2019 has ended up being a year of two flights.’

It has ended up being a lot of other things to be honest – and many of them not very nice, definitely the most difficult year i can remember out of the last 45 – but on either end of it a flight.

The year started with an almost-out-of-nowhere gift of a flight back to Oakland where tbV and i lived for a year and a half and where we have great friends and amazing memories. i was invited to help lead a kids program for a church camp and so they paid for my flight over and Aaron and i had a bunch of challenging fun doing just that.

The laptop i am typing this on now actually, was a gift i received during that visit, partly as a reminder that our annus horribilis had a bit of a jump start as the home burglary [where i lost my previous computer] had happened at the end of 2018. But my friend David Barta, one of the Horsedawgs of the Apocalypse [long story involving Chris Pratt and friends!], hooked me up with this beauty. If i remember correctly, literally on the way to the airport, after working through the night to get it set up for me.

The trip was instantly cut short though [fortunately after the camp had taken place] by a phone call from Val letting me know that her mom, Sandra, had died. She had been sick for a very long time and while there was some measure of mercy in her finally being able to be freed from the constant pain she was in, it was a hard one for me to be so far away from Val and the family in their initial moments of grief.

A much awaited return to the Philippines

What some people don’t know is that Val spent ten years growing up in the Philippines. She returned to South Africa at the age of eighteen, with her  family, in 2003. Which feels like half a lifetime ago. And probably more so for her.

We were married in 2009 and she has wanted to take me there ever since to show me where many of her formative years took place. Hopefully help me to understand her better and have a glimpse of a greater part of her world.

With the life decisions we have made, a trip to the Philippines did not seem like something that was very likely. But after the passing of her mom, we received a bit of money that made a distant hope become a present reality. We invited Val’s dad to join us for a month and booked some flights and started making plans. [Originally the hope was to have someone rent our place here while we were away and so the trip would pretty much just cost us the air tickets. That plan fell through but we came up with an even better one].

Once the tickets have been paid for, living in the Philippines is likely to cost us around what it costs us to live here. So we decided to stay for an extra month so that both Val and myself can spend some dedicated time writing. For me this will hopefully look like picking up and finishing the book on race and white people that i started a few years ago and never got round to finishing. For Val something else that will have been inspired and given foundations by the LUT [Leadership in Urban Transformation] course she studied through the University of Pretoria this year.

A Journey of Two Flights

So in a year where there shouldn’t have been any flights i end up with two.

The significance of this one to Val makes it especially meaningful.

But it also comes at what feels like just the right time. 2019 has not been easy for us or a lot of people we are close to actually. So a bit of a break from life as we know it is a huge gift.

As someone who has never taken a break from social media or felt the need to, the closer we are to this trip the more i have been looking forward to the being disconnected aspect. When you passionately care about things online, mean people show up. Some who go to a lot of effort to share their unwarranted meanness with you. i’m not going to miss that.

i am also very much looking forward to a time of leaning into the ‘Be Still and Know that I am God’ call of Psalm 46. In a year [and some years] where the church at large across South Africa [and the US] has been disappointing in so many ways in terms of seeming disconnected to the lived out realities of a Faith and Kingdom that should be very closely connected to matters of Justice and the marginalised, i just need to spend some time with Jesus, reminding myself what it is all about. Confirming that i am not mad in believing that Jesus meant what He said when He said that ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ was part of the most important commandment. That the kingdom of God is so much about how we live now and here and not just some kind of fireproof insurance policy for later when we die.

i am hoping to make some time to write some poetry. To listen and hone in on some specific Vision for 20/20 [i see what i did there!]. To prioritise how i [and we] will choose to live next year instead of just gliding along in a business-as-usual stream of being. To consider how i [we] spend my time and money and skills and energy. And be very sure that is aligned with our values and dreams for the future.

To consider significance. And what that means in the way i live out my life.

To think about mentorship – considering both the feet i sit at and those who i might invite to journey alongside me.

To gaze into the mirror and reflect on my flaws, listen out for my blind spots, consider areas of change and growth. Hopefully to develop as a better person.

There are a number of journeys happening on this trip. i very much hope that the Brett Fish who returns to South Africa in late Feb 2020 is significantly different to the one who left in 2019. That both of these flights will have shaped to some extent the journey from here.

i am hoping to be largely disconnected from the social medias, but if you are wanting to maintain some form of connection while i am away then Instagram [@brettfisha] is the most likely place i might still post to keep some record of what we see and experience and do…

To the Philippines… and Beyond…