It’s crazy to think that less than two weeks ago the Outtatown students were gathering at CMU and meeting each other for the first time, walking through crowded halls with a hundred other people who all felt just as scared and excited as the next. Little did we know that in just two weeks we would already feel like a family!
Within the first twenty-four hours we found ourselves in the beautiful Northern Ontario wilderness, paddling through the waves, rain and wind of Shoal Lake. Being on a canoe trip is something that is quite familiar to me, but setting off on the first of many adventures with half of the people I will be spending the next eight months with was a completely unique experience. Before we left on our trip, I remember sitting in a circle at Manitoba Pioneer Camp discussing the idea of breaking down barriers. The next four days, we would experience life without the simple things we take for granted like technology, beds, mirrors, a way of telling time and even toilets.
There were definitely people who were unsure about this, but once we were without our normal luxuries, we realized how much we had been missing. Without distractions, we began to notice the wild beauty of God’s creation, the beauty in each other and in our newly formed community. There was beauty in the colourful reflections in the waves, in the sun beams breaking through the clouds after days of rain, in the shrieks of excitement as we jumped off cliffs into the water below, in the insane lightning storm in the distance at night, in the echoes of song across the water, in the exploration of abandoned mine sites, in the winding creek covered in lilies and lily pads, and in the hours of laughter around the campfire. We even found beauty in the brokenness around us. And we realized that the intricate web of roots of a fallen tree, while not alive as it should be, was still beautiful. And that the lonely, abandoned house at the mine site, while vandalized and falling apart, still held treasures for us to find. And the fact that though each of us grew tired and revealed weakness at some point on the trip, whether it was during a portage or kilometers of strong winds, there was still a beautiful community surrounding us, eager to help one another through the times of challenge.
On the last day of our trip, one of the leaders from Manitoba Pioneer Camp, Chris Milne, mentioned that as we were paddling, there was a point when he realized that the paddle strokes of every canoe around him were perfectly in sync. There was unity. And there was a moment on our trip after I had launched myself off of a cliff and was suspended in mid-air that I felt so free and alive. And it was in that moment that I knew God has some pretty amazing things in store for us this year!