Friday, August 22, 2008

Baking and ministry and life

I headed out to Soshanguve yesterday to visit my friend Emily—one of Granny’s daughters. Emily has a very entrepreneurial spirit and has dreamed for a long time of starting her own business—to provide for her family and to bring jobs and opportunities to others in her community. For the past six weeks, Rob & Laura Sturgess (from London) have been staying at Pangani, while looking into many different business opportunities around Pretoria for Enterprise International. EI is another division of CRM—they start up and manage for-profit businesses that help fund ministries as well as offer job opportunities for people in the community. An opportunity that is now becoming a reality is the just-about-to-be-opened “Wholesome Bakery” in Soshanguve. This bakery is at Emily’s house. I can’t even express how exciting this is for her! Today, Emily and the other women will receive their certificates for completing their training as baking students. The bakery will officially open next week—in its own new tin shack at the front of Emily’s yard—but neighbors are already stopping by Emily’s house to buy bread, scones, Chelsea buns, and other yummy baked goods.

Yvonne, Christinah, Rob, me, Emily, and Laura

When I visited yesterday, the Sturgesses were finishing up a meeting with Victor, who’s been training Emily and several local women. They also held job interviews with several of the women while I hung out with the family. Emily talked through more details with Rob and Laura, and I watched a couple Olympic events with Christinah (Emily’s sister) and Pretty (Emily’s oldest daughter).

A little later, I gave Christinah a lift home to Granny’s house, with Pretty coming along so she could pick up her two younger sisters. I told Emily I’d be back to say goodbye and to buy some of her bread and cakes. I visited a bit with Granny and the family, before heading back to Emily’s to buy some baked goods. I said I was the bakery taxi, and in true taxi fashion, we crammed as many people into the car as possible. Annah, her niece Winnie, Winnie’s baby Matseho, and Pretty and her two sisters. Two of the kids looked at us forlornly as I turned the car around in the dirt road in front of Granny’s… so Annah called them over and in climbed Tshegofatso and Nthabiseng, bringing the total number of people in the car up to 9. Four adults, four kids, and one baby. I am constantly amazed at how many people can and will cram into my car when we’re driving across Sosh. It’s really kind of awesome.

Just one of the 50kg sacks of flour currently in Emily's living room

After dropping everyone off at their respective homes once again, I was off to my own home, carrying baked goods in the back seat and watching another amazing African sunset out my window.

Sometimes it’s hard to describe ministry here. Life and work and ministry are categories that blur together. Am I doing ministry when I visit Granny’s family and hang out? Or am I visiting friends? When I have a conversation with my roommate about our common struggles in our new roles as NC staff, is that ministry? Is it ministry when one of the apprentices comes over to my house for tea? Or am I just being a friend? I was thinking about this on my ride home last night, and was reminded of a quote from John Hayes’ book Submerge: “Your ministry is not your life; your life should be your ministry.” There’s more context to it, but that distinction has been very helpful. When I start seeing life as ministry, the categories may blur a bit more, but it helps me to stop analyzing whether what I’m doing is ministry or not—and instead let the ministry flow through all of life, through who I am.

Leading a conversation in Church Square during the recent Road Trip

Some exciting things that have been going on around here over the past couple months:
-We planned for and hosted a group of 8 for a 2-week Road Trip
-We attended the Institute for Urban Ministry’s conference on bringing hope in the city
-Throughout July, we practiced a “Simplicity Month” in which we were challenged to live on half our disposable income
-We’re in the process of discerning how to use the money we saved during July
-We’ve grown more connected to and burdened for the Zimbabwean refugees living in a local shelter, which is soon to be closed down (please pray for housing for our friends!)
-I’ve started helping to rework some of our curriculum & helping coordinate assignments for the Reeds, interns this year
-Sarah and I finally got a kitchen table & chairs, so when we have people over for a meal, we don’t have to sit on the floor (not that most people mind)
-Our community hosted many guests throughout July, from the Sturgess family with EI, to a Zimbabwean pastor named Xoli who’s on CRM Africa’s board. There was one Friday evening (our usual community dinner and worship night) where we had people visiting from four different divisions of CRM, as well as the Road Trip group, our local friends, and our core NC community. God is beginning and building all kinds of new work here in South Africa, and it’s exciting to be here in the midst of it!

Things coming up:
- We start our Imagining Posture on Monday, and these next seven weeks will be an exciting time for our apprentices as they dream and imagine with God about what might be next for them. The heart of the Imagining Posture is the Life Compass curriculum, which is a pretty intense three weeks of looking back at what has brought us to where we are, and made us who we are; looking more deeply at our values, talents, and gifts; and looking ahead to what all those things might add up to for our future vision. This was a very powerful time for me last year—I’m excited to see this year’s group of apprentices engage the material and begin to move into a deeper vision and calling. Please be in prayer for both apprentices and staff over the next few weeks during this exciting process!
-Next weekend, I’ll be attending a 2-day training and learning more about the teaching philosophy/method that NC uses in our curriculum
-I’ll be leading an evening book discussion group again this posture—please pray for those who will attend, that we’ll have good conversation and connection through reading Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Ways.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pottery, Part Three

This is the last pottery post, I promise. We got our finished pottery back a couple of weeks ago. It was like Christmas, opening up each piece that had been carefully wrapped in newspaper. Almost everything turned out differently than I had pictured... sometimes that was a good thing, and sometimes not.

Here you can follow one of my pieces through the whole process...

Fresh off the wheel. Kinda. Shaped and ready for the first firing:

After one round of firing, it's now been glazed and is ready for the final firing. It's supposed to come out blue on top and brown on the bottom, even though it looks grey and pink here. The middle has been painted with wax, to stop the glaze from running into the middle section.

Finished product. The brown was different than I'd pictured, but still. I'm kinda proud of it.

Two of my favorites. Sugar bowl...

...and milk jug.

Feast of the Clowns

The Tshwane Leadership Foundation hosts a festival every year called "Feast of the Clowns." There are events throughout the week, from workshops on issues in and around the city, to arts workshops and performances of all kinds. (It was amazing to hear the Soweto Gospel Choir on Wednesday night!) The big event of the week is the street festival and march, which a bunch of us attended yesterday. It was a gorgeous day to march through the city.

Our marshals, ready to keep the crowds in line for the march

Laura with some of the girls from Lerato House, getting ready for the march

Dancing and marching through the streets of Pretoria

I took a picture of Sarah in Church Square, and one of the enthusiastic marchers joined in

Andrew and I cut across the square and took up positions on either side of this crosswalk... we watched the whole parade march between us before meeting up with the rest of our group

Monday, August 11, 2008


I shared this covenant with the NCSA staff team a couple weeks ago and wanted to share it here as well. Especially since Melanie asked what exactly I do as NCSA staff. =) The following is my personal covenant—what I am committing to pursue during 2008. I’ve structured it around the areas of Communion, Community, and Mission—these are the foundational practices that underlie all we do in NieuCommunities: communion with God, community with others, and mission to the world around us.


I covenant to pursue a conversational relationship with God through both daily practices and a weekly Sabbath. In these practices, I will seek to build my life around God first, letting other activities flow from that center. I will pursue the following practices this year to grow and nourish my communion with God:

Attentiveness in everyday: cultivating awareness of God in each moment
Prayer of examen
-Weekly (Sabbath):
Set aside work for the day
Intercession: listing requests, prayer walking
Life-giving rest: poetry, fiction, music that feeds my soul
Engage in one of the following practices each Sabbath:
Exercises for one of: Sensate/Contemplative/Traditionalist/Intellectual
Formational reading (Bible, other)
Scripture meditation/lectio divina

-Community spiritual practices, prayer & worship
-Personal spiritual retreat (2 nights) 1x this year
-Meet with a spiritual director at least once a month
-Begin exploring Ignatian spirituality with a spiritual director


I covenant to initiate and pursue intentional, deepening relationships within NCSA. I will invite others to participate in my spiritual formation, and will participate in the growth of others as God directs. I will serve my community in the following ways:

-Attending check-in, Bible discussions & at least 1 conversation/week
-Planning/facilitating NCSA book discussions
-Setting aside 2 evenings/week for relational time with individuals in our community
-Inviting others into my personal ministry as it starts and develops
-Helping plan reflection days & road trip
-Helping with writing/editing curriculum
-Helping Arthur with NC communication
-Coordinating assignments for Natalie & Joe Reed


I covenant to pursue mission by reaching out to connect with individuals outside NCSA—building relationships, and allowing God to use those as a starting point for spiritual formation and shepherding. I will deepen existing friendships and build new connections, integrating my passion for the arts into the relationships and ministry opportunities that develop.

I covenant to pursue mission in the following ways:
-Being proactive in my ministry vision (discussion groups to connect people with God through fiction and film) by building connections with people outside NC/outside faith communities—people who aren’t connecting with God, but might be open to exploring spiritual ideas through creative/arts-based means.
-An apprenticing/mentoring relationship with Lizzy
-Leading an evening book group for people outside NCSA to read the NC books along with us
-Continuing my writing project with Sarah, with a focus on writing/editing
-Visiting with Granny’s family every other week

I covenant to grow in coaching and leading by:
-Attending coaching training in Vancouver and putting these skills into practice in my relationships with Lizzy and informally with the apprentice women
-Responding to opportunities to lead worship, conversations, and other community activities when appropriate

Still more cultural context

On transportation...
Most people in the suburbs drive, but most people in townships don't have cars. They'll ride taxis (minivans crammed as full as they can get) or the train into town (downtown Pretoria) or to the suburbs for work. It's really rare to see a white person riding the commuter trains or in taxis. I was first told that it wasn't safe for whites to ride the train or a taxi, but have since been told otherwise, and have now done both (although I haven't done either alone). I've found that people give you weird looks and ask where you are going, but are also really helpful, curious, and friendly.

On the city...

Downtown Pretoria is pretty crowded during the day, with tons of taxis everywhere (honking their horns at intersections to let people know they have extra room); people crossing the street at any opportunity; vendors hawking oranges, cell phone chargers, rugby shirts, and all kinds of random stuff at street corners; and guys with bottles full of soapy water who will squirt down your windshield and clean it before you can say no, asking for a couple of rand before the light turns green!

On times and seasons and hemispheric differences...
Right now, South Africa is 9 hours ahead of California. South Africa doesn't observe daylight savings time, so after the time change in October, we'll be 10 hours ahead. The seasons are opposite here, since we're in the Southern hemisphere... so right now I'm looking forward to the end of winter! And, finally--yes, the drains do swirl in the opposite direction here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Scenes from the Best Talent Show Ever

The Road Trip "Talent" Show this evening was quite possibly the most fun I've had in weeks. That sounds like I don't get out much, but just take a look:

Roger as the Motion Sensor Light:

Keziah the Elephant showing off her amazing balancing skills:

The Faces Trio:

The animals of the forest huddling inside a mitten (more specifically, the mouse snuggling up to the bear):

Busi mourning the loss of her beloved five-legged cow:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Potter's House

Potter's House is a women's shelter downtown, where I spent many Monday evenings last year. We took the Road Trippers there this week, to hang out with the women and their kids and share a meal with them.

More cultural context

On townships...
There are several townships scattered around Pretoria, Soshanugve is the nearest one to where I live. Townships are where non-whites lived during apartheid (when the government enforced strict segregation)--some were moved there by the government (this is the case with Soshanguve), but more often these settlements sprang up spontaneously outside cities—where the jobs were. Though apartheid ended in 1992, townships are still almost always all-black. There's a lot of fear about visiting townships, but it's more perception than reality. I've had conversations with friends in town (downtown Pretoria) who ask why I would go out to Sosh, because it's not safe. Then I've had conversations with friends in Sosh who wonder why I would go into town at night, because it's not safe. I'm learning that fear and safety can be relative things.

There's a variety of housing types in Sosh--from tin shacks to cinder block houses to brick houses. Some blocks share one tap for all the families, some have a tap in each yard, some have no running water, and some have indoor plumbing. Most houses are on dirt roads, though the government is now starting to provide more services, gradually adding sewer systems and paved roads.

Townships are full of informal businesses--tuck shops on corners and tables set up in front of homes, selling cool drink (soda), sweeties (candy), peanuts, potato chips, fruit, Chappies (gum), and even bags of clayey rocks that people chew on. (I've tried it and determined that they taste like dirt.) Some tuck shops sell sphatlo--also known as a township hamburger, it's ¼ of a loaf of bread, hollowed out and filled with atchar (spicy pickled mango chutney), chips (fries), polony (like baloney, only a lot more processed... and bright pink), and sometimes fried eggs and a Vienna (hot dog) or Russian (sausage). And this description is making me hungry...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Road Trip in Sosh, part 2

The kids prepared an African song to sing for us

And a bunch of the kids in the neighborhood gathered to watch

Then, it was on to Granny's for dinner. Pap and chicken... and everyone ate with their hands.

And then we danced. (That's pretty much how you can end any description of hanging out in Sosh!)

Road Trip in Sosh, part 1

On Thursday, I headed to Soshanguve with our Road Trip group and several others from our community. We met up with Hope, who told the group a bit about Sosh and showed us around... and also showed us some moves...

Here's me with Aly, eating sphatlo, also called "township hamburgers." So good...

Group picture after lunch

After visiting a few more places in Sosh, we headed to Block R, where the Road Trippers helped lead an activity for Mariah's and Doris' support group (for kids affected by AIDS). They split up into small groups and drew pictures together of things they had in common. Here's Busi & Joe, with their small group.

Sharing pictures with everyone