Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: spiritual direction

Wednesday: Refreshing Spaces.

Joe Reed leading a typical staff his doodles!

Woke up pretty exhausted from a long Tuesday of mission and work, albeit a great day. Wanted to sleep until way past noon but instead got up and shuffled off on a series of errands including getting the sexiest wedding suit ever as well as finally putting some food back in my fridge.

Heading home, I grabbed some leftover pasta from our gathering Tuesday night (Thanks Curtis for making too much!) and re-read through a chapter of The Celtic Way Of Evangelism, a profound book that has shaped much of CRM’s work around the world, particularly NieuCommunities‘ desire to see its core work of mission flowing out of a living, breathing, holistic community that lives among those whom we are working with. Our Core Leadership meeting was about to start with Joe Reed, our Director, and Curtis Love, and among many things on the agenda (an upcoming Road Trip/exposure experience for a group of Americans in a shared trip hosted by Pure Hope and us, as well as the beginning of an evaluation of what environments we find ourselves working in (Curtis put together an excellent evaluation tool for us) we began with a book discussion.

We find ourselves in an interesting space as a missional community, just over one year after having dramatically refocused our mandate towards apprenticing South African leaders in the way of Jesus into sustainable mission around the globe. We have been exploring many avenues of service and engagement as a team, including discipling relationships with university students, coaching a variety of friends and strategic partners, as well as offering Life Compass vocational/vision training at 3rd Place and in a local youth prison. Although this wide focus has been invaluable for us this past year, it likely is time to begin tightening the reigns a bit, refocusing on what we do best as a missional community. Hence, time to read The Celtic Way again.

Rest, leading to renewal. At Mohale Rest + Renewal.

Shortly after our staff meeting finished, I dashed off to Pretoria North, where NieuCommunities South Africa was formerly based for almost 7 years, to join several spiritual directors in a monthly rhythm of supervision led by an experienced spiritual director and head of a wonderful retreat center, Mohale Rest + Renewal. Lorraine Groenwald has hosted our missional community many times over the years, and provides a restful, restorative place in the midst of Pretoria North, a retreat center spread out over several homes next door to each other in our old neighborhood. We spent 90 minutes this afternoon centering ourselves in how God is speaking in our lives, and then prayerfully listening to and reflecting back towards each other regarding a whole host of issues related to the spiritual direction we offer to those around us. Primarily, I am facilitating monthly group spiritual direction for both our NieuCommunities team as well as our friends in Soshanguve, InnerChange South Africa. It was so refreshing to return to a more formalized supervision space (in a sense, supervision of spiritual directors is simply spiritual direction for spiritual directors, or a space for those who help others listen to God to listen to God at work in their lives themselves), and to begin a new monthly rhythm with fellow directors.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this refreshed my soul, and re-awakened both a gift and passion within me to provide consistent, regular sacred space for individuals and groups to encounter God at work in their lives! I hope to return to and invest more effort in this invaluable work post honeymoon!

(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?’)

The Restorative Power Of Things I Am Good At.

Three months of blurry moments. This past season (Is that a small light at the end of the tunnel?) has been filled with deep re-entry culture shock, the warm embrace of re-connecting with family and friends after a year overseas, navigating profoundly conflicting emotions as I turn my eyes towards an imminent return to South Africa for another season of missional service, all the while becoming clearly convinced I am called to invest deeper in ministry partnerships that began this past year with whom I am now just approaching a starting line of service.

This reality has necessitated a seemingly endless amount of financial details, the confusing maze of figuring out how to live overseas on a more permanent basis, and a mess of appointments with friends and family supportive of this endeavor. Short of the invaluable relational time I have had with people who love me, plus many significant moments with donors as I tell the story of God’s work in and through me in South Africa, I find myself swimming in the minutia of detail that needs to be sorted prior to my leave on March 8th. Often, this has seemed more hopeless than profoundly uplifting, more an exercise in pushing through a host of things that I am not naturally gifted in, as opposed to living from a place of openness and responsive availability from my heart, the place where God’s Spirit actually dwells.

An unexpected gift (I hesitate to flippantly use such a word that describes another’s deep tragedy) opened before me Thursday evening, as I spoke with a dear former student of mine who is walking through an engagement that has suddenly ended without much warning. Naturally drawn towards this sort of grief-filled loss given my own relational history, I wanted to offer a listening presence to a hurting friend who is sifting through the wreckage of the loss of a relationship. I won’t betray his confidence in sharing the details of said conversation, other than to remark that opening my heart to another in need (in this murky season of preparation in everything I am not naturally gifted in) is so life-giving to me!

I was startled by the restorative power of doing something I am naturally good at the other night. It was a breath of fresh air, more needed than I realized, in my soul. The momentary nature of its presence awakened something in me that has lay dormant for many months. I want this kind of life.

The Week That Was: March 9th-13th, 2009.

A little Apprentice birthday breakfast for Adrienne at Cappuchino's

A little Apprentice birthday breakfast for Adrienne at Cappuchino's

The Week That Was: You’ve heard plenty of thoughts for now on our community’s experience supporting our brother Oupa this past weekend out in Soshanguve at his brother’s funeral.  In some ways I think we all continue to carry the emotional weight of what we saw and experienced.  Plus, Oupa returned yesterday evening to Pangani, and so our need for compassion in caring for him truly begins now.  This week has been pretty heavy emotionally for some reason.  I don’t know if it is the combination of all of the things we have learned and experienced starting to catch up on us (we’ve been through quite a lot already, and are only 2 1/2 weeks into our first learning posture, “Listening”).  I actually realized this afternoon while spending some time in solitude at Lorraine’s (see post above this one) that I have been out of America now for 50 days, and as of next Monday, will have been outside the US for the longest period in my life.  Mmmmm, a Chipotle burrito sounds really good right now.  Missing home a bit. 

What have I been up to this week though?  Mostly beginning to listen and discern the Spirit’s voice as to where/how/what I am to begin becoming involved with in mission and ministry this year.  On Monday that looked like meeting with Cobus, a sharp young Afrikaner pastor here in Pretoria who is involved in the South African emerging church discussion.  We had a fantastic chat over coffee about everything under the sun, and he was super interested in my experience at the Institute for Spiritual Formation (in fact, he was fairly emotional when I began describing how God had begun to meet me through my time spent in direction).  There is a real possibility that we may continue meeting for direction and other conversation in the spiritual formation world.  

The next day Curtis headed out to Soshanguve with Doug to meet with Luc and Petunia Kabongo, who lead the recently-begun InnerChange team out in the township.  They are seeking help primarily for Petunia’s health care workers/volunteers (she is a Registered Nurse who helps lead a local NGO that does hospice care for HIV/AIDS patients primarily) because of the frequency in which they carry grief and death with them.  Petunia mentioned that there are weeks in which up to five patients pass away that they visit, and that there is no outlet for method to grieving a ‘professional’ loss like that.  I have walked the various Blocks in Sosh that they work in, and can testify that their care is much more relational and friend-like than professional, so I can’t even imagine what it would be like to walk with death in that manner.  We began dreaming about establishing spiritual direction groups for her workers (there are 23 more permanent workers/volunteers), which would be an amazing/hard/powerful environment to be a part of, and to use my gifts in.  Luc and I also began dreaming about possibilities of training various pastors throughout the township that he is in relationship with in how to grieve well.  Seems like much of my work as a spiritual director in Soshanguve may center around this subject matter, which would be profound and growing for me.  I feel heavy considering this possibility however.

Luc Kabongo, Director of InnerChange in Soshanguve, with Daniel, a local youth he mentors.

Luc Kabongo, Director of InnerChange in Soshanguve, with Daniel, a local youth he mentors.

Today, we spent the morning in our Bible time working through a Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading–Google it, profound way to experience the God of the Scriptures) in Psalm 139.  I felt burdened and overwhelmed during much of it, and the line ‘Your strength will support me’ (Ps. 139:10, NLT) just wrecked me.  I desperately need to be carried by God in these days, and wish to live a life in dependence with the Spirit.  We then headed out to celebrate Adrienne’s birthday at Cappuchino’s, a fantastic restaurant, and I got HOOKED UP with a R19.90 breakfast that was the bomb!  Took some sweet pictures, and headed home.  I spent the afternoon at Lorraine’s retreat house just down the road from Pangani (a 7 minute walk), where we explored beginning a spiritual direction relationship together (for myself), and collaborating in some upcoming opportunities to partner with her and her existing network of ministry with the Ignatian Spirituality Center here in Pretoria.  I napped, rested, and just worked on ‘being’ this afternoon. SO NEEDED.  So, that’s me.  You?

Where I Am At The Moment: Sitting in my room slamming out a quick update before we head out to The Cuban Cafe to celebrate Adrienne’s 26th birthday, and Dayna’s mphfdh (undetermined) birthday.  Nursing a headache on a grayish day in Pretoria North that would best be described as a ‘stay in and chill with a hot cup of Rooiboos tea (with milk, sugar, and 1 equal packet), a book, and a fire (if it weren’t still humid summer).  But, dancing, merriness, and mirth await.  I’m excited, aren’t I?

On My To-Do List This Week: So much. Partly why I’m overwhelmed.  Let’s see: Read several books (Transforming Mission by Bosch, Spiritual Direction by Nouwen, a book on leadership for our Grip-Birkman training next week), do a bunch of self-evaluation stuff for our Grip-Birkman training, get out those ‘lovely’ postcards I’m still procrastinating on, begin monthly donor updates.  Not much, huh?

Procrastinating About: Hmm. Apparently To-Do Lists and Procrastination are synonymous this week.  Ugh.

Books I’m In The Midst Of: See above, plus I’ve begun reading Stephen King’s brilliant work on the art of writing a book, On Writing.  Time to start leaning into my gifts here, and begin crafting marvelous collections of lyrical gems (Anybody?).  Seriously though, one of the things I’m so excited about this year is simply beginning to take seriously my writing–through this blog, and into more actual pieces.  I hope I have some books in me…

On The Current iTunes Playlist: New U2.  Didn’t love it at first, but it keeps growing on me with each listen.  And old-school worship songs like DC Talk’s “My Will,” Jars of Clay’s self-titled acoustic album, “Come and Fill Me Up.”  Solid!

I’m Thinking About: Too much.  Want and need to chill.

Next Trip:  Tomorrow.  Head to meet with Cobus and others to begin a reading group in David Bosch’s work Transforming Mission.  His wife will be joining us.  This is widely considered one of ‘the’ books in the missional church conversation, so I can’t wait to dive into it with a wide variety of local South Africans.

South African Word Of The Week: Curtis has been arguing the use of “JACKED UP” this week, debating with us that it actually means an organization that has it’s things sorted and in order.  Obviously, he is wrong.  If I write this sentence, what do you think: “The US economy is jacked up right now.

How I’m Feeling About This Week: Pretty overwhelmed and drained right now.

Prayer Request: Rest.  Being with God, not Doing (I’m fighting running too fast and hard already, and having to always say yes and ‘be on’ with our community. Want to truly be myself).  Discernment, wisdom, and pace in how to move into the above opportunities to engage in practicing spiritual direction here in South Africa.

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