Seeking God in Small Spaces and Big Cities

By Grace Jones

To start off the week back at Camp Squeah we participated in various camp work projects including lots of raking, splitting and stacking wood, and other random odd jobs. It may have been cold, wet, and raining, but we made the most of it by singing songs and doing RWPI’s (random work project interruptions). To end our camp service days on a high note, we witnessed two of the staff at Squeah get engaged. It was a very exciting way to end the night!IMG_3410

Wednesday was the day that brought about the most mixed feelings. Our group was a combination of very excited, nervous and/or unsure. We were going caving. I would like to clarify that this is not what you may be thinking of your typical “exploring caves” activity. We were in Talus caves – the small tunnels formed between and underneath the boulders that pile up at the bottom of mountains. Yes, we were exploring, but it was through spaces that, at first glance, you didn’t think your body could fit through. We were in the dark, surrounded by broken rock, with only our headlamps for light. Lets just say that I have never been so happy to see sunlight. This was definitely not the easiest activity for everyone, but in my opinion (as someone who HATES small spaces) it was worth it. The way teams worked together to encourage and support one another was incredible. Watching those who overcame fears and claustrophobia was inspiring. Finally, the feeling of exiting the cave, with your team, knowing that you did it together was such an empowering moment. This is one of the best team building activities I have ever done, and I would highly recommend it!

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There were also some pretty sweet life lessons that came out of the caving experience. Just as in the cave there are many possible paths to get to the final goal, we were reminded that life offers us many different, but equally valuable paths. We don’t always know what the right path is, so we have to take the risk to explore. Even though this may bring a time of uncertainty, going through challenging ups and downs makes us stronger as we know that God will be there through it all, cheering us on.IMG_3418

Our Wednesday ended with Outtatown’s annual ball hockey game against the Squeah staff. Despite the intense competition on the court and organized cheers from the bench, Squeah staff ultimately came out on top. Nevertheless, it was a great way to finish the day.

On Thursday we began to learn about our second semester destination – Guatemala! It is surreal that this semester is quickly coming to an end and that we are already preparing for Guatemala! We were introduced to some of the work we will be doing second semester, including volunteering at a variety of organizations and building a family home. We began to send out letters to start fundraising for the service opportunities that our group will have in Guatemala. The donated funds will pay for supplies and other costs as we support the local organizations that we will be working with. We were also introduced to our Guatemala Research Projects which is a way we are learning more and teaching our fellow students about life in South America. Finally, Dave led us in a beginner Spanish lesson. Thursday was a busy day as we also enjoyed celebrating the birthdays of Tana and Elaina!

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This past weekend we drove to Abbotsford where we met up with our “guide” for the weekend, J Janzen, at his home church, Highland Community. Throughout the weekend, we visited a total of 7 churches, experiencing a wide variety of denominations that many of us, coming largely from Mennonite Brethren backgrounds, had never experienced before. This included a home church, a Catholic Mass, a multi-campus Mennonite Brethren Church, an Intercultural Mennonite Brethren service, a United Contemplative Church and an Anglican prayer service. Growing a broader understanding of the Anabaptist Mennonite tradition, along with learning the similarities and differences of other denominations has been an eye opening experience of realizing the diversity in how we, as Christians, can worship. Many of us have been empowered to continue to explore and learn about different denominations as well as bring what we have learned from this weekend back to our home churches.

Learning and Loving in Vancity

By Grace Jones

This week we entered the big city of Vancouver, embarking on our second Urban Plunge of the semester, for which we stayed at the Ivanhoe Hotel. Many words come to mind when reflecting back on this week. Heavy-hearted, challenging, and empowering are just a few. This week was filled with many opportunities and experiences run by staff from YWAM, Vancouver.

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On Monday morning, we were greeted by Britt from YWAM; she gave us some background on the city of Vancouver,  along with information about what we were going to be doing for the day. The statistics she shared were very hard to swallow: 50% of people in Vancouver eat meal alone, making it one of the loneliest cities in the world. Only 2-3% of Vancouverites classify themselves as Christians.

We set out in groups of 3-4 with the task of learning more about the poorer part of the city, the Downtown Eastside. This was definitely a bit of a shock compared to our Winnipeg Urban Plunge because there was much more evidence of people experiencing homelessness in this area. Given the task to answer questions about the city without any cell phones, we were challenged to put ourselves out there and talk to people on the streets. As well, each group was given an extra lunch to share with someone who needed it. The stories that came out of these encounters were priceless and an excellent reminder that everyone has a story – it is just a matter whether or not you are willing to sit down and hear it.

In the afternoon, our groups travelled to Downtown Vancouver where we discussed the comparisons of these two neighbourhoods. The amount of division between the two areas was unbelievable, especially because they are only a few blocks apart. Compared to the Downtown Eastside, where needs are very evident,  Downtown first appeared to be very put together. However, through discussion and lots of observation, it was clear that there was very little sense of community in the more upscale neighbourhood. Later that night we met at a church where we watched a documentary on sex trafficking, followed by a time of reflection with several prayer stations. This was a very powerful experience that left us all feeling very moved.

The next day, we had the opportunity to visit the temples of three different religions: Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Our group really enjoyed learning about new cultures and religions through stories and experiencing the cultures first hand. Despite our differences, hearts were touched by the hospitality displayed by the Sikh Gurdwara. Here a picture was taken with our group to put in their monthly newsletter and we learned how their doors open for 20 hours a day to the public, offering somewhere to sleep and meals to eat. Entering the Buddhist culture, we were encouraged by how they valued our group, being very intentional to learn more about us and our school’s Mennonite background. Seeing the similarities between Islam and Christianity was a very neat experience as well. Overall, we came out of this afternoon with amazing takeaways. To tie into learning about new cultures, we ate at Indian and Vietnamese restaurants for dinner the next two nights; this was a delicious experience for everyone.

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We split into our small groups to visit a variety of organizations on Wednesday, doing tasks both behind the scenes and with the public. Wrapping Christmas gifts, serving meals, cleaning, and interacting with the locals were just a few of the ways we helped support local mission. Two of the small groups had the chance in the afternoon to offer free prayer on the streets of Vancouver. Despite the fear of wearing large red aprons and holding “free prayer” signs, it was a humbling experience to offer this service to the public. That night we said goodbye and thanked the staff at YWAM for an incredible week.

On Thursday, we split into more small groups, and were given a random amount of money to bless the city in anyway we chose. Groups received anywhere from $40-$100. This activity was definitely challenging at times, but extremely humbling. Despite unsatisfactory responses, such as having people reject a flower or donut because they didn’t feel they deserved it or simply wishing you had more to give, the smiles, stories, and gratitude far surpassed these hardships. It was amazing to see how much thought and effort each group put into this activity, regardless of how much money they had. Making care packages, handwritten notes of encouragement, and random acts of kindness, such as “paying it forward”, were just a few ways we were able to reach out to the community.

On our way back to Camp Squeah, we met back up with Steve Klassen at the Mark Centre to help clean up their property and do a listening to God exercise. This ended our week on a great note.

For our free weekend this weekend, students were able to choose their own adventure. This included having the opportunity to visit family and friends in the area, hike the trails of Hope, as well as relax and rejuvenate from a very busy week.

For myself, this week was filled with challenges, heartbreaking experiences and times of being overwhelmed, but the learning and growth that came out of it was life changing. It has left me with confusion of what I did to deserve the life I live and a tremendous amount of gratitude for the family I grew up in. I have been inspired to take what I have learned here in Vancouver and bring it to my hometown. Through conversations with many locals, learning about the obstacles of homelessness in the city and their passion to make a difference, I have been empowered to also make a difference. It has been an incredible reminder of the power of learning. This was a week I will always remember.

Adventures in British Columbia

 

By Elaina Wagerman

Hola, friends and family! Greetings from Site 1 Guatemala! Late Sunday night we arrived at Camp Squeah in Hope, BC. Our 13-hour road trip through the Rocky Mountains and Fraser Valley was absolutely breathtaking. The combination of the need to sleep and wanting to stay awake to absorb the surrounding beauty left us utterly exhausted when we finally got to our destination.

We began our week on Monday with our first session with Kevin and Sharon, who spoke with us about healthy Christian relationships and sexuality. Site 2 South Africa joined us for sessions, and we visited Camp Kawkawa where they were staying.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

On Tuesday, both groups split up and the women had a day of sessions with Sharon, while the men spent their day with Kevin. Between discussions about healthy sexuality and singleness, the ladies went for an epic hike up Mt. Lincoln. It was definitely challenging as a first mountain hiking experience. The forest-covered, rocky mountain was stunning, adorned with moss and hugely excellent pines. Despite the difficulty of the ascent, it was the most rewarding experience to finally summit and observe the river and neighbouring mountains from above. I’m already falling in love with the mountains, and pretty much all of British Columbia.

The adventures continued on Wednesday when we spent the afternoon mountain biking and kayaking around Kawkawa Lake, in between more sessions. Both groups spent the morning at Camp Squeah having a big group discussion; our site leaders formed a panel and answered any questions we had for them. Their wisdom and openness to share their stories and opinions was deeply appreciated. What a blessing it is to have such a diverse community of people to learn from and to have these important conversations in such an open and safe environment. In the evening, we gathered again with South Africa as one huge lively group of exhausted and enthusiastic friends and finished off our sessions with Sharon and Kevin by learning about marriage in a Christian context.

We said farewell to Camp Squeah on Thursday afternoon and departed for Copperdome Lodge near Pemberton, BC. Our site spent the weekend enjoying ourselves and having fun. We celebrated Halloween on Friday night by throwing a costume party. Everyone drew names from a hat and dressed as another person in our group. We spent the night pretending to be each other, laughing together, and eating Halloween candy.

Friday morning was kicked off by throwing ourselves off of BC’s highest bungee jumping  bridge in Whistler! Despite our fears, every single student and leader was able to jump and we all made it out alive! It was both an exhilarating and terrifying experience, although it helped to have a huge group of encouraging friends cheering me on! After a thrilling morning, we spent the rest of the day winding down in Whistler Ski Village.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Overall, this week has been so very full. Full of learning and important discussions in our sessions, full of beautiful views and excitement about exploring British Columbia for the first time, full of adventurous hikes, biking and kayaking, and most importantly full of quality time together as an Outtatown family!

Stupid Good

By Bailey Brockman

This week was filled with adventure, beauty, learning and even some much needed silence. Our group stayed at Pioneer Ranch Camp, AB, where we had the opportunity to try various camp activities and to hear from Steve Klassen, our instructor for the week.

When I say we were able to experience beauty, I mean the breathtaking beauty of our world that consistently left us in awe. Every evening, and the occasional morning, we would all gather on the docks to watch the painting-like sunsets and sunrises. If you were lucky enough, you caught glimpses of phenomenal star-lit skies and northern lights.

FullSizeRenderOn Monday, the day after arrival, class began with our spunky leader Brette. Within the “Knowing Yourself” unit, we explored the four different social styles, which ones we identify with, and exactly what that means in regards to strengths and weaknesses. Then whether we liked it or not, we participated in the sport of axe throwing… Yes, axe throwing, and yes, it’s a sport. To say the least, an embarrassing number of us should probably never attempt the sport again.

Tuesday was our first session with the dynamic Steve Klassen and his trumpet. Steve based his lessons on how to listen to God, through varying methods, personal stories, and the workbook “Your Ears will Hear”, which he and his wife constructed together.

Steve continued his teachings in and out of the classroom throughout the week and even joined some of the students in an intense basketball scrimmage, in jogging on the trails of the provincial park, and in some quality supper conversations.

Wednesday night we split into our small groups to discuss the readings for the week and apparently for some of us, to embarrass ourselves at a local open mic night.

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Then the much anticipated Thursday came. This day was a day of personal growth, recharge, and listening to God through a full day of silence. Despite the awkward clanking of forks and chewing at meal times, the silence was much needed, and everyone came back with stories and experiences to share. To end off the day, the camp held their monthly worship night for locals and campers.

Friday was our last session with Steve focused on debriefing silent day. Then we had the opportunity to go horseback riding, lead by the Pioneer Ranch Camp staff, which we were thankfully a lot better at than axe throwing.IMG_1932

The next morning, we set off on an optional hike day through Siffleur Falls where we witnessed the phenomenal beauty of creation and took any and all adventures to the fullest.FullSizeRender 2

After the 14km hike, we went swimming in Abraham Lake because who wouldn’t want to jump in glacier water in October?

Saturday night we cleaned camp and packed up the memories we made here in Alberta to head off to British Columbia early the next morning. What’s better than a 12-hour roady through the Rocky Mountains with 27 friends?

So yeah, too sum it up, this week was “stupid good” with a great balance between adventure and learning about God. Many of us will hold aspects of this week close in our hearts, as it was an opportunity to grow personally and spiritually, all the while, experiencing creation and building further friendships.