Wednesday, October 26, 2005

living right side up

Most of the people I know have a pretty well-honed sense of what it takes to fit in. If they’re younger, they know what it takes to be cool. If they’re a little older, they know what it takes to be considered successful. Within the social circles we traffic, we know how to be polite. If we go to church, we know what it takes to be proper.

So what is the right way to live in a country that was built on 350 years of black servitude? What’s the proper thing to do when you are living among white neighbors who grew up under a regime that both created and religiously enforced the systematic separation of blacks and whites under a body of laws collectively know as Apartheid? ("Apartheid" is an Afrikaans word meaning “separation,” which defined the legal and social relationship between blacks and whites from 1948-1990).

For us the right thing to do is to live right side up in an upside down world. The right thing to do is to do the very thing most people won’t do.

One of our favorite times of the week down here is Sunday afternoon. Each week we host a very culturally appropriate braai, (a South Africa BBQ), on our stoop and we invite all the folks we have befriended to join us. What makes it really fun though is that we draw a very culturally inappropriate crowd! There are poor blacks from the nearby township, upper middle class white students from the university, black children of domestic workers, white businessmen, Christian pastors and ancestor worshippers all sitting side-by-side.

Many of the people who come have never experienced an upside down gathering like this before, and you can bet our
neighbors haven’t ever seen a group like this gathered in their neighborhood! It’s just not the “right” thing to do.

But we just happen to think it gives our revolutionary God a great big smile. It gives us one too, so we’ll keep doing it. And in time we’ll see who else wants to live right side up in an upside down world.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

orienteering in the bush

Each year we take our missional community in South Africa out into the bush for an adventure in orienteering. We break them into teams, we give each team a compass and a set of coordinates to follow, and then we turn them loose to hunt for a series of markers and (hopefully) the spot where we will rendezvous for lunch. We haven't lost anybody yet out in the bush, but yeah, we definitely get lost! But that's part of the fun. And part of the learning.

The orienteering experience launches us into a 3-week learning focus we call LifeCompass. Building on the orienteering experience, we guide the community through an intensive self-discovery process in which we each create a new kind of map, a new kind of compass, and a destination worth giving our lives for.

The map is the story of our lives to this point. It's a personal timeline we each create in order to gain a better understanding of where we've come from and how God has been at work in us all along. It also reveals what may lie ahead. As we unpack our life journeys we gain a clearer sense of who we are, what we value, and what we have to offer. These learnings become our compass...a compass that keeps us on track and keeps us from drifting off in directions we were never meant to go. It keeps us focused on the destination we have been created to pursue.

This past week we wrapped up our LifeCompass focus and we listened to each person in the community share their take-aways. It was an awesome and powerful experience. It was even more special this time around as Laurie, Brittney, and especially Jonathan (that's him in the photo) were able to join us throughout much of the process.

In another 6 weeks the participants who have joined us for this leg in their journey will be heading off in different directions. Some will be coming back to South Africa. One will be heading to Venezuela. Another to Dallas. A few will be traveling to Canada to explore a potential next step. But all will be leaving with a clearer sense of who they are and the destination they have been created for.