Monday, June 09, 2008


My problem with writing updates during my first month back in South Africa was that I was doing a lot of reconnecting, readjusting, and getting to know new people. As such, there wasn't a whole lot to talk about, and I was often out of energy and words by the time I got to the blog. Now that I've been back for six weeks, suddenly I find myself with lots to talk about, but little time in which to say it.

I feel like I've been just as bad about communicating directly with people. Today I was reminded of a friend back home and thought how I need to write them a postcard. I now realize that if I'd sent a postcard for every time I'd thought of and missed someone, just about all of you would have multiple postcards by now. I'm still trying to figure out some sort of a rhythm for communicating with friends outside of South Africa. So in the interests of doing something productive along this line, I'm attempting a scattered and completely non-comprehensive update in addition to the short glimpses through pictures that are below.

A New Place

I'm moving on Thursday! Sarah arrived on May 31st, and in the intervening time I've dragged her around in search of necessary things like beds and sheets and pillows and towels. (You wouldn't think it would take as long as it has.) This afternoon, we spent too many hours in a huge "Mr. Price Home" store. In spite of the fact that I like to think of the local Mr. Price clothing store as my South African Old Navy, this afternoon I came to the unfortunate realization that not everything is cheaper in South Africa. At least it didn't feel that way as I was contemplating duvet covers and sorely missing a local Target.

Book Discussions

Last week, I had my first evening book discussion. Arthur asked me to put together an evening reading group to discuss some of the books we're reading together as a community this year. Our community book discussions are on Friday mornings... which isn't the best time for people who have "real" jobs to join us. =) Arthur gave me a whole list of people who were interested in reading the current book, N.T. Wright's Simply Christian, but I haven't had a lot of responses. It was just two of us last week, but this Wednesday, there should be three. I enjoyed last week, and I'm looking forward to these times to have some good talks about important things, and in the process to get better acquainted with others in our broader Pretoria North community.

Staff Retreat

Over the weekend, the seven NCSA staff headed out of town for a retreat. I posted some pictures below, but I'll say a bit more here. This weekend felt like home for me, and I think that's primarily because of the team that I'm journeying with. It was wonderful to get to know the staff last year during my apprenticeship, and it's an even greater privilege to grow deeper in my friendships with each of them now that I'm on the staff side of things. The weekend was spent just hanging out together, making a ton of pottery and relaxing and enjoying being together. There weren't hugely deep and life-changing conversations over our three days away, but for me it was a rich time of being with friends. We had a good conversation with our hosts over breakfast on Sunday, when they asked a little more about what we do and what NieuCommunities is about. As various others on the team talked about why we do what we do, it was an awesome reminder of how excited I am to be part of this team and to play a small part in what NieuCommunities is doing here in South Africa.

Salvation and Help

During this morning's conversation, we talked about salvation. We were asked to create a picture of salvation--an image that captures the idea for us. I think I expended all my creative energies making pottery over the weekend, because I just didn't have it in me to attempt a mediocre drawing given my limited art skills. As I thought about what to draw (and how to create an image that I would be happy with), I reflected on the weekend just past and some of my frustration with the pottery-making.

See, I don't like not being able to do things right. I also don't like to ask for help. But when I finally do accept help (offering me help can sometimes be a perilous undertaking in itself), there is nothing more frustrating to me than when others just take over and do it for me. Because I want to do it myself. All of these traits are problematic when it comes to salvation. I can't do it right. I do need help. And, I need someone to do it for me. So somehow I found it very appropriate to share my image with the group by explaining this while holding up the blank piece of paper upon which I was unable to draw the image I wanted to convey: a hand extended, offering the help I need. If only I would swallow my pride, acknowledge my mediocre efforts, and take hold of the hand that will accomplish what I need. What's completes this image for me is that the capable hand of God still lets me be a part of things.

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