For the past several years, I have been imagining what it would look like to use surfing as a platform for community engagement in a rural village along the Indian Ocean coastline of South Africa. Toward this goal, I formed a partnership in 2010 with a Denver-based nonprofit named Empowering Communities to Transcend Adversity. ETCA was started to create a framework and structure for this vision, and the Surfcare project was born. Our mission is sustainable community development through surfing. As Surfcare is not yet operational, it is essentially a marinating recipe of ideas and people who share a common dream. The Seattle School is allowing me a space to reflect and process through what Surfcare is and where it is headed. More so, the school has been a major catalyst in my re-imagining of what healthy mission and community development really are. As a visionary, I am being called into a new understanding of what engaging communities in South Africa through surfing could look like.
The focus of my adult vocational pursuit has been engaging global issues of the Majority World through humanitarian aid, community development and missions work, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. Since coming to The Seattle School, my stance toward this type of work, in particular, global mission, has shifted momentously. As I see differently, I engage the world differently. As I begin to see with more expansive eyes, I embrace the world more expansively. My desire to “help” and “rescue from” has been replaced with a desire to inhabit with, to be present with people in these communities who are marginalized and oppressed. I now espouse a paradigm that is at its core incarnational rather than paternalistic. I have let go of the worn-out, harmful approach of the colonial and modern eras. I cannot perform the messianic tasks of saving and rescuing. I cannot even “help” without hurting. But what I can do is enter into relationship with those who, like me, are wounded and suffering, I can inhabit with and be present and listen well. I can share my passion for surfing. I can relax and be myself and allow the divine mystery to make Her voice known.
I have suffered immensely while engaging issues of grinding poverty in difficult places like Sudan, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and India. My heart has been ground to a fine pulp while being in these places; the trauma of violence, illness and poverty wreaking havoc on my being. Yet, I have begun to understand that as I bring myself in all of its crucified-ness to another, to the pain of the suffering other, something happens. Through a cosmic mystery, something life-giving is birthed in that space in between us. Something opens up. Space is created. And sometimes, our mutual suffering is transformed.