Mountains and Bridges. No Biggie.

After our Vancouver Urban Plunge, we ventured out to Pemberton, BC, a small town just north of Whistler. We had the opportunity to stay at Copperdome Lodge, a retreat center just outside of Pemberton, for a much needed weekend after having experienced a long week exploring the downtown east side in the pouring rain. We were able take some time and relax before we headed back to Camp Squeah for more instruction from Steve Klassen and Jay Janzen. However we were able to fit in a little fun while we were there.

We had the exciting opportunity to go jumping 160 feet off a bridge while we were in Whistler. Of course it was while we were harnessed to a bungee cord. I(Rebecca) had such an amazing time while we were there! I had requested to go first because if I watched other people jump I probably would have gotten too scared to jump. To say the least I wasDSC_0222 really scared but with the encouragement from the Outtatown family, I mustered enough courage to jump and it was absolutely amazing! It was so great being able to be there on the bridge with everyone as they jumped and being able to watch people jump and face their fears! After that amazing experience, we got the chance to spend some time in Whistler, explore the beautiful village and think back on what we had just done. All in all, in was a Friday well spent.

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That weekend we also had the opportunity to get out of the lodge and into the great outdoors. A group of us went and hiked Joffre Lake, a 10km roundtrip hike that is home to three beautiful, turquoise lakes. Each lake was referred to as Lower, Middle or Upper lake and each one was more beautiful then the previous. When we arrived at middle lake, we took out our packed lunches and sat alongside the trail looking out onto this beautiful lake with the most perfect shade of green that only our God could create. However, we had DSC_0455 some little friends join us who had a big interest in our lunches. We were joined by little Whiskey Jack birds who, if you offered, would come and eat right out of your hands. While being in the great outdoors it becomes apparent of God’s incredible beauty. Throughout this semester we have encountered people from different backgrounds and walks of life, we have explored Canada and its diversity and we have learned and experienced things that we’ve never before. In all those things we have seen many beautiful things, however we have also seen how brokenness has found a place in this world. Opportunities such as Joffre Lake was a great reminder that our Lord is good, and the things He creates are so precious in His sight. As we recognize that we are a part of that creation, it is a beautiful thought that we get to serve a God who delights in all of His creation.

Thinking Theologically with Gavin Hall

Within our third week in Outtatown and back when we were at Camp Arnes amidst the flatlands of Manitoba, we were introduced to Gavin Hall. Gavin was a man that not only spoke intelligently with God in mind, but was also very humble. He brought a lot of energy and humour into his lessons and was able to engage us with personal stories from his life. Together we spoke about living faithfully and how in order to do that, we need to think theologically. We started our first lesson discussing the definition of theology as well as how and why we should ‘do’ theology.

Gavin refers to 2 Tim 3:16-17, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us”.

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Among other things we spoke about in class, Gavin emphasized that scripture is the primary source for theology and that rather than looking at scripture as a set of rules, the bible is more like a script or a musical score. With that, proper understanding of the intent of the script or musical score allows for improvisation and Gavin expressed this concept by showing us a video of a rearrangement of two songs into one.

Personally, Gavin brought new understanding to what I originally thought theology was. Before, I believed that theology simply meant the understanding of scripture and its intent and living in practice to your theology. However, after our short two days with Gavin I’ve come to realize that creativity and improvisation can be applied to our own ‘script’ or ‘musical score’. Gavin has taught and encouraged us to form our personal theology based on asking questions and thinking clearly, comprehensively and correctly.
Gavin had an amazing amount of knowledge to offer us, in and outside of class and left us thinking differently and more personally towards our own blend of theology.

-Eungang Joan Lee-

Suit Up: Fighting Idols with Nathan Rieger

In the dreary rainy week before our Vancouver urban plunge, we were introduced to a man named Nathan Reiger. He was a quirky and joyful soul weathered by a life immersed in the culture of inner city Winnipeg and East Hastings, Vancouver. He had a look about him that was street wise, equipped with a quick tongue and sharp mind, products of time spent on the streets. With his hands in his pockets he caught us off guard with his easy humor, and minutes later stunned us again with his raw stories of people he had walked with as he journeyed from Nepal to East Hastings, from the Himalayas to the Rockies.

He began by talking about the spiritual darkness he encountered in Nepal and India, which he suspected stemmed from the plethora of idol worship prominent in the culture and religion. He had grown up doubting the existence of demons and spiritual warfare, but after encountering uncanny coincidences and the power his prayer had over certain circumstances, he was convinced: idols and demons are real, and they have a hold on this world.

He introduced us to the age old idols in our culture: pleasure, power, and value. Idols of pleasure are the source of addiction and numbness, twisting the good things God has created for us to enjoy and showing us pleasure in contexts that are harmful to us. The pleasure they offer are in frequencies, quantities, or circumstances that are not what God intended, and thus make us resilient or numb to that pleasure over time. Idols of power create unhealthy hierarchies and power roles that render some powerless and others over-powerful. These idols push us to greed and helplessness, distorting the power that God gave us in Genesis 1. Idols of value also create hierarchies but operate on a currency of love based on comparison. These idols rate people based on a narrow vision of what is acceptable, beautiful, etc. and are fueled by a broken desire to be better than someone. They refuse to acknowledge value outside of their rating systems thus producing an extremely unstable conditional love.

These idols have one thing in common: they assume a role that only God is qualified to hold over people’s lives. Pleasure, power, and value are good things, but once we let them define us and judge us, we crumble. Everybody worships, and if we are not worshiping God, we are worshiping something else; this is incredibly dangerous. When we allow idols to define us, we must obsessively earn love, take power, and wring pleasure. We are exhausted, afraid, tormented, jealous, depressed, numb, confused, easily swayed, unable to see beauty in everything.

In an effort to expose these idols and their lies, Nathan created space for us to share our idols with the group. For many, it was the first time we had ever been able to diagnose or identify the idols at the source of chronic fears, worries, insecurities, and shame. As each idol was spoken out into the light, prayers went up to rebuke the power of these lies and truth was spoken into the individuals.

I sat in my chair, clenching my fists as my idols screamed in my ears. Your words will not carry weight. Nothing can fill you. Nothing can change this part of you. You are not worth their attention. All words I had heard before, words I had believed and cowered in front of for my whole life. Since I was young, I experienced loud voices and images in my head that I knew were not of me and not of God. They were always accusing, condemning, and ridiculing, filling up so much room in my head that I could hardly hear myself think. I often found myself screaming in an effort to try to get them to shut up. They caused nightmares, fears, insecurities, anxiety, and for a time I succumbed to self-harm in order to numb myself to the loudness. As I listened to Nathan however, I realized they were the voices of my idols of value telling me I had to do certain things or appear a certain way in order to be loved. They were demons that were constantly following me around and whispering to me because they knew I was bowing to these idols. They had me pinned down as I had no truth to replace their lies.

In a step of faith that day with Nathan, I spoke out these things and I experienced the sweetest freedom I have ever known. It crashed over me in fresh cool waves as my friends wept with me, hugged me, and prayed with me, the succulent joy of taking the leap and being caught in the arms of love. As they spoke truth to me, the idols and their systems crumbled. Since I brought these demons into the light, they have fled and I finally have some crisp open air in my mind to stretch my arms and sit with Jesus, listening to his opinion on things. Instead of loudness there is gentleness. In place of fear and nightmares are love and hope. When I look out I no longer see a hierarchy, but beauty, and I am finally seeing the world and myself through heaven’s eyes.

-Grace-

Girls Week

Our first destination as we traveled   west was Alberta Pioneer Lodge. We had a great time despite the absence of some important group members- the boys! During our week there, we experienced an extreme lack of testosterone(nothing got destroyed) but also had the chance to get to know the girls from site 2 South Africa!DSC_0016

We had the privilege to learn from former Outtatown leader, Dana Penner. She taught us about being a godly woman, having healthy relationships with guys and girls alike, being comfortable in our skin, and we threw it back to high school biology and learned about how our female bodies work. As well as learning a lot about ourselves, we also had the chance to create a list of questions for the boys to answer. The boys, likewise, also sent us questions to answer for them. This was a great opportunity for us to find out more about the opposite gender and how they think and why they do what they do!

Yes, we did a lot of learning, but there was still plenty of time for fun! At the camp, we had opportunities to go horseback riding, wall climbing, archery, and hiking. We also took day trips to Banff and Calgary. In Banff, wandering took us into many overpriced souvenir shops and piercing parlors, and many from our group came back with extra pieces of metal on their ears or faces. We took a detour to Lake Louise for the afternoon, making our cheeks sore from smiling from too many pictures and admiring the view. In Calgary, we IMG_1159showed off our fierce competitive sides in laser tag! One of the South Africa leaders, Heather, taught us all a fun hip-hop dance. For some of us, this was a step out of our comfort zone, but we were all laughing and having fun by the end.DSC_0115

Finally the day came for us to be reunited with our boys. We greeted them with open arms, and they opened theirs somewhat reluctantly. We joined our community again, a little bit more holy(or wholly). It was a great week of appreciating each other and who we are as girls, but we also realized that the boys are an essential part of our community and we would not want to do this without them.

-Tara-

Anishinabe Week

After a weekend apart during Thanksgiving, our site regrouped and dove into a week spent in Rosseau River Reservation – am Anishinabe people’s community. Different individuals including our hospitable host, a local pastor, the Reservations Chief, and many more taught us everyday. A few topics covered that were particularly impactful involved what it means to have the Creator live inside of each person and all that is around us and what it looks like to respect Earth, Mother Nature, animals, humans, and most of all our Creator.
Though much was encouraging and uplifting, our eyes were also opened to the oppression certain people groups have faced and continue to experience today. In the midst of all its beauty, brokenness still lies there. Many unfair stereotypes come along with oppression which need to be cleared. There are many realities that general society often turns a blind eye to. However, recovery is happening and as God’s hands and feet we can all work towards a future of defying these tragedies. IMG_2161
The community at Rosseau was eager to share with us about their culture, hopes, and dreams for the reservation and how the Creator is presently working in their lives. The power of humans and the authority Jesus gave us was stressed. We were reminded to strive to learn from others stories  and be wise in our actions and words.
During the week opportunities such as experiencing a traditional sweat lodge and skinning a deer were offered for those who wanted to participate. Prayer for family, friends, and loved noes, as well as thankfulness to our Creator is a deep focus in the religious part of Anishinabe culture. Sweat lodges are places of worship and prayer in community. During time in the lodge, many heard God’s voice, felt a strong presence and were tested by having strength, trust and patience. It was an intense, invigorating time where we grew more into one with God and his creation. Hunting is also a major part of the culture at Rosseau River, and quite likely most First Nations communities. Since respect for animals

Sweat Lodge frame

Sweat Lodge frame

is also important, the hunter never wastes and part of – in this case – the deer. One form of showing respect might be hanging the animals bones near where it was found and offering medicines to that particular are of Earth as a thank you to the animal. Students who participated in skinning the deer explained it as a wonderful, hands on experience which treated the animal with dignity. (Akech, Matthew, Mitchell)

We were taken to visit special grounds in the reservation which held warrior rocks, roaring IMG_20141101_153221rapids and sun dance lodges. On our last day in Rosseau, we visited a local gaming center where we were taught about how businesses in the area give back to the community through funding childrens education. Last year alone the gaming center sent eight people to university. To end off our time, members of the community were gracious enough to present us with traditional pow wow demonstrations which included a variety of dances performed by children, teens, and adults.
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Although we only spent one week in Rosseau River Reservation, we were deeply enriched and enlightened by the beautiful community that willingly took us in. Our site went into the week open minded and ready to learn and came out with more than expected. Throughout the week and as we left, we got a taste of an overwhelming sense of peace and love. It is clear our Creator is working through the brokenness and present through the beauty in Rosseau River community.
                                                                        -Victoria-

If life was easy, It wouldn’t be East Van

Cars trucks siren puddle splash cars buses rain
grey clouds brown leaves concrete crumbling
sidewalks splashed bus fresh cool air bright grey
almost sun.
People tough surprising smiles or head down walk past shame
rich busy rushed business lonely insulated dressed to impress numb
juxtaposed with
hurt feeling poor grimy grim real silent eyes away or friendly
people
Vancouver, blue roofs,
streets of pink trodden leaves and of fragile trodden people

“If life was easy, it wouldn’t be East Van”.

As I walked down East Hastings street for the first day of our Vancouver urban plunge, the poverty, addictions, drugs and mental illness was overwhelming. The street was crowded with people sitting or standing, and there were syringes scattered on the sidewalks. I’ve never seen drugs being used so blatantly. In comparison to our Winnipeg urban plunge, the downtown East side was an older, more different demographic, and had a deeper sense of hopelessness. Then I met Mario.

In small groups, we toured the streets and we were told to find someone to have lunch with. We stumbled across Mario and got into conversation which included a bit of his life story, a song and many jokes. He proudly told us that he has gotten over most of his IMG_3157addictions and that even though he still is an alcoholic, “Jesus isn’t giving up on [him]”. Although it boggles my mind, he has chosen to stay in the neighborhood for around 30 years and he actually likes it. Yes, it is hard (as his quote above states), but he has many friends and enjoys the community. After talking to him and other individuals, I have much more hope for the neighborhood and the people who live in it. IMG_3131

From that point on, I watched for signs of community. When we were offering ‘free prayer’ on one of the street corners, random people (including a friendly marijuana seller) began chatting with us, and not just to get prayer. As well, people were defensive of us outsiders and stood up for us on multiple occasions. Even though the area was ‘dangerous’, people were watching out for us and taking care of us. We came in to pray for people or “help”, but the ironic reality was that people were protecting us, and several people even encouraged my group. Another fascinating thing is that when children walk down certain streets, people yell “kids!” all down the block to let everybody know to cover up their drugs and behave nicely. Their respect for childhood innocence is just one example of how “East Van” is actually a community.

We also had the opportunity to tour a Mosque, a Sikh Gudwara and a Buddhist temple during our urban plunge week. Learning about the different religions left us with a lot of questions about why we believe what we do. Personally, I was most interested in the Sikh IMG_3159Gudwara because they were welcoming, inclusive and valued equality. As well, their hospitality was amazing! Because they believe that food for the body is as important as food for the mind, they offer meals whenever they have services and anyone is welcome to come and eat. Originally, they decided the meals would be vegetarian so that both Muslim and Hindu people could come and eat with them. This definitely challenged my idea of hospitality, and I hope that as Christians we can learn more of what it means when Jesus calls us to feed the hungry and shelter the poor.

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As middle class (but actually rich in comparison) young adults walking down East Hastings, we stuck out (way beyond any cliche metaphor one could insert here). I felt incredibly out of place and sheltered. The worst part, however, came after exploring the poverty of East Hastings and as we walked a few blocks into the downtown core. It was beautiful, spacious, rich and shockingly isolated from the poverty and hurt that lay a few hundred meters away. The people seemed to have a right to be there. Whereas before I could admire the beautiful buildings and shop without a second thought, I now felt so out of place. As part of the tour, we sat on the sidewalk and watched people walk by for awhile, and the people all blurred together- nice clothes, shiny shoes, cellphone in hand. Many people wouldn’t look at us or give us the time of day. Those who did see us either stared openly or glanced then averted their eyes and pretended not to notice. We walked into a fancy hotel (to find out the price of the average room as part of an assignment) and were greeted by two friendly, fluffy, well-groomed dogs. It was so nice petting the dogs until I realized that these two dogs have been pampered with more love and attention than any of the hundreds of people who live just a short walk down the street- and that almost made me sick.
It’s hard to think about all of these things and process the unbelievable disparity. All in all, the Vancouver Urban Plunge left us with more questions than answers and with a lot of experiences to sift through and think about.

-Cassandra-IMG_3158

Where have we been??

Hello friends,

Our time in Manitoba seems so distant, and it feels like we have been on the west coast forever. We have to apologize as we seemed to have neglected this little blog. However, know that we are in the process of getting back on track. We have some incredible students working on and processing some amazing experiences where God has been revealing His beauty and glory. Stay posted, they should be making their way on here soon.

peace, thanks for following

darin