Being missional in the midst of trouble

One of the reasons blogging has been slow this week has been the chaos on the CPUT campus.

Students have been striking over a number of issues – chief among them has been the state of the residences, where maintenance and facilities generally are in a very poor state.

The strike got violent and destructive due (it seems) to the managements unwillingness to meet with (hearsay) and listen to the students demands.  As a result the students decided to vandalize property, flood the Commerce building, blockade the parking garage so that the vice-rector and other staff could not leave, disrupt classes etc.

Read more here:

Students Threaten to Disrupt Campus

Three Held after Protests on Campus

CPUT Calm After Protest Violence

My take on it as far as I have been able to gauge is that whilst most of the issues are legit, the manner in which the students have dealt with them (violence and vandalism) has not been something which I (and most of the students I have spoken to) can condone.

But my more pressing question is how do we be missional in the light of all this happening?  What does it mean to be the light in this situation?  What if anything does the gospel of the Kingdom have to say to this situation?

1) What most surprised me was my inability to “know” what to do… I spent most of the week grappling for ideas.

2) I do not believe the gospel to be a-political, as politics deals with how a community lives together and deals with issues of community, rule and morality.  The Kingdom of God (itself a political concept) has much to say to these kind of issues.

3) I do not believe the gospel call in this case is to take sides.  There are real issues and real abuses on both sides.  But this does not mean we should not involve ourselves at all…

4) What I did realise is how key relationships are in all this.  After all the root of the problem could be said to be relational breakdown.  Neither side listening to or respecting the other, or for that matter honouring and serving each other.

5) But to try to foster new relationships in the midst of this kind of tension is almost impossible.  Also I suspect it is too late.  In those situations people are not listening or very often open to new input or relationships.  The chance to be a voice of truth and love in that situation is almost nil.

What we ought to be doing and continue doing is building those relationships with role-players and responsible office holders in the campus and residence community all the time.

We have to seek to be involved with the key community people before the trouble or crisis so that when the crisis hits we are not only a part of the situation but we are known as those who really care about and serve the community.  It is natural then that we are involved with, respected and listened to in these situations.

Now is the time in which to build those relationships and seek the welfare of our city (or campus).

6) What our campus does not need at this time are statements of our take on the issue (although helpful correspondence with role players is not discounted on this point) or the launch of some new programme or initiative to solve the campus problems.

7) What could have been helpful was to call the campus to pray for peace.  Although it would be helpful if this prayer would be accompanied by some form of involvement or action.  Otherwise we will simply entrench the dichotomy between Christian things and the real life so prevalent on our campus.  So many of those engaging in acts of vandalism also no doubt attend church on a Sunday.  There needs to be a bringing together of these issues.

8 ) The most practical solution I found was as a few of us chewed over and developed an idea.  But what struck me was that this too was all about relationships.

The idea ran a bit like this – the problem with the strike and all the issues surrounding it is that often the issues get ignored as the strike takes on a life of its own.  The happenings of the strike are discussed more than the issues.  And egos, power trips and power plays from both sides blur the real issues.

So instead of trying to do something about the strike which we probably could not anyway.  How about we tackle the issues?  Now the issues are big issues, where do we start? For me it was obvious I spend time every week in a particular men’s residence, I have got to know most of the House Committee there.  Why not sit down with them and a few guys in our Bible study there and talk about what we could do to try to sort out some of the basic problems.

Rather than waiting for the programmes and the institution to come and provide a solution to our problems (even if it is their duty and obligation).  Why don’t we together seek solutions to the problems affecting the residence?

We start with those who are already in relationship with.  In those situations where we are already working, connecting, serving and deepen, strengthen our involvement and our serving.  Demonstrate to the wider residence community and the house committee that we are not merely here to run a study group – we are here to love, serve and bless the people in this residence, because the message we hold to has gripped us, changed us and sent us out of our ghettos in order to be a blessing wherever we find ourselves.

This has been a challenging week of searching for how do I put all my talking into flesh.  Searching for a gospel answer to a campus crisis.  So far, besides listening to people and trying to engage with the issue I cannot honestly say I have done much but I have been pushed and confronted to ask myself – what is all my talk worth?

And the answer is still to be written…

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~ by John on May 11, 2009.

One Response to “Being missional in the midst of trouble”

  1. Thank you for being a Christian and for being there! Strength.

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