Just to be clear, that’s not Jesus in the picture, it’s my friend Rudzani Thangoane. i met him in Durban too.
Sho, it would take too many words to do our recent KZN trip any justice, but let me try a few.
That was definitely the highlight two week period of 2017 for me so far, and so Cape Town you had better work your magic quickly cos i am feeling strongly pulled in that direction [but mainly because we didn’t get any of the humidity that i can maybe do a max two weeks of]…
DEEP DIVE YOUR WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Linked to some of the people i have met online in the last year and more particularly those who came to the recent Justice Conference, we started exploring the idea of heading up that way to connect more intentionally.
And also because some of my favourite people in life live up that way, including my younger sister Dawn and her family, Dreadlock Mike and Nancy Twin, the whole Westville Baptist crew, Durban Sam and so so many more…
But we felt it would be valuable to try and run some of the Deep Dive Dinner Conversations that we’d been hosting in Cape Town. Would they work? Who knew? Was Durban such a different crowd that they would all implode before we began? It was a chance we took [worst case scenario: we eat food with people who may wonder why we’re eating food with them]
We ended up hosting three Deep Dive Dinners, one Generosity Dinner and a Deep Dive Lunch and i also got to do some Improv training with the Tru Life teams [who do Justice productions in local high schools] and two preaches at Hilton Baptist.
MAKE THE CIRCLE BIGGER
Adding to people like Jess and Tom Basson, Christie Mae Roberts, Sam [Samukelisiwe] Mahlawe, Jana and Ampie Niehaus, Roxy and Greg Jewell [Roxy and i go way back] who we had touched base with at the Justice Conference i also got to meet Ntobeko Mzolo, Danielle Young and Rudzani Thangoane who i had been interactive friends with on Facebook for a while. Plus a whole lot of new friends via the various dinners and conversations.
Big shoutout to Zamaswazi Hlophe and Christie Mae Roberts who both offered to drive me somewhere without having met me offline at all. Brave brave souls… but i so valued the conversation time that gave us…
And then just so great connecting with old legendary friends like Durban Sam, Leah Rudman, Brian and Cara-Lee Price, Robin and Emma Wakefield-Smith, Craig and Robyn Fincham and the uber generous Barry and Debs and family who let us stay in their house a lot of the time [but then again R14 for pizza and gate fixes, you can’t go wrong]. [On an unrelated note, if anyone in Durban wants to “bless” the Austwicks with a new tin of Milo, i’m pretty sure it was Leah and Judah] And time spent with John Benn felt super good for my soul so thank you for your generosity and that of your family [John, Amy and Rebecca] with a car, lifts and baked goods! That pizza bread… wow.
i do have a lot of favourite people in life… but some of the best of them live in Durban.
i worked out a rough estimate before i left and i think conservatively speaking we engaged deeply with more than 250 people on issues of race and God and justice and money. That feels like a lot of significance for a 13 day trip.
# i mentioned the first two Deep Dives we did in a previous post. These were followed by a Generosity Dinner which is something Val and Common Change do and i would highly recommend it for a small group, or group of mates or even work colleagues. We gathered around a meal with i think eleven people who all donated some money to a common pot. We then shared some needs of people we knew and cared about and talked through different creative ways that those needs might be met [“i know someone who…”, “what if he did this instead of that?”, “there is a government program that…”] which also included directing all the money given to some of those needs. The highlight for me with Common Change is that it is giving done through relationship. As opposed to throwing money at needs. There may well be space for both, but in the long term, give me relationship any day.
# Then we had a lunchtime at Westville Baptist church where fifty to seventy people gathered around tables and we threw an interactive challenge at them to start us all thinking a little more deeply about privilege. Grouping four groups of tables around two tables, having one table stretch itself out at the front with foot rests and easter eggs and a lot of space while the people at the third set of three tables at the back had to stand up and hold their tables… all this while i addressed the comfort table at the front [with others complaining they couldn’t hear or my back was to them].
[This was an exercise we saw Alan Storey do and i think he got it from hardcore UK lady Jane Elliot]
We discussed privilege and touched on the Minimum Wage vs Living Wage conversation when it comes to what we pay the people who clean our house, look after our children or look after our gardens. And had a bit of time for Q and A. But the hope is that out of that time, WBC will be hosting some Deep Dive Conversations of their own.
# The fourth Deep Dive was hosted by Roxy and Greg in Hilton and we shared stories of when we had experienced either privilege or prejudice in South Africa. Then we shared each others stories with the bigger group as an exercise of listening and seeing what people hear when we share. And went on from there to some very deep and heartfelt conversation on a number of topics.
i don’t think any of the dinners were shorter than four hours and i think the majority of people at all of them would have gladly added on another hour or two if we’d let them. It’s usually as the conversation really starts getting going on a much deeper more transformative level that you suddenly realise ‘Wo, four hours just passed!’
One of the things i said at the start of all of those encounters – as well as the Sunday evening Hilton preach which had a bit of a Q and A at the end – was that if we leave feeling like we’ve finished a good conversation, then something went wrong. But if we leave frustrated because we have to stop talking and with more questions to ask and some stuff to wrestle with, then it feels like we’ve set the conversation up to continue some more somewhere along the line.
THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE
On the last day of our time there we had an evening flight and no plans for the day. So we decided to “relax” by going to watch the movie Silence directed by Martin Scorsese based on the book of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. Three hours something of intense intense drama as two missionaries head from Portugal to Japan to find their missing mentor who is said to have turned his back on their catholic faith.
Sho, that is a movie to chew on. Have been meaning to read the book for ever but know that i have a bit of a pile and when i saw the trailer i thought it would be rad if we could make time to watch it… worth a watch and a dinner conversation afterwards…
Having just finished reading the incredible ‘Chasing Francis’ by Ian Morgan Cron [although slightly less so when you realise it’s an allegory but still some amazing truths to devour], Silence was an interesting dessert.
In fact, the last two and a half years have been a bit of a challenging time faithwise… a lot of the feeling has retreated into the background and i’ve had to rely on faith and belief and working out the things i believe… the social media conversations have been somewhat draining as people on all sides constantly have opinions about what i should and shouldn’t be doing and how can i do this if i’m a christian and how can i not do this if i’m a christian and how can i be a christian if this is what the christians are doing…
It has been soul-filling to have friends like Wayne Eaves and Mahlatse Mashua to walk alongside me at this time… to have forest conversations with Zach Stewart and moments with Craig Stewart… to wrestle with life and God and justice and making good decisions about life and things with tbV [aka Val my wife and no, only i get to call her that, it’s weird when you do!]… to slow life down and take part in the liturgy and breaking of bread with my family at St Johns and to banter with Ben the Priest and Garth and others online…
There was one moment of the Durban trip that stands out – a bunch of us had decided to meet at this botanical garden to speak about things [we seriously had no agenda – i said i would be in this place at this time and some people showed up] and it started with me and Christie and then Danielle joined us and we had some great conversation and then a while later some others joined and Zamaswazi Hlophe, who i had never met before and only recently connected with on Facebook, joined us.
We had to move from where we were sitting cos “only coffee customers” and so we walked into the botanical gardens and ended up at this bench and dived deep into conversation. At one point i took a step back in my mind and watched what was going on. This middle aged black woman was sitting on the bench with a bunch of white people and one coloured woman sitting at her feet on the grass and sharing this powerful story from her life. It just felt so completely right. It gave me hope for South Africa. In that one brief moment which was unplanned but happened to be about attention and authority and posture and listening and inspiration and empathy and profundity.
From breaking bread to diving into the sea fully clothed with Val on an evening walk to a black man and white man holding a bicycle in church for a Justice vs Charity analogy to learning people’s real names [and the ones they choose to be called] to back and forth ideas about meeting a need for someone who is clearly deeply cared for in this community, to watching my nephew and niece play on a jungle gym, to a mug that resembles a block of ice during a passionate game of Codenames to a pastor taking time out of his day to drive us to the airport to a tattoed coffee barista who runs an organic type of church in his coffee place’s upper room to bread baked with coffee to watching Trolls with a young adopted black girl to words on a page, to a missionary watching people killed in an attempt to make him renounce his faith to late night Fifa with the guy who makes me laugh more than most to a walk through a stunning statue-filled park and sitting next to a waterfall to possibly the worst tv show on tv called “Just Tattoo of us” to ‘that scene which will not be named” to a half-empty Milo tin to having friends give up their bed for us, to many many many meals of pizza, to bacon-and-cheese sausages on a fire, to questions around a nationwide prayer event, to making stuff up with some passionate young people who are changing lives in schools… was this really only 13 days?
Last week i found Jesus [turns out He was in Durban the whole time!]