Cross Cultural Sharpening

Every year our organisation comes together to get trained and equipped to be better at the work we are called to. This year is no different. We came together last week for a 5-day course called “The Lenses Institute – See. Understand. Act.” The purpose of the course was to improve our cross-cultural interaction and the key scripture verses used were John 17:20-23. Most of our focus was in-house, but the application of what we learned can be used everywhere. I will share a few of my “ah-ha” moments or highlights with you in this update.

One of the biggest foundational topics was how Scripture has been misused to create a perspective that some people are worth more than others. From that point we often see 2 main groups that are formed – the one with authority and power (group A) and the other group that gets oppressed (group B). Both groups will read the same scripture but because of the lenses that they look through they get a different message out of it. There are however places where both perspectives share commonalities. The question in my heart is, “Am I going to insist that my perspective is the only right one and judge others who don’t share that or will I take the initiative to have the conversation and learn from other’s perspectives and even discover our commonalities?

The second nugget of value from this week was hearing the testimonies of my colleagues. From the older missionaries that worked for CCC during apartheid to the new missionaries struggling to work past white privilege. I know I used some disliked words or phrases, but we are all struggling with it on one level or the other. Because of our history and upbringing, we each have preconceived ideas. After hearing stories of each one’s personal struggles – from growing up to joining missions to being a missionary on staff with CCC, I realized that we are so focused on our own challenges in the mission field, that we sometimes miss what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ working right alongside us. We need to support each other and pray for one another, but if I don’t know your story and if I don’t have relationship with you, how will I know? One of the other points that came out of group discussions was that people aren’t always looking for an apology for what happened in the past, but an acknowledgement that their stories have been heard now – “Can I tell you my story and will you hear me without judgement?”

The third nugget that opened my eyes was creating my life map. A life map is a physical depiction of my life journey from the perspective of my cultural experience. The picture I’ve included shows a few helpful questions to guide a person through the creation of his/her life map. The process opened my eyes to see how God prepared me to be in a cross-cultural marriage (if you didn’t know, Pravani and I are in a cross-cultural marriage). If you want to know more about my story, I would love to share it with you face to face.

Mid-way through our course our facilitators asked what challenges we see in CCC and told us to write it down on post-it notes. They then identified 2 main challenges, broke us up into groups of eight got us to work on creative solutions. The 2 challenges we worked on were “How do we help our non-white staff raise financial support?” and “How do we create unity in an independent work culture?”  All the groups came up with their best solutions and shared it in the bigger group. My hope is that we will practically see it through and improve on our mistakes.

At the end of the week, we each created our personally summary of the week using the following points: 1. Sharing who we were before the training 2. What we learnt 3. What will we be implementing. Here is what I wrote:

I am in a cross-cultural marriage with low to very little conflict based on culture. What I have learnt over the past week is that I am ignorant of the history of my and other cultures in South Africa. The level of relationships I have in CCC are mostly superficial and I need build deeper to understand the perspectives of my colleagues, but I am grateful for the relationships that I do have. Moving forward I what to take these simple steps:

  • Engage more with colleagues- to hear their story and to seek to understand more than being understood
  • Study the Bible with a person from a different outlook on life.
  • To be a brother in Christ that can help opposing parties to see each other’s perspective and learn from it.

My last thought is to say thank you to the USA staff that came here to help us as an organisation and individuals to grow. The amount of work and prayer they put in was humbling. They adjusted the program daily to address felt needs and to be faithful to what God laid on their hearts. Thank you for showing us how to See, Understand and Act.

If you reached this point, thank you. I know that this is a long update, I have so much more on my heart but I work better through conversation. So please send me a message with questions and let’s build on getting to know each other better. I would even encourage you to use the Life Map tool amongst your small groups at church or work colleagues. If you do so, please send me some feedback on how it went!

Have a blessed day,

Nicholas

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Imitating God

Over the past few months I have been using an app to help me spend better/more time in the Word, and allow the Word to challenge me. The app’s name is Like Jesus. The reason I am writing about it today is because of the Scripture it gave me. Ephesians 5:1 – “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.”

As a father of 2 boys, I see how they imitate me in actions and in words. It’s eye-opening about my own character and on a level, I want them to better than me. As a parent we also have expectations for certain milestones to be reached. Currently Vincent is taking his time with the speech ability milestone. So we, mostly Pravani, are doing exercises to encourage Vincent to use words and we have also scheduled an appointment with a speech therapist for next term to evaluate his speech and come up with a plan of action.

Now to bring it back to us and God – the Bible tells us in John 1:12 that if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we will be children of God. And Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5:1 that we should imitate God. The challenge is that we don’t always know what to do. We need an expert to help us. That is where the church (the body of Christ) comes in – believers who have gone through similar challenges, men and women who you can see have a relationship with God and are growing in their faith. The key is to walk a path with them, so that we can grow together towards God. The manual that helps us, is of course the Bible.

Please pray for Vincent and our journey with him as we keep building into him. We will also be praying for you to grow to as God’s children daily.

Nicholas

P.S. Don’t worry that we are leaving Kiran behind. He is imitating Vincent and learning fast.

E-coach training – Personal conversation

For more than a month I have been busy with a module called Personal Conversation. This was a time-consuming module due do its practical aspect. The training has clear theory that is instructive and easy to understand, but the practical section was harder to work through.

I worked through 5 interactions – these are case studies given to me by my coach simulating what my online ministry will be like –  each one totally unique. And I had to engage the person, look for the core of the message, direct the conversation, encourage the person, help with self-discovery and get the conversation to a point of introducing a relevant module in our platform.

After the 5 practice sessions, there was an even more difficult topic for me to cover – how to communicate with someone that is suicidal. It involves focusing on what not to say and what to say, understanding what the need is and doing my best to engage and encourage. Part of this is also to encourage them to get professional help.

This process has been fully worth it and I am grateful to my e-coach who is based in Poland, making sure that I am fully equipped. I hope to be that coach for someone else soon.

Please pray for our fund development. Pravani and I are making appointments and trusting that more people will join our team, so that we can give our full attention to the ministry God has given us.

Thank you,

Nicholas

Family here, family there, family everywhere

Over a period of 2 weekends we had a Kelderman 60 year celebration weekend and a Pillay family reunion. Not to mention all the February and March birthdays within the family. We have seen family more in the past few months than the previous 8 years, and it is awesome and overwhelming.

Below are pictures from the Kelderman 60 year celebration. My grandparents migrated from Holland in 1958 with their 3 sons. My cousin decided that a weekend camp would be the best way to commemorate this. Hearing stories, playing games, swimming and catching up with uncles, aunts and cousins was great. But the best part of the weekend was hearing the family history – the cost of leaving behind everything familiar and by faith in God embracing an unknown future.

The Pillay family reunion was a celebration of birthdays – the most special of which was Pravani’s dad turning 75. It was also arranged as an opportunity to bring the extended family together to remember a very special address – 101 Horsham Road, Clairwood. We heard the family story of how the house came to be and how many generations of the Pillay family lived in it. We even had the opportunity of placing our names and the names of our children on the family tree. It was amazing to see our part in the legacy of generosity, hard work and the love of family. Pravani’s dad also had the opportunity to share about his love for cars and the many weird and wonderful types he’s owned over the years.

These family occasions, including the birthdays, make us so grateful to be back in Gauteng. Our boys are getting to know their cousins and we get to spend precious time with our parents and siblings. My dad’s brother shared with us how hard it was migrating from Holland and not having any extended family around. No grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles. It made me realise the amazing gift we have of living closer and how much my boys need family.

So my thought for this update, or rather it might be a question, are there any family members you need to make peace with, or give a call just to say hi? Think about it.

Have a blessed day.

Nicholas

WIGs and things…

If you’ve encountered other missionaries from CCC you may hear them say we’re one big family. With this in mind, saying goodbye to our Cape Town team and saying hello to our Pretoria team was kind of like getting reacquainted with our cousins. Still though, fitting in with a new team does require some intention of the heart. As I pulled out my bran muffins from the oven and heard my house filling with familiar sounds of my colleagues, I knew that staff meetings at home were going to continue to be a joy, just like they were in Cape Town.

Boring staff meeting? Never! Here we are at my place picking out a new WIG.  Left to right: Pravani, Lydia, Renier (our team leader), Ruan and Thabiso

We got around my dining room table and starting talking about our WIGS (I see that raised eyebrow of yours! Just hold on this isn’t the hairy kind, I’ll explain). WIG is an acronym that stands for Wildly Important Goal. It’s something we can strive towards as a team – wildly! At each staff meeting we will touch on it briefly and celebrate how close we are to reaching it. The WIG that seemed to “fit” our team best was to achieve 100% of our goals for ministry partnerships this year. At the next meeting we took the time to evaluate our personal current reality using a SWOT analysis and discussed our findings. This was so helpful because we could identify with each other’s weaknesses and be encouraged by each other’s strengths. From there we each plotted our own strategic plan for achieving our goals. I took this plan to Nicholas and together we’re working on reaching our goal. Our first step is getting in touch with our Gauteng ministry partners. If you’re in Gauteng and haven’t heard from us, please send me a Whatsapp or email so that we can get together.

Getting strategic about our plans. We enjoy meeting at The Hub at Universiteitsoord next to University of Pretoria.

One part of our strategic plan was to figure out our schedule. Nicholas and I have worked on a schedule that allows me to spend enough time at home with the boys, connection time with other mommies and time with my team. We are trusting the Lord that we will be able to enroll Vincent into a playschool soon but for the moment he is enjoying spending his days at home with mommy and his little brother. He is making friends with the other kids in our apartment building and it is a joy watching him interact. Kiran is racing towards the two-year old milestone and not stopping for anyone! He is wearing bigger clothes, eating almost as much as his brother and learning how to express himself both to us and to strangers. For now, his Afrikaans is developing faster than his English and it is adorable!

Bouncing baby boys! Vincent and Kiran usually enjoy a good bounce in the morning until Kiran is tired enough for a nap 🙂

This is a new and joyful season for us as a family. There is much to get used to but there is also enough support for us to maintain certain routines. We thank the Lord for our date nights, family tea time and special visits with cousins and grandparents. If you’re in Pretoria and are able to visit – please contact me, we would love to see you!

Our sushi date night sponsored by friends of ours was such a treat! Nic had just a “few” more plates than I did 😉

When the cat’s away the mice will play! Nicholas and the boys enjoy some “guy time” when I’m at our weekly staff meeting. This is such a sweet blessing!

A quick January update

Here is a quick update regarding January.

Firstly, as you could see by the last update video, we have found a home in Pretoria and have been settling in since 14 January 2018. It has been a blessed time and Pravani has made sure we had a few guests over as soon as we had the kettle out to make tea and coffee. The boys are also getting used to the new home and have found fun in every moment of order and chaos.

Regarding ministry, my team set aside the last 2 weeks in January to work on our ministry platform. We focused on getting the basic lessons/modules in place, developing a vision-casting presentation, receiving e-coach training from Holland via Skype, and discovering how the team dynamics work with me in the same office as the rest of the team.

I am excited about our platform and I look forward to the soft launch that we will do by the end of February.

Thank you for reading our updates and keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Nicholas