Rachel has written previously about how we were asked live on UCB Radio what we felt had led us to this, our Sweet spot.
I – Phil(ip) – remember thinking ‘live on air’ how there probably wasn’t time to share details of my ‘deal’ with God in ‘92 – where I agreed to become a Christian provided there was a clear purpose. Or how as I was about to complete my Design degree – a discipline not dissimilar to the Inquiry Based Learning we’ve since witnessed in Italy, the US and Australasia – I’d felt an even stronger calling to youth work (despite not feeling like a youth worker in the traditional sense). And listeners probably wouldn’t be interested in our first years of marriage living in the middle of an Urban Priority Area – where Rachel began her teaching career – and a middle class estate where I’d become the youth worker bridging the socio-economic divides.Nor was their time to share how detached youth work on those estates stirred my heart for the ‘marginalized’ and led to various roles at one of the UK’s larger relief and development agencies. And there wasn’t time to share how as I sensed my time at Tearfund was up in 2005, I’d made another ‘deal’ with God that I had only leave what was a great job if I knew where I would go to next; imagine how I felt when someone tapped me on the shoulder minutes later with an invitation that would eventualy lead to a move to South Africa in 2007.In South Africa we’d establish an inter-cultural network made up of 100s of business, charity, church & education leaders within 100km of Durban, an initiative we’ve facilitated for more than 10 years. But, I just didn’t feel that there was time to share how I felt all of the above had prepared me to pioneer equality and integration in South Africa through quality, diverse and accessible education. So I just went with the very first thing that popped into my head…
About a month prior to the radio interview – at the beginning of an awareness and fund raising trip to the UK – our son Zac asked if he could visit a church in central Edinburgh, where a friend of his was leading worship. Since it turned out that Rachel and I weren’t preaching anywhere that Sunday evening we asked if we could tag along. Zac agreed. What we hadn’t realised was the 18.15 gathering was for students – the first of the new academic year. We felt a bit out of place, but did our best to blend in, sitting discreetly at the back. The worship was uplifting, the Pastor spoke on inclusion – appropriately for us – and people got prayed for, all of which was great. Then, I recall the Pastor pacing (which is what I do when God is revealing something that I am uncertain about sharing). Well, he did share…
There is someone here called ‘Philip’
I didn’t imagine many Philips would be there – given the age of people – but I suppose it was possible. But the name ‘Philip’ really resonated with me, because over the last 10 years I’ve slowly reverted back to my birth name, as my preferred name ‘Phil’ is a girls name in South Africa. I’m so used to introducing myself as ‘Philip’ I do so without thinking – even in the UK.
…and you feel like an evangelist, but not in the traditional sense
Now the Pastor really had my attention, since a few years ago – when God challenged me to “go and do something” as I prayerfully shared my frustration about South Africa’s claim to be 80% Christian, whilst at the same time the worlds most consistently unequal country – I felt God say I should visit all the businesses in town to talk to them about authentic church / Christianity. Although God didn’t say why, I obeyed (reluctantly). By 2016 I’d spoken to over 200 local business men and women. I recently found this in my journal, dated 2015:
“So far I’ve visited 60 businesses & had significant conversations about church / Christianity with about 30. Although, like the ‘Philip’ in Acts 6:1ff, I have always known that God chose me to care for the poor, I have never felt like much of an ‘Evangelist’ (Acts 8:26ff); at least not in the traditional sense.”
When the Edinburgh Pastor said he wanted to pray for this ‘Philip’ I was at the front before anyone else had chance to respond. What he and his co leader prayed next astounded me:
Your heart breaks for the marginalized and inclusion, because [God’s] heart breaks for those things too. [God] is going to make you a bridge between black and white, men and women, rich and poor”
So there it is, that is how I know establishing equality and integration in South Africa through education is my ‘Sweet Spot’ – because on top of all my life experiences thus far, God took the time to single me out on my ‘night off’ in Edinburgh, to tell me so – through two strangers. Since this took place on night 5 of what would be a 7 week tour of the UK, imagine the peace I had about sharing what we’d discovered from visiting schools around the world that were bringing freedom through education, and how our plans to contextualize this in a quality, diverse and accessible school required people to come alongside to support us as we spearhead something South Africa hasn’t seen in 175+ years of inequality and segregation.
“What I am about to establish through you will be a model that will transform the nation” (God).