Becoming Chris Kamalski

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

Tag: Transforming Mission

My Own Internal Reluctance.

“My Own Internal Reluctance.”

Falling from Tom Smith’s lips as a way of explaining his rationale in not engaging with poverty in a more profound way in his daily life, I sat in our second book discussion of David Bosch’s master work, Transforming Mission, profoundly disturbed by the searing truth of Tom’s words.  Have you experienced those brief moments when all becomes clear, as if your mind starts to order fragmented thought, flashes of desire, and your fleeting heart passions into one cohesive statement of fact?  The phrase above was that experience for me this morning.  

So much could be/should be reflected upon our shared conversations thus far, and I’m sure both myself and others will pour out their thoughts in the next few days, and throughout the course of this amazing discussion that is unfolding. We ‘attempted’ to unpack some of Bosch’s thoughts in terms of how Matthew’s theology of mission as shown through his writing, and (again) barely scratched the surface of Bosch’s masterful work.  I’ll follow up with further thoughts on the introduction and initial chapter on Matthew’s Gospel, as well as what we are diving into as we continue reading in Luke/Acts and Paul’s writing throughout the New Testament.

However, I don’t want to stray far from Tom’s initial phrase this evening.  In a wide-ranging, convicting discussion on the gospel, the nature of mission, and the integration of the poor and marginalized among us, my heart was laid bare by the honest admission above.  Questions that prevent me from sleeping easily tonight & desiring to turn off my heart in a sea of endless Internet surfing include the following:

  • Why am I not ‘doing more’ to engage the end of poverty in my world?  
  • Why have I allowed guilt, my own comfort and sense of security, and a healthy distance from ‘the poor’ (Even that label de-humanizes the people that this entails, exposing my continued, deeply rooted hypocrisy) to determine how I live?  
  • Why is there a sense in my heart that I am living in a ‘better way’ than those with ‘less’ than me?  
  • Why do I not have poor friends?  
  • Wouldn’t having ‘poor’ friends be nothing but a social exercise for me, something that further rounded out my personality?  
  • At my core, am I as deeply prejudiced as it seems?  
  • Why do these problems fall on my shoulders alone (at least, I make it out to be this way)?  
  • Is poverty a much deeper and more pervasive disease than pure material possession (including such things as poverty of spirit, purpose, family, hope, etc. as Curtis brilliantly pointed out tonight)?

The fact that I am rich beyond measure (Check out www.globalrichlist.com for a disheartening confirmation of this matter), and yet impoverished in so many other ways, is both disturbing and hopefully catalytic tonight.

One thought from Bosch:

It is unthinkable to divorce the Christian life of love and justice from being a disciple…To become a disciple means a decisive and irrevocable turning to both God and neighbor (Transforming Mission, pp. 81-82).

Another from Henri Nouwen:

Wherever I turn I am confronted with my deep-seated resistance against following Jesus on his way to the Cross and my countless ways of avoiding poverty, whether material, intellectual, or emotional (Spiritual Direction, p. 138).

Just to clarify, I’m speaking publicly to myself with these words, not in an effort to self-martyr, or to declare my own existential sense of goodness, but to call my own apathy out.  I love ideas in all forms, and yet am deeply aware that my ideas often do not become action, and therefore actualized reality that has power (infused hopefully by the Spirit’s work) to actually transform and heal.

In another of Tom’s haunting phrases, “I need a new conversion.”

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.

Diverse Visions.

I got up early this morning to bust through a bunch of reading in Transforming Mission by David Bosch and stumbled headlong into the following short passage, which has literally stopped me in my tracks.  Compelled to stand up and find the nearest computer, I knew that I needed to post this immediately, as much for my own sake as possibly for yours, and for whatever is happening in your own world this morning:

The Holy Spirit who guides into all truth, may be present not so much exclusively on one side of a theological dispute as in the very encounter of diverse visions held by persons…who share a faithfulness and commitment to Christ and to each other. (Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commision, quoted in Transforming Mission, p. 24).

I am deeply challenged by this idea–that possibly, maybe even likely, the Holy Spirit doesn’t ‘care’ about what I believe as much as He is intricately woven into the relational fabric of developing unity between those who stand on ‘opposite’ sides, opposed deeply to each other.  And this leads me to thinking that maybe those who think  they are opposed may often have more in common than they would ever admit or realize.  This isn’t to say that all beliefs or positions are the same, or that there isn’t a sense of right and wrong within one’s position, but rather to ask:

“Is that really the point?”

May I embrace this reality, and the Spirit beneath this idea, with increasing openness this day. I am praying for you, my friends and family.  I love and miss you deeply!

ADDED PORTION:  Tyler Savage, a new friend from CRM Boat Trip days (way back in September 2008!), added a brilliant comment to this post that deserves recognition.  His thoughts:

In recent years, God has used a very different reference to trip me up on a similar line of thinking. In Lincoln’s second Inaugural address, speaking of the two sides in the Civil War, he said, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. […] The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.” That quote threw me for a loop several years ago, and still does.