neutral is comfortable…for a while

sitting-on-the-fence

I recently had the privilege of serving as a commissioner on the student-run Electoral Commission of our university during the students’ elections.

It was a twenty-four hour affair which consisted of clearing all the candidates’ pictures, setting up the polling station, facilitating and monitoring the voting process from 9am to 9pm; and after a one-hour dinner break at 10:30pm, we proceeded to the vote-counting phase. We wrapped up  a few minutes to 6:00 am. Tired but immensely fulfilled.

In order to maintain our neutrality and objectivity, we, the members of the commission, could not vote. Not voting meant I could still have an opinion without the burden of choosing a preferred candidate.

And still look hot in the branded denim shirts.

But the thing is, I still had an opinion. In fact, several opinions that touched on the elections. For instance, several of my female classmates didn’t vote for the ladies vying for competitive slots. On asking them why they said it’s not right to vote for their fellow women just because they’re women. I had an opinion on several other matters. For now, I’ll revel in the bliss of neutrality. I know it shall pass.

But I discovered that being neutral is only good for a time. At least until the vote counting is done, and then we are back to having opinions. The new student government that was voted in is now my student leadership and my opinion, if any, is private by choice, rather than by mandate.

It was comfortable to be in an officially neutral position. I had authority. Like when this guy was taking a photograph of the ballot paper indicating how he’d voted. I stopped him saying it had no integrity. And he protested wondering what he had done wrong.

“There’s nothing wrong. It just has no integrity.”

“So, why can’t I take a photograph?”

“Because it is a secret ballot voting process.”

“But it is my vote. And I want to show my guy how I voted.”

“What does it matter anyway how you voted? It won’t even matter in a few hours when the results are announced. And why do you need to let your guy know how you voted? Why do you need to prove your support?”

I stood my ground as commissioner and he eventually cast his vote. I forgot all about it, but I doubt that he has let it go. He has not acknowledged my greetings.

Credit: Daystar University
Credit: Daystar University

Of late I have been observing certain individuals in my various circles express themselves from the standpoint of their specialty. They have a firm grasp on what they believe. They are bold enough to articulate their stand and in doing so; they invite fans and haters alike. Be it some of my pastor pals,  PK and Curtis; or Pst M, the senior pastor at my church; or Ginger from the Landmark Forum; or the dude from my fellowship; or the fearless Boniface Mwangi; or even my lovely wife in her academic and intellectual expression. Equally admirable is that dude from the now-registered, now-suspended Atheists of Kenya (which I think should be registered). No, I’m not talking about their president: that one feels like one of those Man U fans who know and follow up on everything Arsenal. I’m referring to the bearded chap who is a childhood buddy of mine and who knows the Bible. Yeah, that one. He has a firm grasp of why and what he believes in, or doesn’t.

I watch these individuals with a mixture of admiration and dread. Admiration for the full conviction they place in the declarations they make. And when they invite me to their quests or beliefs, the certainty with which they guarantee the outcomes is sooooo sexy, inspiring and reaaally admirable. They approach new arguments with the same confidence I approach chapati and chicken. They are giants in their respective disciplines.

I dread the same individuals or rather their outlook because I have disagreed with each of them on the basis of their unwavering stand from their perspectives. I tend to, in these arguments, lack a formidable stand of my own except that I don’t completely agree with their seemingly fixed viewpoints. My disagreement in the absence of facts is often a weak place to fight from, especially when I lack alignment to their ideas, thoughts and or suggestions. I am usually, however, vindicated by time:  a time when I have clarified my thoughts that then crystallize into ideas which I can then communicate coherently. The annoying thing is that these guys will have moved on to the next argument and I will find myself playing catch up yet again.

I often feel, though, that these need to broaden their minds a bit (or even a lot) more. That notwithstanding, I still admire their conviction, focus, and unequivocal stance. And as they continue to express themselves, they grow, expand and evolve.

For instance, I still struggle using scripture as the basis of my Christian life. My assertion is that God and His several ‘expressions’, rather than just the Bible, are the basis of my Christian life – indeed my whole spiritual experience. Now, I often come across as being overly defensive in my outlook, unconfident about my stand, shifty in advancing a convincing argument. The result is I am left feeling irritable, small, resentful and often jealous. I second guess myself and even wonder whether my thoughts or questions are even valid. In the midst of another self-inflicted faith crisis, I choose to remain silent and feel stupid.

Three years ago, I was selected for a master class scriptwriting workshop. It was a big big deal for me. My claim to fame was my experience of having written my autobiography as an alcoholic. Having completed the workshop, a couple of us were selected to write a screenplay for a feature film. Another big big deal. My co-writer, twenty or so years my junior, was a trained filmmaker. I thought we made a great tag team. He had me watch several movies so that we could get a feel of what to write about. I got and felt nothing from watching those movies. Yet, I still felt that I had a legit right to be here. I’d say that I was in this tag team to bring the soul. He didn’t buy it. I started getting late for our brainstorming sessions, our Skype calls with the producers. And what looked like a once in a lifetime opportunity was now looking like production and I began dreading the meetings. Worst of all, I stopped trusting my input yet I knew there was no other contribution I could bring to this project except me and life experience. And the project was halted.

I was not surprised. Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. My assigned partner and I couldn’t seem to build a synergy out of our unique strengths. By the time I’d processed my side of the street about the fallout, not only had everyone moved on, but a new film was shot on the same location in Tsavo East. I got that it is ok to write from my soul. Only thing is, there was no one to tell and I have never looked at another screenplay since, or even dabbled in writing one.

[“Healing is learning to trust my own wisdom, my own intuition.”
—Mary Zink]

I am back in school now and besides being quite excited about it, I am being more intentional and deliberate than I ever was. Being a full-time student is coming at an opportunity cost of the time I could spend growing my business. It is also coming at a high price because I am endeavoring to understand the content of the subjects I am taking each semester. That has also meant that I am bit slower on the uptake and more so on gunning for the distinctions. Yes, I am getting some good results so far but good grades are not my primary motivation. Getting some knowledge, history and diverse perspectives about the stuff that inspires me is the motivation. You know why?

I want to be an authority like these ladies and gentlemen!

I want to win arguments or, at the very least, sustain them. I want to count. Yes, that’s it. I simply want to count. I really want to take a stand and have the balls to defend it: with facts, conviction, confidence and authority like a commissioner on that students’ elections day. And when wrong, I want to stand up, learn from my mistakes and put my butt on the line again. Because being neutral, like an ECD commissioner’s term, has an expiry date.

Sitting on the fence soon gets rather uncomfortable.

 

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I was on a boda going through a murky muddy wet Katani-Syokimau enroute to Mombasa Road to get my mat to Athi River. I had come from a most thrilling session at New Life Mwangaza Rehabilitation Centre.

“Ohh, umetoka kule kwa machokora?” the bodaa guy commented.

Ouch! That was the first time I heard the centre referred as such. Yes, majority of its client population is made up of former street boys and my presentation was done in sheng ya mababi.

I was nervous and dreading the presentation mainly because of a lackluster, severely underwhelming presentation as part of University of Nairobi’s World Aids Day celebrations a few days earlier, where even what I thought was my very witty intro turned out to be a very quick outro. The students didn’t connect, and the conversation was soon reduced to why masturbation should be condoned.

I really need packaging by a speakers bureau, at this very late rate. Ahem ahem Paul Achar.

That intro punchline. I shudder when I think about it.

I still don’t know how I was invited to speak at a World Aids Day Forum yet I am a newlywed having lots of shameless, unprotected sex. It just seems really unfair to you guys.

And then I lost my audience right there.

So, how could I expect a different reception from the twenty eight young men at Mwangaza Centre? Oh the dread.

I begun with some team building activities, then delved directly into my story and resigned to my fate of perhaps 26 of the 28 souls immediately falling asleep. Of the remaining two, one would be still be awake because he had a toothache and the other would have happened to have overslept that morning.

I shared my story after establishing that the only saints in the room were those perhaps buried within the foundation of the building, because the only thing common about saints is that they are all dead.

I shared my story. The family background. The schooling. The drinking. The impact. Sobriety. Recovery. Sex.  My marriage.

Then came the questions.

On love.

“There is a girl I have seen at the church we go to. The way she prays, sings and carries herself well. I think she would make a good wife. Only thing is that she knows I am here. How do I katia her?

On family.

“How can I get family to trust me despite what I have done? How long will it take to obtain their forgiveness?”

On life after rehab.

“We are going back to that mtaani? Life is hard there. How will I maintain my sobriety?”

These questions are fairly standard, regardless of the audience I speak to. It could be clients at a different upmarket rehab or teenagers at a holiday camp. Or university faculty members. Or parastatal staff  sitting on the Alcohol & Drug Committees formed to support their alcoholic and addict colleagues.

So, I was quite set aback when the boda boda guy referred to where I had just from as kule kwa machokora.

And I got why I do what I do the way I do. The struggle is real, life is hard and the addict in recovery is a brave, brave soul.

Give him a chance.

Or two. Or three

 

 

 Prison: the cradle of freedom?

the_only_thing_lacking_is_freedom

I recently walked into my first prison experience.

I was on my way to a youth conference speak to a group of teenagers from fourteen schools in Siaya County on the impact of alcohol and drug use and abuse and early engagement in sex.

My host works for an organisation that runs project in several Kenyan prisons including the Kisumu Main GK Prison aka Kodiaga which was to hose my debut prison appearance.

I was sceptical about the prison visit immediately on our arrival from a six hour trip from Nairobi. I felt we first needed to first check into the hotel, take a long shower and a longer nap followed by a briefing session of what I could expect to see, feel, hear, smell and general experience on my first prison visit.

Instead, we drove directly to the prison. And the opportunity cost to the hotel/shower/nap scenario was a hearty lunch at the officers’ mess.  It was still different. It was ON the prison grounds. After lunch I thought we would leave but, no; the project by Faraja Foundation is INSIDE the prison and we were now headed there.

“I wish we went in before lunch rather than after. What if I need the loo? What if my stomach gives way to the nervous tension that I can now feel?”

Behind bars

As we crossed the gates that lead to the prison proper, we had our pockets checked and I was asked to leave my inhaler.

“What is this?”

“Ni dawa ya asthma and I must enter with it.” The earnestness of my statement was even more convincing than I meant it. The tension I felt could easily have led to an asthma attack. Easily.

All four of us accompanied by the prison’s Deputy Commanding Officer and the Liaison Officer, were now in the prison headed to the kitchen.

The kitchen was long huge shed the size of a mini warehouse found in Nairobi’s Industrial Area with huge furnace like pillars stretched along the middle. On them were huge cauldrons that had beans cooking in some while several prisoners sweating profusely – in their black and white striped uniforms introduced in the Prisons Reforms programme by the then Vice President Moody Awori – were stirring ugali using huge cooking sticks with handles larger than the thickness of their arms and heads the size of a man’s head. And to imagine that this happened at least twice a day. Every day. The mind boggles.

Walking through the prison yard, I was struck that these men ALL seemed to look alike with their clean shaven heads and sun scorched dark skins. I also couldn’t help feeling a bit antsy for the ladies and wondering if their safety was indeed guaranteed. They were now enclosed in a compound with 2000 men. In my mind, the worst case scenarios were fast playing out as horror movies. I will leave them there for now.

What amazed me was the sense of camaraderie among the prisoners. My main expectation, because I now see I have had several about prison life, was that I would find men downcast in the doom and gloom of the prison confines. The officers pointed out to those who were going to spend the rest of their lives in here and several more who had been jailed to terms of twenty years or more. I found it rather unsettling that these guys  could sufficiently provide an answer to that often asked  job interview question, “where do you see yourself in five years?” with a fair margin of  certainty. I don’t think knowing that with a sense of surety is comforting or creates a sense of despair.

I was taken to the classrooms and here I was introduced to the Standard One student prisoners and in the next class were to those who had recently completed their KCPE papers. It was uncanny that unlike in conventional schools where the physical difference between Standard ones and eights is obvious due to size, here they were all adults. So one couldn’t speak to the primary novices with the higher voice tones we tend to use for younger children.

There were several of those who had stretched their blankets along the walls to create shades they sat under to play board games and generally hangout.

The sleeping quarters was the next stop. Mattresses were strewn along the floor of the huge dormitories. I dread to think what all this looked like before the reforms where mattresses, I heard, were for a select few, and not in particularly good condition.

The prisoners at Kisumu Main GK Prison ranged from those serving life terms to those in remand awaiting resolution of their cases. In the IT Section of the prison, I met a university student studying pharmacy. There were 3 old Personal computers and he was helping install anti-virus software in one of them. He told me he was in remand for a case of stealing. Of all the men in that prison, he seemed the least adjusted.

I declined the offer to visit the women’s prison. This was enough for one day.

Something else that stood out for me was that these guys had everything that I need to live healthy and with integrity. They had spiritual welfare officers, social workers, counsellors and human rights officers attached to them. Call me narrow minded but I couldn’t help wondering what value these added to the life of a man sentenced to 20 years in prison let alone the ones who are in for life. The looks on their faces seemed evidence enough that these reform and renovation projects run by my friend’s Foundation was working wonders.

The tension, and anxiety and generally confusing emotions I felt as I was walked through the prison were palpable. And it really felt that the only thing that differentiated these men and I was that I was dressed differently and I was going to leave after this.

Yet, unlike you and me they cannot go where they want to when they want. I need to get over the idea that being in prison isn’t a denial of one’s humanity.

Youth Conference at Ukwala, Ugunja, Siaya County

The prison experience drastically shifted the perspective of my talk to the teenagers from Siaya County. I didn’t sleep well at all that night and I suspect it wasn’t just the heat of the weather in Kisumu.

I confess I tried to scare the teens into freedom from drugs; perhaps not an effective strategy. I was still raw. I just hope that in 20 years they would be standing at the same space I was to talk about the difference that not getting alcohol and drugs made in their lives. That they would indeed be real mashujaas because of how I had touched their lives. Modesty was not my portion on this day.

Nairobi. Home.

I came back to Nairobi directly to watch an intriguing play; Kaggia by John Sibi Okumu. It chronicles the life of one of the Kapenguria Six, Bildad Kaggia as told by Stacey and Xan, two young film makers in contemporary Kenya who meet to discuss the script for a film of this freedom fighter and nationalist politician.

Kaggia chose to celebrate this hard won freedom through living a simple life.  A simple life that came at a high cost. He believed the meaning of true freedom would only be realised if ALL Kenyans had access to the very freedoms he and his fellow freedom fighters fought for. He declined to enrich himself at the expense of the constituency he served. This was despite being publicly taunted by President Jomo Kenyatta as being a fool ostensibly for choosing to stay poor.

He chose to remain true to his personal conviction that every citizen ought to benefit from the struggle for independence he took part in. Not just a select few. More than that Kaggia was a Revolutionary as described by Lewis Gordon in a talk ‘Frantz Fanon at 90 and his relevance in today’s world’  who  understood that the communal struggle is bigger than the individual and accepted that those who usher in freedom are rarely best suited to lead once freedom is attained. Kaggia was the true revolutionary who was willing to fight for freedom even while knowing that he may not taste the fruits thereof. And he didn’t.

Dying in abject poverty I couldn’t help wonder how different Kaggia’s life was from the men I had met at the Kisumu Prison. He made a conscious decision to live out his freedom guided by the principles and conviction that drove to fight for that freedom in the first place.
Was he foolish to subject his family to a diet that was free of the Matunda ya Uhuru?

You be the judge.

This freedom theme continued when I watched the film Lumumba by Raoul Peck. A courageous man who believed that freedom for the African people should be prescribed by the African themselves. He chose freedom for his people and he got shot by his fellow African.

Perhaps, he reckoned, he was 50 years to early. Yet, years on, the struggle continues.

With the choice of freedom comes responsibility. Responsibility is a choice. As much as I did not have extensive conversations except for perfunctory greetings with the prisoners, there seemed to be a sense of order in that courtyard at Kisumu Main GK Prison.

Does it take going to jail for order to prevail? With the rise of violence against women does it need for that freedom to be taken away from the male assailants for them to be whole again?

Is prison the only hope for the future of men to be one that is bright? Free? Just? Secure?

 

 

 #Parenteen

Khalil Gibran on Children

Initially written and submitted on 10th October 2014 for a short story non-fiction competition

Early 2013, the calls from both my son and his mum started coming in quicker succession than before.

“Please speak to your son, he is getting increasingly unruly. He is growing horns. Speak to your son!”

“What did he do this time?

“You ask him for the details!

“Kwani kulienda aje?” I would ask HRH at our regular meet up on Sunday morning as we went to dad’s church, as he called it.

“Hakuna.”

This exchange was typical, with each one trading accusations and no one willing to offer any information.

“Mum, amekataa kunipea food.”

“Mum amenifungia nje.”

“Kwani I have become his mboch so that he can report my mistakes all the time? Ebu talk to him. He needs to realize I am his mother and he is not going to get anywhere that kind of behaviour.”

I would share my frustration in my Teen parents’ class, usually via long emails. Very often, I would get no replies.

Finally, one parent replied. He reckoned that perhaps the person who needed to effect the change was me. I was slightly resentful because I felt he was making me the scapegoat of a problem that was not really mine. After all, wasn’t I the one in this parenting class? Wasn’t I the bold one who’d taken the road less travelled of present day baby daddies?

A part of his reply read:

“Chris, you probably need to transform from being a Sunday entertainment buddy to being with you son longer. Consider living with him.”

What I heard, though, was proposing proposal to reconcile with his mum. This would be kinda a big issue given that we had now been apart fourteen years.

At some point, his mum wanted to have him stay with me, where I lived in Eastlands, have him commute daily to and from school as a form of punishment for his disrespect towards her. But, travelling to and from Ongata Rongai daily is hardly a commute. It’s more of a road trip.

Roogz’s mother saw Roogz’ actions as DELIBERATELY designed to make her life experience a living hell. On the other hand, whilst appreciating the predicament she was in, I could see the futility of such an action.

I had been a problematic teenager myself and coming to terms with my adolescent past had meant gaining awareness of the impact of my not-so-nice actions towards my mother.

I, nevertheless, initiated Project Hero Dad and promptly called a conference. I was going to be the all important solution-provider.

My tripartite meeting was an anti-climax. No one spoke or thanked me for my visionary action. I saw and felt two people desperately crying out for help, clarity and direction. And rather than join them, I was the one to offer leadership.

It dawned on me that I would be the one to move. To Ongata Rongai.

Shudder!

The prospective move was fraught with doubts, uncertainties and conversations back and forth as his mum and I got our intentions and motives tested and refined and several times, altogether invalidated.

Armed with a resolved past and three years of taking and facilitating parenting classes at Mavuno church, I felt I was more than up to the task of having HRH with me and starting the journey towards a problem free adulthood.

Life then did what it does amidst major turning points. It happened.

HRH’s mum changed her mind about me staying with him when she heard that I would be the one moving house nearer to HRH’s school. He would be sitting his KCPE paper in November 2013. That my script was not driven by a desire to punish his derelictions did not sit well with her and she withdrew her ‘offer’ to have me stay with my son.

I had been demoted at work through a restructured progamme. My salary was significantly reduced and I honestly considered accepting the withdrawal of the ‘offer’ to stay with my son.

My ‘Board of Trustees’ unanimously decreed that moving in with Roogz was a matter of life and death. It had to happen.

Shudder! SHUDDER!

Getting Real

All my parenting class lessons seemed to go out of the window when the move eventually happened in September 2013. Initially, I chose to observe us living together so that we could find our bearings. A life coach pal of mine had informed me that the top three stressors in a person’s life are:

  1. Career Change
  2. Moving house
  3. Death of a loved one

I seemed to be experiencing the first two and perhaps all three, because of the demotion and the fact that I shifting from a house that I had lived in for twenty years, and solo for the last fifteen, and I was moving in with another human being who was dependent on me for his livelihood.

The loved one whose death I experienced was me, me who had lived alone for over a decade. I would need to refill my gas cylinder after only four years.

There was minimal TV which meant little distraction for HRH from his studies. I still kept all the DVDs I had acquired over time, which made for great alternative entertainment. And because I was ‘observing’, I couldn’t make any drastic rules except to stack away the R rated movies and series.

It was awkward discerning what was or wasn’t R rated because – and this sounds weird – I just couldn’t tell whether or not the boy was a boy or a young man.

Keeping it Real

It quickly dawned on HRH and I that this move was not exactly what we had in mind; we were not entering a space of eternal happiness, joy and freedom.

I could sense his great expectations of his Sunday entertainment buddy/dad 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year were rapidly dwindling when I imposed rules, sanctions and discipline.

My romantic excursions of evenings of exchanging war stories, talking about girls and sex, giving sound, wise, profound, deep and meaningful fatherly advice about life also rapidly faded.

He often gave me is-that-even-a-question look when I’d ask if he really really had to eat.

What if we could stretch the gas usage to about two years, half the time it took the last one to run out?

This parenting experience was beginning to look like work. Or worse, like life.

He wouldn’t join me at church, citing exhaustion of being in school all of six days. This did not make sense to me because we used to meet at 8.30 am every Sunday mornings after he’d attended the 7.00am mass.

Distorted Reality

He scored an A- in KCPE. We were spared the agony of looking for a school and he got a place at a national boarding secondary school.

Secondary school brought a new set of issues and frustrations to consider. He wouldn’t do his holiday homework despite the awareness of sure punishment and failure in the opener exam based on the homework.

I talked, ranted, and consulted my peers and other parents. And I lashed out at HRH. And the homework would still not get done.

I was relating to my son in only one way; that of BEING HIS FATHER. That his job description was to make me happy and look good, That when he has refused to accept my very wise – and rather frequent – counsel on the importance of doing his homework, house chores, I would get angry, read him the riot act, and yet the chores and homework would remain undone. I started avoiding him by coming home late so I may not act out on the violent feelings. And when I was at home, I became a grouch.

Despite the drama I was puzzled by the inexplicable sadness and emptiness when school reopened.

Reality Restored

I resolved to work on myself before the next holiday and obtain clarity of my actions and reactions. I figured perhaps, there could be a different way of relating with my son. I could have one of His Royal Highness BEING MY SON. The onus was now on me, rather than on him, to create a great relationship by being myself. He did not have to obedient, hard working or diligent for me to function as his father. I was now inspired to be the source of love in our relationship. I relaxed.

Heck, I also don’t like doing homework and house chores. Completing these, is now in service e of being a great dad.

It is now just over a year since HRH Roogz, my 14 year old son going on 30, and I moved in together, making me a full time parent, a part time entertainment buddy.

More than that, my son is truly a reason for me to go on. There are many ways of activating this relationship.

This adventure is certainly a work in progress, a working process.

It is not true that teens are the reason animals kill their young

 

This space called Mavuno

I am one excited Mavunite. Just saying that is a transformation in itself. And you would not have caught me whispering let alone saying it a year ago.

This is my Mavuno (www.mavunochurch.org) conversation

Mizizi

I was in the Season III Mizizi class of 2009 and before that I did not do church. Attendance was sporadic and nomadic and it was always one-off. Yaani, I would attend a church only once and I would be done with it. And this would happen about one or two times a year every other year.

During Mizizi, I resigned in writing from my childhood church. It was a very interesting experience. I hadn’t attended it in over 20 years but I felt that since I had joined it in writing it was only fair that I resign in writing. If anything I gave up the right to resent and criticize that church.

This opened the way for the next thing.

I fought through my whole Mizizi experience. Amazing Allan, an understudy in our class, reminded me recently how I always came with guns blazing. I had several questions and I had promised myself I would not attend the Sunday lectures until after Mizizi. I had to assess for myself what this whole experience was about. It was interesting how I joined Mizizi in the first place. A pal of mine had promised to pay for me as I was out of job at the time. She told me she would approach her LG as they were all planning to do Mizizi. We were meant to meet at the Launch. They didn’t come. They didn’t even do Mizizi that season. I accepted to stay on until week 4 as per the request from Pastor M at the launch to us sceptics. I was certain I would leave then. I was not a Christian yet I knew I had a relationship with God. And I couldn’t understand why my friend and several other Christian pals of mine seemed to think what I had was not enough. I often got irritated.  In any case I ended up staying on in Mizizi with a 100% attendance record (but do I say?) including the weekend activities and still had my guns blazing. Most of the special activities I came only because I did not want to have to blame anyone else for my absence.

The evangelism session was one I vehemently opposed during class. I figured it was a marketing exercise for Jesus and Mavuno. I still came anyway. We went out in twos and waah the first person we stopped to ‘evangelise’ to, stopped. And he listened. We read from the script and we went on to talk to another 6 or so other people. No one got saved or hurt. Isitoshe, in the gifting section of the Mizizi book, I scored a 50 on Evangelism. Very sad. This thing was not working very well. My script was undergoing several unwarranted revisions.

The half day of prayer was another classic God intervention moment. My plan was to do Facebook and sleep. My phone went off- Battery Empty!!! – just after the briefing and I needed more time when we were called in for debriefing; reason being I had not completed the assignment and I was finding value in it. And there was no hint of sleep during that session.

I was on the social justice committee which meant I attended Mavuno before the end of Mizizi because Sunday was the only day we could all meet at the same time. Again another beef I usually had against church was that there was no opportunity to give feedback to the preacher; that it was ALWAYS a one way street affair. Well, on this day, during the SHOW ME THE MONEY SERIES, there was feedback DURING the service, where the congregation could ask questions via SMS and the questions would show up on the large screen AS THE SERVICE WENT ON.NKT!!! This meant I had to give up the right to resent churches.

I had several questions, most of which went unanswered during Mizizi but somehow I chose to press on. One of my questions was if Jesus was God could I replace “In Jesus’ name” with just plain “In God’s name” during prayers? Our social justice mission was a defining experience where I shared God’s Love through my experience with alcoholism, deliverance, recovery and the joy of sobriety. And because I was not an expert on scripture the rest of the class took on the role of giving the story a Christian perspective. 3 guys got saved and we were ALL pastors in that session. It was unforgettable.

Then came the retreat at MMU; the prayer session was a mind, soul and body blowing affair. I am told that it was the first time of the Prayer of Five was done. That was spooky. I was sure the other four knew about each other and that is why they were agreeing with each one was saying. Well, they were agreeing with my feedback about their lives because, well, they were polite like that and they didn’t want to add onto the Sin List that we’d been given earlier in the day. There was absolutely no way I could have been on point 4 out of 4 times. But when they spoke into my life…to this day I am still spooked.

It was also the first time I made a connection between my treatment of women and my father wounds. What I got from Mizizi was that trust was certainly a big issue for me and now I was sold to attending the Sunday services which I chose to call Lectures. Somehow that gave me to the freedom to listen without prejudice.

Towards the end I was told I would be made a lifegroup leader. I accepted though I had no clue what was expected of me

LG

Lifegroup has been an eye-opening experience. I recall asking why I was appointed leader of my LG and I was told that the Mizizi  facilitators had prayed about it. So, I figured who was I to mess with God’s will? During the orientation the first question we were asked was why we were there. I reckoned it was because so and so had called and asked us to be there. My question was where we leading our groups to. And I was told to the cross. Now, as a non-Christian, I had no clue what this meant and I seriously considered resigning. Then I remembered the God’s will bit. So, I asked what EXACTLY was at the cross and when I got answers like freedom, fulfilment, surrender, etc, I knew then I could handle this thing.

The only thing was I still did not believe that Jesus Christ had died for MY sins. I chose however not make it an LG issue because I was quite clear that my service position was NOT about me, but about the group. And besides they knew my true colours from Mizizi. My LG experience was exciting and I even got to have an extra 9 cups to add on the 3 I had because I was playing host. In our first meeting at my place I had more guests than I had had for 10 years; 11 in all.

My belief issue re Jesus Christ got me asked to step aside as an LG leader. This gave me more motivation  – and resentment in the  now all too familiar space of being misunderstood and unheard – to keep asking the questions because I couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t quit the Mavuno conversation altogether. Clearly I was valuing the experience.

And earlier in January 2010 during the Extreme Makeover- Life edition, on Pastor M’s suggestion to give God up to the end of the year, I declared I would and I asked my LG to hold me accountable. It was an awesome year in that department.

I rededicated my life to God during GT in January but I refused to acknowledge I was saved and I didn’t even tell my LG until maybe 3 weeks later. I was ashamed of accepting defeat at trying to do it my own way and of having others tell me “I told you so!” I didn’t last very long in that realm because the obstinacy took prominence in my life.

Prayer Adventure (Ombi)

Highlight of my Ombi 10 week experience was a further connectedness with people and I truly accepted that that was something I truly valued. Fasting was a new experience more than a weight-loss programme, I found that fasting in itself was not about food per se (I love my food) or coercing God to do my will; but something much more profound. And being a deep and profound kind of guy, I liked this. The highlight was that it was that I, Chris, of all people, could actually stand in the gap for someone else in prayer and actually get a divine intervention. I am still jazzed by this.

Ombi II

The highlight of redoing Ombi in the new format was watching one of our LG member’s transformation.  Being involved in her process as an LG was a sight to see. She gave her life to Christ at the retreat and for me, taking Ombi again – in the leave-no-man behind philosophy- was well worth the effort.

Lea

I was in the pioneer class of Parenting at Mavuno. This class gave me fresh relationship to the Bible as I got to see how serious God is about raising kids. It has transformed my relationship with my son, Roogz, 11 this March, whom I don’t live with but we’re very much a part of each other.

I signed up to serve in this ministry come 2011. Clearly, this is certainly God’s idea not my own. A part-time parent in a parenting ministry. Talk about qualifying the called.

Sermons vs. Lectures

Why I like Mavuno is the ever fresh thinking and outlook on life. Mavuno always seems to reinvent itself without losing itself and its mission.

And when they say they accept you as you are it is true. Choosing to call the sermons lectures has opened up an authentic relationship with God in the present. My relationship to ‘Sermons’ I suppose is an old wound. My take on it is that relating to the sermons as lectures rather than sermons has kept me coming, listening, learning and receiving a much needed transformation.

During the ‘Disobedient Leader’ lecture of the Legends of the Fall series, I was undergoing a spiritual crisis. I felt a stirring in my heart. I walked to the prayer tent and asked God to take over my life. I prayed that I was unhappy, lonely, angry and really really tired. I now wanted to surrender my life and my will to Him. The Jesus Christ thingi still did not make sense. If indeed I was to leave Mavuno at year-end, I was sure I had done my bit in showing up and seeking Him. And in this last leg of the year, if it took calling out Jesus’ name then so be it, I would. And I asked a prayer counsellor to pray with me. This time I shared with my LG on the same day.

I am clear my God loves me. And I am deeply grateful for that. I am grateful that He is more interested in my welfare than I am and I know He is up to something. To put up with me and not be threatened by all my posturing is humbling. I was still trying to figure out how to surrender.

A pal of mine suggested I stop figuring it out and let it be. Why lie, I admit I did not know how to do that. Maybe just keep coming I suppose. And keep coming I have.

Serving in Ministry: LEA

Then 2011 came round it was time to serve at a different ministry. LEA was and is my chosen ministry. I recall at the launch Pastor Carol saying that service in ministry is a form of warfare. And indeed it was the first time I was aware of repeated experiences of demonic attacks. I wasn’t sure about this so I minimised the experience and didn’t share much about it. Instead I prayed, prayed, prayed. I prayed because that experience felt like rolling a huge boulder uphill. The retreat at Lukenya was fun yet humbling. We were had pulled through in the season. It was a sigh of relief. The boulder had arrived.

Baptism on my 40th Birthday

My personal mission statement is to serve, transform and empower my environment through creative problem solving. I do this one person at a time. I have realized that the ultimate in taking responsibility for my life is to completely, progressively and continuously surrender it to a higher cause than mine. God’s will and purpose for me is more often than not that higher cause. And Mavuno is the space where that has happened and continues to do so.

Yes, I had been baptized as a child and in a conversation with my Godmother; she reckoned I did not need to do it again. That conversation gave rise to the reason why I need to do this; as an adult, publicly and at Mavuno.

It is a declaration of trust. It is a desire to experience God’s love; not just know it like I have especially in the last 13 years since I, as an alcoholic, but for the grace of God, stopped drinking. It is a journey from the head to the heart. That distance that is said to be the shortest in one’s life journey but that takes a long time to accomplish. It is a leap of faith and an unambiguous stand I am making. That would possibly explain why I was shaking that day I asked Pastor Thomas if I could be baptized on Sunday 1st May which happens to my 40th birthday. A New Beginning indeed.

The decision still feels counterintuitive given my recent conversation, confusion (read stubbornness) about JC. But even that I can surrender, I was told. This past weekend I met a pal whom I was weary of sharing the news so that I don’t hear the I-told-you-so line. And he didn’t. If anything it was genuine happiness in that beaming smile of his.

I am a transformed joy-fully grateful dude, it’s ongoing and the opportunity to grow and connect purposefully in several ways at once at Mavuno is an experience I truly cherish.

For life to begin at 40, what needs to end at 39?

I turn 40 in a couple of weeks on Sunday 1st of May, 2011.

I concede I am struggling within myself at accepting it as real.

Hear me out first before you dismiss me as not being in touch with reality.

The main aspect of the intra-personality conflict is that I have ‘nothing’ to show for it on the material front. I am guilty of violating the 12345 by 40 rule: 1 wife, 2 children, 3 bedroom house, a 4 wheel drive and a 5 acre plot.

Now, popular talk that age is nothing but a number or that there will hardly be any difference on my birthday than on the day before is still not helping matters.

On the spiritual front, however, I am a content man. I do, if I may say so, have a gratifying sense of accomplishment.  I am grateful for the process and investment it has taken to be where I am in my journey. I can safely acknowledge that I have no one in my book to whom I have any claims of any sort. I hold no grudge and it is indeed a freeing place to be in.

Nonetheless, I have not arrived. Spiritual growth is an ongoing work in process.

So, that leaves me with me to contend with…a long standing struggle to forgive myself of a past riddled with alcoholism, incomplete projects, aborted start-ups, economic stagnation, deep loneliness and unhealthy relationships.

The conflict is that forgiving myself means I am letting myself off the hook. I am intellectually aware that nothing less than letting go of the past in its entirety is what I am being called to do. But in my heart, the sense of self-condemnation runs deep and the conversation is that I need to pay in full for my past sins and, that, preferably before I turn 40.

Now, how do I do that in only a couple of weeks and live?

Stoning myself has never been worse.