News in South Africa
The ship has set sail!
Reflecting on moments in the journey round two.
By Wessel van den Berg
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”
I felt a shiver running down my spine as one of our directors shared these words with the staff gathered together in the room. We were gathered to speak about our organization, and the place of each person in the organization. I felt this way because the words were used by Nelson Mandela in his inauguration speech. Ten minutes before Fikile had spoken them I had read a letter that Madiba had written to his daughter – in his handwriting – displayed outside the door of our venue. We were in the Red Location museum and the event was called ‘Join the Journey’.
When we were planning the content for the journey round I was reminded of the play called “The Tempest” written by Shakespeare. The story is about a ship’s crew who are lost at sea in an incredible storm. They wash out in different places and do not know their shipmates have survived. The different sailors are challenged by a monster called Caliban and his owner -a resident of the island – the wizard Prospero. Prospero plays games with the sailors, but ultimately helps them to find each other. The image of the storm, and the monster on the island reminded me of our organization, venturing into stormy waters. For me I felt more like I was on a ship than a taxi. A ship going into uncharted waters with the forces of nature – earth, water, air and fire all forming part of the storm.
In Durban we were in a very watery place. We conducted our sessions in the Blue Waters hotel, on the first floor. Right below our room, on the ground floor, was the indoor swimming pool of the hotel. So we were about ten meters above a swimming pool while we were discussing the future of the OLIVE LEAF Foundation. What made it very scary was the fact that the floor wobbled every ten minutes. Yes. The first floor of a twenty storey building, above a swimming pool, WOBBLED. The staff in Durban, at the time, also did not have a designated captain. Regardless of this the crew were strong swimmers. The workshop flowed very well, and the Isicathamiya performance was one of the best! The storm continued to blow its fierce winds of change and onward we sailed.
The wind blew especially hard at the childhood home of Madiba - the village of Qunu. The venue we worked in is situated on a high hill which looks over the valleys and hills of the Eastern Cape. The wind was so strong that a few people were pulled off their feet when they opened or closed the door to the room. The room was one of the best we had used on the journey – it was warm and created a great atmosphere for the serious process in which we were engaged. As we were talking about our future, and our place in this organization, the wind howled outside, and the windows rattled.
One of the beautiful moments in the journey for me occurred when the staff members were busy with their mirrors. They received much less variety of beads and material to work with than other sites. When I saw this I thought that these mirrors would not look as rich and colourful as the others we had seen. I was blown over by the skill in which the group managed to utilize their materials. It really taught me a lesson in resource management - often when the resource is particularly scarce does the real creativity arrive. The real swimmers show they can swim only when the storm begins.
In Cape Town the ship passed through a very stormy patch of ocean. When I think back on the two days I remember two days of thunder and lightning. It was sunny outside – but the room, and the people participating, created a clamouring and loud series of thunderclaps. As a facilitator I was running around the room the whole time, trying to hear everyone, and contain the space, but it was impossible. The facts that it was a massive group of people gathered together, and that other workshops also spilled noise into our space led to a very loud two days. It was stunning to see that through the thunder and noise there were dark clouds brooding in the group’s hearts.
Occasionally they erupted into lightning flashes of voices speaking out. Voices competing for acknowledgement, and then submerging into the dark storm again. These were the bright moments for me in Cape Town. The voices were calling for change, and pointing the direction to a safer haven.
In Soweto we were firmly engaged with the earth. We utilized a cold room in a massive mountain of a building in Soweto called the Grace Bible church. These were the coldest days on the journey, and while it rained and howled outside, we were sitting in this concrete cave, dealing with very heavy matters.
All three of us were sick: Mama Mercy, Marisca and I. We had four consecutive days in this venue, with electricity only available every now and again. The issues expressed became more and more difficult. And in this place Marisca asked those gathered in the room a very simple question: “Why are you here?”
How appropriate that we were in the Grace Bible church. What followed was nothing less than grace. The stories and feelings shared flowed like a powerful stream of life, pouring out filled with values and passion and deep conviction. In these few minutes the first quadrant of the Integral Framework was fuller than I had ever experienced. A young woman expressed the feeling in the room perfectly when she said: “I can just feel something larger in the room right now – I can even say it is the presence of God.” She was not the only one at that time with tears in her eyes.
That was the moment the olive branch was delivered, I believe.
We sailed on and in Polokwane the ship was in a steady harbour for a very focused two days. We sat around a fire and had the luxury of ample time at our disposal. All nine attendants brought their focus and thoughts to the session. As facilitators we were tired and the warmth of the fire was a suitable place to end the stormy sailing trip around the shores of our sites.
As I write this I am getting another shiver down my spine. I remember the room in which Fikile spoke those powerful words of Madiba. The room we used in the Red Location museum. It was shaped like a boat turned upside down. I did not realise the significance of the metaphor at the time.
Our boat has indeed been tumbled around, and we have gone through a powerful storm. We have lost loved ones and friends, but onward we sail with the grace of the dove’s delivery of the olive branch. The question we will face when we step onto dry land again is whether we can use those elements we gathered on the way: our earth, our water, our wind, fire and thunder, and with our Creator’s help can build a new, sustainable world.
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