Monday, July 09, 2007

Ambassador Report: Putting a Price Tag on Relationship-Building

Over a month has passed since my dear friend and South African mentor departed for home, but here I am, sitting on top of some of the most powerful experiences in relationship building, and likewise asking myself,

"How did this all come to be?
What did it take for Mo and I to live and travel and connect?
What did we set out to do?
What actually happened?
What relationships got born?
What resources were required to make this month happen?
Is it possible to do a cost/benefits analysis on the work of God?
Can we put a price tag on ambassadorial duties, on peace, on love?"
As a teacher, and as a Catholic interested in the radical social justice teachings of Christ, this whole business of relationship is CENTRAL to my call in participating in the transformation of lives. For anyone that knows me, you have heard me preach the words of Dr. James Comer, "No significant learning occurs outside of significant relationship." With that as a central tenet or philosophy to my work and call on this planet, I have set out to educate by intentionally creating safe spaces where all voices and ideas can be heard, risks taken, LOVE is at work, and RELATIONSHIPS happen!

And so enter Ms. Maureen Dabula into my life. Enter this opportunity to host my dear friend and mentor for a month with the goal of seeing what God may lead us to do, in the name of Love, in the name of relationship- building, in the name of surfacing the invisibles in our world, and noting how the ills and joys of our society go hand in hand, whether we are in South Africa, or Stateside.

Yes, enter two different women who love God and are coming together with basically only their faith guiding them, and asking, "Umm, how we going to do this?! What exactly are we supposed to do?"

Maureen showed up needing some serious sleep and a retreat from the hectic-ness of her daily life (doing AIDS/ HIV outreach work and leading the 1,500 women in the Mother's Union) in and around East London, South Africa. And Melissa had just eased into her own sort of retreat and retirement from the work of Arts Administration and Education Reform.

So: with their achy bodies and woeful spirits, what the heck happened?
And how did any of it truly go down?

Well as many of you know or witnessed, none of these answers were really up to us! For the period preceding Mo's trip, and certainly daily while she was here: we leaned on God to show us what our tasks were.

And boy was it a ride! It still is!

As Mo likes to say, "spending a month with one other person in their home is no child's play." She's absolutely right: this business of inviting someone into your home to live for an extended time is not an easy job. It's down right staggering even at times to contemplate what this can mean financially and resources wise:
Who is going to shop for food?
How will things get paid for?
What is the salary of a retired teacher who is only 38?
What kind of funds does a South African pensioner draw from?
How do we even TALK about financing this?
Is money going to stop what feels like something ordained to be completed?

People! There are so many questions as I reflect on this month, and marvel at how we did anything rubbing our nickels together. Aha!

But therein, I must expose some of the mystery! Because if anyone wants to attempt to try this on their own, you might want to know what it cost to travel, connect, pray, connect, eat, connect, party, connect, pray, connect, and attempt to build and further solidify this bridge of relationships between the United States and South Africa.

We must work together to make visible the invisible.

So here it is. A basic financial report of sorts - what it cost us, and what we did, and where the cash came from to support us in our ambassadorial shenanigans.

BIG BLESSINGS ON STEVE and BETH BORGMANN! WERE IT NOT FOR MY PARENTS, and the "Trust Melissa with Love and Relationships Fund" that they didn't even know they started, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED!!!

Week 1: Rochester, Bemidji, Minneapolis: $410
Week 2: Boston: $514
Week 3: St. Paul, Minneapolis: $222
Week 4: Cabin and Home in Nebraska: $300
Total $1776

Steve and Beth Borgmann - $776
Auntie Mo - $450
Two Betty Income - $200
CSJ Sisters - $20
Total $1776

TRAVEL and CONNECTIONS: The People and Places who embraced Aunt Mo and Melissa:

Perpich Center for Arts Education, Arts and Schools as Partners Workshop, Barbara Cox and Company.
Assisi Heights - Franciscan Sisters, Sr. Rafael Tilton;
Aubrey and Barbara Nkomo - Retired United Nations Diplomats; Jeff Nelson, MPR Producer; Alisa Blackwood, Freelance Writer, Doula; Dr. Vuyisile Nkomo, Mayo Clinic;
Nomathemba Mazaleni -Chief of Party, Integrated Primary Health Care Project; Management Scienes for Health/ South Africa -- Connected through Nkomo's;
Mayo Clinic (Tour);
Visitation Convent (Retreat);
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet: Mary, Patrice, Agatha;
Michele Perkins, HIV AIDS Worker, Tanzania;
Colette DeHarpporte, Landmark Forum;
Brian Mogren, Graphic Designer for Target Corp.; Social Entrepreneur, North Minneapolis;
Westin University Theology Students: Zac Willette and Co.;
Bellarmine House in Cambridge, Massachusetts'
Amy Baione, Harvard Project Zero Researcher;
Heller School for Social Policy and Management Ph.D. people at Brandeis University - Lead by Margaret Post;
Lisa McDonagh, Teacher;
Beth and Steve Borgmann, Parents;
Fr. Dave Liewer, Catholic Priest;
Brother Mickey, Artist;
Church of St. Philips, North Minneapolis, lead by Fr. Pat Griffin and Pastoral Associate Cindy Boggs;
Peace Across the North side: Peace Foundation folks, partners;
University of MN, Writing Project, Co-Directed by Muriel Thompson and Kirsten Jamsen;
Linda and Jan Willette, Retired Farm Couple, Global Travelers;
Church of St. Philips Faith Members and Choir: The Benhams, Ann Shallbetter, Toni Bennaars, Jody Tigges, Judy Chapman, Karen Stewart, Betty Lou Miller, Cece Ryan.

Additional Perks:
Two free airline tickets awarded when Mo and I were booted from an oversold Boston Flight

Final note: this report is a basic attempt at making this process of hosting as transparent as possible. What I've not done is count the time to coordinate any of this, nor included my monthly living expenses that I'd be paying, regardless of Maureen's stay.

God Is Good!
(How's that for the "bottom line" of this report?!)


Julia Dinsmore said...

Great report!

"My Name Is Child Of God...Not Those People--A 1st Person Look At Poverty (in America)"
available at

Jill Timmer Teehan said...

Hey Missy,

Great work; nice to see it compact, concise with justification (not that it needed it) questions, thoughts and reasons...

See you in a few weeks.

Jill Timmer Teehan
Newbury Park, CA

Deacon Dale Timmerman said...

Hummmmmmmm…. Let me take a wild guess….. You didn’t teach math, did you?


Sr. Rafael said...

Melissa, Thanks for all the updates. I'm glad I was a part of all this. I'll keep reading.