Project 365, Day 174).

Aperture: f/5.6     Focal Length: 28 mm     ISO: 100     Shutter Speed: 1/1000 second



Goosebumps + Throat Lumps (2010 Year-End Report).

  • ONLINE FINANCIAL PARTNERSHIP HERE! (My monthly financial need in 2011 is $2,908. Currently, I forecast approximately $2,431 in monthly partnership in 2011. Simple subtraction tells you that I need to raise an additional $477 in actual funds a month to meet my financial needs.)
  • [2010 YEAR-END REPORT] (Looking back on all God has written in the 9 months I have lived on mission in Pretoria…looking ahead to 2011 and what is peeking forward on the horizon; plus my 2011 Financial Needs Forecast)


Last Wednesday, Conrad Damies, a young man serving multiple years in Baavianspoort Youth Prison for a terrible, violent choice he made in his past, stood up in front of myself, Maxie (my South African lady and the Director of Pure Hope, a non-profict ministry dedicated to being a catalyst for hope and exposure to issues of poverty and injustice in South Africa), and Wessel, a man who has given his life to working alongside the correctional system to mentor, develop, and release rehabilitated inmates back into South African society, and declared the following as a culmination of a months-long process of developing a fresh vision for his life:

“I want to be a place where there can be peace, a place where people can come who think they have made mistakes, a safe place where they can speak out their problems. I want to be a source of life for those who spent most of their time with me; I want to be a place that provides encouragement for those with broken hearts, I want to be a place for those who come from afar and a source of life for those that are close and around me. I want to be a place where people can come and fish, get some advice or to just get fresh air and maybe even spend the night. I just want to impart joy, love, build character and be a friend. Even if some just come and throw their garbage in me I will never change – that is what makes me different from the sea, I like being a lake. There is no other metaphor I will take that is more powerful than ‘The Encouragement Lake.'”

Goosebumps covering our bodies + large lumps in our throats, we celebrated his vision alongside six other inmates in a bittersweet ‘graduation ceremony’ upon the completion of the Life Compass process with a group of guys who have become very dear to our hearts. As we walked through the long barbed-wire hallways to our cars after this ceremony for the last time in 2010, I found myself turning to Maxie (as it seems I do each week) and remarking, “This is the best thing I am apart of each week–I truly feel as if I am engaging in the actual transformation of South African lives!”

Countless other stories such as this small moment make up the kaleidoscope of life + work that I am engaged in as a part of NieuCommunities South Africa, our small missional community who moved into the heart of Pretoria in July of this year. Often, I find it hard to describe what how I am “apprenticing South African leaders into sustainable mission around the world,” as life transformation is slow and messy, often defying simple description. Yet this picture from last Wednesday hopefully crystalizes our mandate into an actual life. Conrad = Why I am here on mission in South Africa.

The Christmas season is upon us, and I know that you are highly busy. I’m writing for three reasons:

  1. To thank you sincerely for partnering with me in finances + prayers this year (I truly am here because of you!).
  2. To update you on my work as a part of NieuCommunities South Africa (Click the link below for my 2010 Year-End Report)
  3. To forecast my financial needs as 2011 approaches and ask you without shame or hesitation to consider how God may be asking you to continue partnering with me financially in this coming year.

One paragraph on my financial needs: My monthly financial need in 2011 is $2,908. Currently, I forecast approximately $2,431 in monthly partnership in 2011. Simple subtraction tells you that I need to raise an additional $477 in actual funds a month to meet my financial needs. My budget increased $280 month in 2011 for several reasons:

  • NCSA’s move into Clydesdale, a suburb with dramatically higher rent/utilities costs.
  • The strengthening of the Dollar/ Rand exchange rate ($1=R6.8 currently, down from R8+ in early 2010).
  • A year spent in South Africa helping me accurately reflect my budgetary needs (I am learning to pay for what I spend!)

I am overly aware of how inundated everyone is at this time of year for end of the year-giving requests, dramatic needs, etc. I don’t want to minimize my need (it is real!), nor the fact that my budget has been too tight for comfort this past year. Yet I know that you face real choices as well in your own life.  Will you pray and seek God for how you can partner with me, and let me know in the next few weeks?

If you would like to support online, simply click this link:

If you would prefer to send in your gift in the mail, download the support card, fill out the details, and send into CRM at the address on the card.

I am deeply grateful for your generosity and belief in me on mission here in South Africa,


PS: Enjoy a ‘veritable cornucopia’ of windows into all I have been involved with this past year…click on all links below!

  • [2010 YEAR-END REPORT] (Looking back on all God has written in the 9 months I have lived on mission in Pretoria…looking ahead to 2011 and what is peeking forward on the horizon; plus my 2011 Financial Needs Forecast)



  • [60*SECOND STORIES] (Brand-new 2011 venture into video-blogging through my YouTube Channel, seeking to tell the stories of missional transformation and life in South Africa through short 60 second(ish) clips)
    • Meet Lewis (The unfolding story of Lewis Mhlongo, a Zimbabwean youth in prison we are working with to develop a vision for life after the completion of his sentence)
    • Coffee At Wimpy’s (Walking alongside Nosiat, a Catholic friend with a heart to see fresh missional expression within her parish)
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