Why are you transitioning out of South Africa?
There are family realities factors as well as other variables leading up to the decision to transition out of South Africa. We sensed our parents’ need for care increase over the past couple of years. We also have not lived close to Jessica and Julian for many years. There has been a rising desire to establish a home and welcoming space for our children and their children in the years ahead. We also want to create a ministry space for reconciliation, renewal, and relationships that really is our own. We sensed this vision and passion coming from the Lord and His work in our lives. We believe leadership does have a lifespan. I think eight to ten years of leading an initiative allows a direction to be set, innovation to be fresh and new leadership developed for a next stage. I’m a visionary developer. I feel like the visionary work Gabe and I started in 2012 has since moved into a stage of setting up systems, establishing structures and coordinating management.
What do you hope to do in this next chapter?
We have a few plans in place for our next phase of our journey. On the ministry side we are envisioning how we can care for people who are seeking to go into cross cultural settings and for those returning from cross cultural settings to the US. We love listening and walking with people. We want to continue to seek funding for the work of East Mountain around the world and particularly in South Africa. We love telling the impact stories of EM and inviting others to join with us in the work God is doing. We want to live in a multicultural setting in the US to bring the gospel of Jesus and healing of relationships through Christ into those settings. We feel excited and ready. We also feel like we need time to adjust and adapt to a new culture for us. We have lived in Africa longer than we have lived in the US! There is a lot we need to learn about our new culture.
What did you learn from your past few years at East Mountain South Africa?
Mama Kat and I learned a lot together. We learned more about our gifts and passions such as her creativity in art and my writing. I learned the axioms are true as we live them. To say them makes us sound clever. To live them changes our lives and the lives of those around us. It is much better to step into the uncomfortable conversation to confront unChrist-like actions and reactions than to allow resentment to grow. We do believe a clarifying conversation is better and more loving than allowing speculation to grow. We believe fear and ignorance keep us from truly engaging one another. We have to step toward others to know them. It is important to keep your promises small and keep your promises.
We became more convinced that investment in people is worth it. We often don’t know what our impact really is, in this life. Others see how God uses us and the holy impact more than we do. We have tried to minister in a variety of ways in SA. Our strongest efforts, at times, give us the least personally satisfying results. Yet, they can be the most impactful for those to whom we minister. I thought I failed in communicating or presenting to a group of people multiple times and yet others shared how the message or talk gave them what they needed. Huh? That is God’s work. Our best laid plans, often do not live up to the hype. We’ve learned to prepare well and share what I have to share the best way we can. Then, we leave the impact to God. It is less stressful. I learned, as one of our board members says: “life doesn’t go in a straight line.”
What were some of the biggest challenges you came across and had to overcome while at EM?
Navigating the exhilarating and the disheartening elements of relationally driven work has brought the most challenge over the years. The cross-cultural realities we encouraged and invited into our community added more challenges. The crucible we created with the temporary learning communities of the residency and summit were designed to push lives together to get deeper into soul life and interpersonal relationships. The idea was right and the execution over the years was a struggle. We are convinced, however, that we have gotten better and better each year.
When we first entered the country there were tensions of being misunderstood by partners and church leaders. We had financial struggles during the beginning and at different stages of the process. Staying on task with our mission and vision was and is a challenge. There are always new ideas and potential new directions suggested by ministry partners or financial donors. An important task for leadership is to keep the main thing the main thing and to remember the Why. Vision stays constant and tasks or activities in accomplishing the vision must be adapted to the context where we work.
What were some of the highlights of your work at EM?
We have learned the depth and breadth of relationships in a trusted community. I love how nicknames are bestowed and stories are remembered at EM. I recall with fondness the development of the names General, Admiral, Legend, Bishop, The First Lady, Reverend, SteveO, Lutz, Mama Kat, Captain and many more. There is a joy in the familiarity of relationships which giving nicknames provides.
We really enjoyed presenting our story multiple times with each Summit group and each group of Residents. It brings us joy to share how God has been at work in us and through our struggles and victories he can still use us. We also loved doing a marriage seminar at Christ church Stellenbosch early in our time there and even premarital counselling for some of our dear friends!
I, Kathy, am so grateful for the encouragement from everyone regarding my attempts to create art and beauty. I love the Mama Kat title and will take it with me and maybe even use it as my artist name. I wasn’t sure what people would think of my painting and folk art. I often didn’t think it was great, but the encouragement I received from the EM community kept me going.
Climbing mountains was a highlight. We have climbed Lion’s head, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak with many different groups. I love how each adventure provided opportunities for teamwork, encouragement, fun and struggle.
We loved all the baptisms at the EM house. I, Rodney, was particularly honoured and humbled when Andrew Barnes said he and I should baptise Alechia together at EM because East Mountain is her community as well as the Trinity Church community. We are all followers of Christ on mission with God in the world!
I, Rodney, remember a leadership team meeting at the moment when Kathy was trying to get to the US after her mom’s death. I got a call from Kathy as she was en route and the miscommunication from her family and her own grief made it trying for her to keep it together. After the call, the team stopped, listened and asked how Kathy was, how I was, and how they could help. I was upset. I was unable to think clearly. They just stayed in the moment with me. We didn’t rush to the next point on the agenda. They didn’t tell me to push down the emotion I was feeling. They prayed for Kathy and for me. They were amazing. I realized what a great place EM was in that moment.
I remember the final staff meeting I was leading. We were giving updates and people were all over the place. Some were excited and optimistic others were a bit down or feeling melancholy. Then Ronn and Aladrian shared about their lives and the difficulties they were facing and Lindsay shared how she was doing and the tough things she was facing. We all stayed attentive and concerned and prayed. Then, in that safe space the Elmores and Lindsay mutually encouraged each other! I was moved to see and hear the prayers that were lifted in that moment. We truly prayed for one another. We wept for the pain that others were feeling. We rejoiced with progress that others experienced. We prayed more times in that meeting than any other gathering I believe. Then Abigail shared Psalm 121. I was tearing up then and I am welling up now as I reread Psalm 121. When she got to verse 8 she looked over at me and said “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” That was a powerful moment and the Psalm means so much to me even as I reflect on the next chapters the Lord will open for us. That was a special moment. Mama Kat and I long for that type of space in the months ahead. We know it won’t come without effort or intentionality. The model of a truly loving community is powerful and an example of what we desire in our next phase of life.
If you were giving a "State of the Union" type address about East Mountain right now, what might you mention (where is it and where is it going?)
For seven years the East Mountain community has offered a way to be, to learn, and to grow. We start with ourselves. We abide in Christ. We love one another. We live in community. We partner with others engaged in Kingdom ministry. We disciple leaders. Our staff is committed to being who God wants us to be and allow the message of salvation and reconciliation to come from God through Christ and then through us to the world. We will not waver in our vision to see men and women grow in their understanding of scripture, their skills in leading and in their relationship with Jesus. I believe we have gone through changes, pruning, adjusting, adapting and right sizing over the past few years. I believe we have a gifted and passionate family of people who are committed to Christ and to His desire to see people from every nationality, ethnicity, language group and people come to faith and grow to maturity in Christ.
There have been hundreds who have experienced an East Mountain event, training workshop, seminar, residency program or summit program. There are churches and schools who have benefitted from the ministry of East Mountain. There are many who carry with them the knowledge, skills and close walk with Jesus into their next phase of life. It is heart-warming to continue to walk with them and hear their stories.
Our East Mountain community has gone through enough difficulty to make us stronger. We have sadly experienced enough manipulation and deception to make us wiser. We have done the work at times with tremendous resources and at times without many resources at all, which makes us dependent of God for all our needs. We have experienced pain and loss together. We have experienced joy and triumph together. We have lived this ministry enough to have accumulated some amount of knowledge and know how. We also have enough wisdom to know there is still more to know and learn.
What would you like to say to those who have been supporting and praying for East Mountain and even you personally?
Thank you! We are humbled and honoured that you have stood by us in prayer and financially through the years we have served with East Mountain. We are grateful that you took a risk with us we launched into a new way of developing and discipling leaders. We had ideas and dreams of how we could respond to the growing need for ministers and leaders in Africa. We had circles and charts, quotes and research. We had experience, knowledge, and skills but we needed your support and encouragement. You gave that to us. We seriously could not have established East Mountain and seen hundreds of women and men impacted through God’s work in their lives through the ministry without you. You are our partners. You are a vital part of the team. You are part of the body of Christ in South Africa seeking to share the good news of Jesus and disciple leaders in their context to continue the gospel work for years to come. We say thank you for your love for the Lord and His work in the world. Thank you for choosing to participate with us in our small part of an immense Kingdom. Please stay with East Mountain in this amazing work that God allows us to do for his name and for His glory! God Bless you.