“Pay Attention”

Pay attention.

If I were to pick a theme from a week with our speaker Steve Klassen talking to us about hearing God’s voice, that would be it.

Over the past year I’ve worked quite a bit on hearing the voice of God; getting to know His character and taking time to just listen rather than talk.

But this week with Steve, I was learning to not only take time to slow down and listen but to also be paying attention in every moment of daily life.

Paying attention to promptings from the Lord.

Paying attention to our heart and what brings it to life. 

“We can pay attention to our heart because God is there and at work.” Always.

What kind of a God are we listening to?

And how do we respond?

Well, after two days of instruction, we got to put the things we’d been learning into practice by taking a whole day to be silent and spend time with the Lord.

I tried so hard not to make plans for that day and instead let God tell me what to do.

But that morning I woke up and all God told me was, “Slow down. Be still. And come do what you love with me.”

Do what I love? You mean you’ll allow me to do that?
I felt like blind Bartimaeus when Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Well I love trees. Specifically lots of them altogether. And I love mountains. So I ventured out into the BC rainforest that morning in search of a famous spot owned by the camp that we were staying at called the ‘Hermitage’.

I had no idea what I was looking for and I actually almost missed it. But walking along the trail up the side of the mountain, I was reminded what it was like to just hang out with Jesus; just like a friend.

And after about a 15 minute hike I found the moss covered buildings hiding between and around a bunch of giant rocks and very tall trees.

I seriously felt like I was in Lord of the Rings. It was incredible.

I sat in awe of the Lord and His creation; in openness to His love.

For probably almost 3 hours.


“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” – Psalm 23:6

God reminded me of these words from Psalm 23 and that He knows me.
And because He knows me, He knows my every thought and every fear. So as I began to be honest with Him and speak out these fears (that He already knows anyway), He was able to speak truth over them.
The Truth that He is ultimately in control of things and truth that I am His beloved and He wants to bless me.

And my only response to this was to worship out of pure joy from the Lord.

God wanted to do something for me this day. He wanted to show me what a good Father He is and how much He truly cares about what I want; how much He truly does want me to pursue the desires that He’s placed in my heart and be able to give Him glory through that.

He wanted to remind me to pay attention.

And what an opportunity to be able to take a whole day of solitude within our busy lives and spend it with the Lord.

“Imagine the immeasurable growth and change there would be if you spent time with me like this more often,” He said.

So then as we are going, I fully believe that we need to remember to take time out, like even Jesus did, and to listen all the more.

– Mikaela Friesen


Guy/Girl Week 2015

From October 26 to November 1, Outtatown students split up according to gender. The ladies stayed at one camp and the guys stayed at another. This made for a fun week with new friendships and many fun activities. Here are a couple stories from the week:

Girls Week – Alexis Ogaranko


For one whole week the girls and guys were split up for what is known as Guy/Girl Week- the girls going to Camp Evergreen and the guys going to Pioneer Ranch. I was nervous for Girl’s Week because I hadn’t interacted with other people outside the Guatemala site. However, it was nice being able to talk to others about the program who can relate and get to hear about their experiences doing the same things as us.

Our speaker was Dana Penner. The first day, she got us to walk with a partner from the other group and answer one of the many questions she asked us, such as, “What was a fun experience you had with a group of girls and who is a female you look up to?” It was a great way to talk to the South Africa girls and get to know them a little more.

A tradition of girl/guy week is having the guys send us questions about females and the girls send the guys questions about males. We had the opportunity to ask anything we wanted to know about the opposite gender and have it answered by them. Some of the questions we asked were things like, “Why do you wear your pants so low?” (it sounds really stupid but is something many of us have always wanted to know!). We asked them some serious questions too such as, “Do guys have insecurities just like females and if so what are some of them?” It was a fun way to get to know guys a little more and have our deep burning questions answered.

Overall, it was a very action packed week but a very fun one at that. It was great to be with just girls for a while and really get to know the South Africa site more. I really enjoyed taking a break from our usual schedule and do something different for a change.

Guy’s Week – Brandon Fraser

This past week, the Site 1 – Guatemala and Site 2 – South Africa guys came together for the week. We gathered just outside of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta at Pioneer Ranch. The week was filled laughs, fun times, learning, and adventures.

This week, we had Kevin Snyder come from Langley, British Columbia to speak to us. Kevin was great to have around during the week. He spent alot of time with us and also went paintballing with us too. During the  week Kevin spoke to us about Psalm 139 and went in depth with it. He spread it out into 5 different sections: God speaks to us, God hears us, God knows us, God made us, and God is with us.

Getting to know Kevin through his sessions and as he hung out with us this week was a real blessing. What stuck out to me was the session when he talked about God hearing us. For me, before the year started I have been told many times that God hears us. However, I struggled to believe that for quite a bit of time because when things were going wrong in my life I felt that God wasn’t hearing me when I prayed to him. But when Kevin spoke to us about it, it really felt like God was telling him to tell me that God does hear us and that we need to be patient with him.

I sometimes struggle to have patience no matter what the circumstance is, but after that session I feel that patience is the key for us as we seek God to answer us. Overall, Guy’s week was an encouragement to us all as we heard Kevin’s wise words spoken to us.

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Our week at Roseau River First Nations was meant to be a cross cultural learning experience within Canada. Many of us had misconceptions or stereotypes that we believed about the First Nations of Canada, many which we learned were false. We walked into that week not knowing what was happening; no schedule, no synopsis, nothing. We went into Roseau in a posture of listening and learning, not to teach. It is amazing what you can learn if you only take the time to listen.

For me this week involved a bit of culture shock. To see a way of life and a tradition so different than my middle class Christian upbringing was powerful. One of the first things that struck me was the difference in the way time is seen. I tend to schedule and like to have exact times; at the reserve, everything revolved around the speakers. Our speakers shared from their hearts, and it didn’t matter if that took 20 minutes or 3 hours. It was a bit of a shock and adjustment to go from my structure into a free flowing way of life, but I found that the flexibility led to more honest communication from our speakers. 

Throughout the week, we experienced this culture in many ways. We had many speakers from the community who taught about their creation stories, spirituality, traditions and the treaties. We had the opportunity to participate in a smudge ceremony, pipe ceremony, and sweat lodge. The people we met were honest about their beliefs; they spoke not to offend or to sway our opinion, but rather to inform us about the parts of their culture that were important to them. They were also very accepting of our personal beliefs and didn’t force us to participate in the ceremonies.
One of the questions many of us asked throughout the week was “How can we engage in culture well and be open to learning, without compromising our own beliefs?” One of the examples for me personally was with the sweat lodge. The sweat lodge was described to us as being a very spiritual ceremony for the First Nations, where they communicate with their ancestors, with spirits, and with the Creator. We were invited to join in this experience as a cultural aspect of our week. 

Many of us discussed some discomfort with some of the spiritual aspects of the sweat while still wanting to experience it as a part of the culture. I walked into the sweat lodge nervous about the spiritual aspects of the sweat while also living in faith that Jesus has all power. I would love to explain what happened in the sweat, but to the First Nations it is sacred and what is said in the sweat lodge is between the individual and the Creator, and not to be shared. In the end, I found participating in the sweat an amazing experience between myself and God while also learning more about the culture that we were visiting.

After our week at Roseau River First Nations, I still feel like I have many unanswered questions about this culture whose history is so intertwined with our own. The First Nations people are our neighbours; we are living in and on the land that was once their home. The more I learn about our history with the First Nations, the more sadness I feel.

 At the same time, the more I hear about rising First Nations voices, the more hope I have that we will be able to make amends and acknowledge what happened. This is an effort that needs support and openness from all sides, because we are all Canadians, and we are all treaty people.
Coming out of this week, I’m still unsure how to balance cultural openness with spiritual rootedness; I still don’t necessarily know the line between observing and actively participating. However, this week helped to teach me the power of discomfort as a warning but also as a powerful way to learn. Discomfort warns us and protects us from things that are potentially dangerous to us. However, leaning into discomfort and embracing the things that make us feel that way can help us to grow as people and as communities.

 Discomfort is beautiful.



“I Have a Dream”

Prior to our Urban Plunge, I’d thought about poverty, inequality, and injustice, although I’d never dug deeper nor let those issues affect my perspective in a profound way. Conversely, during the urban plunge I chose to step beyond being knowledgeable and truly have my heart broken as God’s heart is, and to attempt walking in these peoples shoes. That was what I prayed for as our week began, and God certainly delivered! Who knew that when people said “be careful what you wish for”, they actually meant it!

Coming out of the plunge, I am no longer comfortable living without enough gratitude, and I no longer hold previous stereotypes following the experiences that I had. We were given the opportunity to step and be pushed out of our comfort zones; we were challenged to seek God everywhere and in everyone we encountered. I had various conversations with people that I would have never spoken to if God hadn’t led me to apply for Outtatown.

After participating in a sharing circle at IFC (Indigenous Family Centre) I was given the privilege to hear the story of a man named Lucas. He has been living on the streets of Winnipeg for over 25 years. Yet that wasn’t what took me by surprise; rather it was when Lucas told me God blessed him and sent him there. An admirable christian man who once lived in Guatemala was asked to sell everything he had and live in the streets far from what was once home. I asked Lucas why our loving merciful Father would ask someone to go live on the streets. He then reminded me the beautiful life giving truth about God that I hope never to forget again; our heavenly father equips and strengthens us for whatever path He lays before us. Lucas wanted to serve our Father and had a passionate relationship with Him; thus despite the odd command, Lucas chose to pursue God’s will.

He proceeded to write down a few phrases in Spanish that I would need in Guatemala, and the very last one meant “I have a dream”. When I asked him why I would need that, his response brought me to tears. “Alison, God had a dream for me, and even though I knew it would be hard I trusted God and followed Him. Follow God’s dream for you! Tell the people you meet that you hear God telling them He has a dream for them, as I have done for you”.

Lucas presently lives on the streets of Winnipeg sharing the gospel and serving our Father. He is content and feels overwhelmingly blessed. God works in such mysterious ways!

Hearing stories like these, not to mention those filled with hurt, overwhelmed me tremendously. There were a few moments where I felt overly uncomfortable, but no because of where I was; contrarily it was the moments when we had to leave. Walking away from the places I was beginning to feel a stir of emotions for, and having to depart without making an impact, made my activist heart cry to be let out and put to work. I have yet to improve my patience specifically so that I’m able to first wait on God, then take up action.

God had shown Himself and spoken His word through a variety of faces which was extremely refreshing. “I believe we are amid a great awakening in the slumbering body of Christ”, author Shane Claiborne stated in his novel ‘The Irresistible Revolution’. I found that this resonated with me among our community and amid those surrounding us.

As a whole, the Winnipeg Urban Plunge planted a multitude of seeds within me, and within our group, that are quickly sprouting. These seeds allow us to seek understanding and feel God in new ways. Seeing God’s greatness that week ignited a flame of hope and desire to fulfill God’s will in our world. I couldn’t be more thankful that I get to experience this journey with the community God has brought together. I cannot wait to see what He has planned for us further down the road!
~ Alison Berard