I have lived and worked within the East Mountain community for the past few years and am resharing a thought on this experience and some wisdom I gained along the way. It appears in the format used for EM’s weekly newsletter to partners and supporters.
What is the fastest way to travel from point A to B? When one has ground to cover with limited time and resources available, this is a crucial question. What is the most efficient way to travel the world in order to experience a variety of cultures or serve among other peoples, for instance? One way to confront such a challenge is to construct an algorithm, directing one along a journey from place to place, experience to experience, opportunity to opportunity. However, should we consider culturally shaped spaces and the encounters therein as expressions of the human heart, we are presented with another alternative altogether: positioning oneself at an intersection.
Through East Mountain I find myself living at a constant intersection.
Encountering “the world on your doorstep” is not an unusual experience when living in a metropolitan city like Cape Town. A hotchpotch of cultures finds expression in people from all over roaming the streets and tourist hotspots of the city. They all gather here. Some temporarily; dotting down to take in the sights and sounds before soon taking off again with a bank full of memories (on which airlines are fortunately yet to place a weight restriction). Others again, arriving with not much more than memories; having migrated from somewhere with a desire to establish something of permanence in the Cape of Good Hope.
Although a local, I often find myself among these ‘incomers’ as I play the role of tour guide; and, in the fortunate position of observing the cross-continental, cross-cultural, cross-lingual shoulder rubbing that takes place.
I, however, do not live in Cape Town.
I enjoy the privilege of living near Stellenbosch, and through East Mountain have been given the opportunity of encountering “the world in my living room” – something that hit me as I considered the variety of fluid containers which found their way into our kitchen cupboard through the past few years (see picture). Firstly, instead of saying, “an Englishman, a German and a Frenchman”, one might as well say “three South Africans” and possess the same cultural diversity necessary to tell a proper (or improper for that matter) joke. And so, in having three South Africans in the house, one can very easily encounter three nations in the process of living here. Then, apart from my own countrymen, the community living room is a place where, if you wait around long enough, you will encounter American diversity, the odd Englishman, other Africans, Asians and who knows, maybe one day a stray Australian?
It is at this intersection where my ministry happens. It is here that I learnt what ministry could look like. It is not always about going out but also inviting in. ‘Receiving the sent’, if you will. It is a strangely easy but also tough task. Both highly enjoyable and at times tiring.
My conclusion: it is possible to encounter and impact the world by opening the door to your living room.