This past weekend I ventured down to the lake. It was teeming with people. Runners and walkers, individuals, couples and families, the young and the mature. Everyone was out to enjoy a bit of the warmer weather that has come along with the season change. It was electric. Especially since the warm weather has been the reprieve for many from the current provincial lockdown.
As I sat and watched all of the activity along the waterfront, I could not help but to reflect that just a few short weeks ago, there was still a cold crispness in the air, that the trees stood prominent and strong yet naked, that the gardens were still just mounds of dirt and that there were, simply put, fewer people out and about. But, seasons change!
I have begun my third week at KAIROS. As I write this, I am at day 10 in my role as the new executive director. This is a new beginning. One of many that is happening in this season of my life.
I come to KAIROS with business expertise and years of leadership experience across many sectors. The highlight of my career thus far is the organization, Project: Restore FIBI (Families Impacted by Incarceration) that I founded in 2014. FIBI serves families who have a loved one involved in the criminal legal system. FIBI offers grassroots service delivery and support to individuals and families, works with academia to focus research and scholarship on the issues and collateral effects of incarceration and develops resources for education, training and capacity building.
I come to KAIROS as a mother of six, a grandmother of one and another who will arrive any day now, plus two grand-dogs and a grand-bunny. My children are the jewels in my crown, the effervescence of my life. I have three girls and three boys, aged seventeen to twenty-nine. My youngest boy is embarking on his post-secondary aspirations this fall and I find my self approaching the empty-nester stage of life after years of wondering, “Will these children EVER grow up?” My hands were full but by the grace of God my cup also ran over exponentially with love and joy. My life is full and fulfilling; and it is the providence of God that continues to sustain me and chart the path I take.
I come to KAIROS as a humble woman of God. I was baptized as a child in the Anglican Church of St. Peter and St. Simon in Toronto. My memories of reciting scriptures every morning at TOR Memorial, the school I attended as a child in Antigua, the island of my parents, and at Sunday school in the hot basement of the Pentecostal church in St. John’s are enduring. After some turbulent years in my teens, I renewed my commitment to Christ in 1997. I believe in relationship with God and have walked with God for the better part of my adult life. Every day, every decision, every blessing, every wilderness experience, every heartbreak, every tear, every triumph, everything…I have done and will do with Jesus Christ at the centre of my life. It is who I am and why I am who I am. On my white board I have a personal reminder to myself that I am:
- An anchor of love (Matthew 22:36-39)
- An ambassador of justice (Isaiah 1:17)
- The audaciousness of purpose (Ephesians 4:1)
Ephesians 4:1 is my life scripture as written in the amplified version:
“So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior—a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation]”
I come to KAIROS understanding that this is a new beginning. Isaiah 43:19, says, “I am doing something brand new, something unheard of. Even now it sprouts and grows and matures. Don’t you perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and open up flowing streams in the desert.” (The Passion Translation.) Initially, I was focused on my new beginning at KAIROS but that quickly became deeper and broader. May 17, 2021 also marked a new beginning for KAIROS, the organization, and for KAIROS staff and members. This brings me back to where I began: the season is changing!
With new beginnings there comes both excitement and trepidation. New beginnings require adjustments; and leaning into change can be easy on some fronts and very hard on others. In the winter, in Canada, we shovel and, in the spring, we garden. Different seasons require a different mindset, different tools, different clothing, evoke different feelings and so on. The thing is that whether we are ready or not, or whether we prefer one season over the other, the seasons WILL change and we cannot do anything to stop or interrupt that change. We can resist the change and find ourselves ill-prepared for the new season or we can adapt.
Here are some of my thoughts as we all move into this new beginning:
- KAIROS is celebrating its 20th Anniversary! To me this speaks of the deep and strong roots of KAIROS. Even as trees endure the winter season, it is the depth and intricacy of the tree’s root system that ensures it livelihood and preparation for the new and abundant growth of its leaves we witness and enjoy in the spring and summer. KAIROS is rooted with strength and abundance and passion and purpose. New beginnings do not mean we forget the importance of our roots.
- This is a new beginning for us all. My hope is that we can collectively embrace the change that is coming. My prayer is that grace will abound to support us all through it. The reality is that change registers in our brains in a similar way to pain. Hence, the resistance that can sometimes come when change and new ways, ideas and beginnings are introduced. May we all lead with love, compassion and empathy as we chart the path of our collective new beginning.
- The work of KAIROS is incredibly important and impacting. The one thing more important and impacting than the work is our people. We are turning a corner and writing our next chapter. I would like this chapter to say more about our people: who they are, why they are a part of KAIROS, how they are equipped and empowered to do their work, how they feel loved, accepted, understood and included and how their presence, purpose and powerful contributions have strengthened KAIROS.
- With new beginnings come new learning. I know that I am the “new kid on the block”. I don’t really know any of you and you really don’t know me. Learning, stage one. In addition to getting to know one another, we will be learning so much more. KAIROS is maturing as an organization and as such, there is a need for new structure and new processes. The learning for us all will be ongoing. We may learn a new thing, implement it and BOOM, beautiful success. We may also learn from trying something new and failing. I am not afraid of learning in either of these ways that will unfold for us a beautiful environment of creativity, innovation, ingenuity and togetherness in collaboration and cooperation.
- I am hopeful for this new beginning.
I am grateful for this opportunity to provide leadership to KAIROS. I humbly acknowledge that I do not stand alone. I am surrounded by and shoulder-to-shoulder with you, brilliant leaders, our staff and members, of KAIROS. I will repeat the scripture above from Isaiah:
“I am doing something brand new, something unheard of. Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.”
Let us move into OUR new beginnings with hope, fortitude, excellence and above all, love.
I am truly looking forward to working with you all.
Aisha Francis, Executive Director