A Well in the Desert: An Outtatown Grad Speech

The following post is the grad speech given by Ezra Enns on April 15, 2018 at CMU. 

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Good afternoon. It is my privilege to be elected to welcome you all here today. My fellow students of Outtatown, CMU faculty members both on site and off, friends and family, honourable donors, and distinguished guests—welcome again, to celebrate the accomplishments of Outtatown Discipleship School in 2018.

The classic book The Little Prince involves a meeting in the desert, between the Narrator and the Little Prince. I left my home in Kenya expecting new meetings in Canada and Guatemala, but figuratively I was in the desert between wells. I leave this well now with anticipation of new beginnings, but predominantly with sadness to leave this year behind me.

In September, I probably would have scoffed at the idea of being as deeply connected as I am now.

“One year!” I would have said, “It takes me that long just to feel comfortable with someone, much less know that person”.

I am happy to find that Outtatown has dismissed that mindset, along with the feelings that accompany it. Specifically, the frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone. Defying impersonality and the brevity of our time, both the set of experiences and the individuals guided us to established trust in each other.

A striking thing about this program is that it’s not primarily academic, and it’s not like a trip in which a group of established friends decide to spend more time together exploring the world. Outtatown is experiential first and foremost, and that is an important factor when understanding what our groups have gone through. This is a university program in which some humans decide to join new people and travel with these new people, through a set of challenges and variables.

It seems almost like a scientific experiment when phrased like this. In an experiment, the idea is to determine whether a hypothesis is true. If it proves false, information is still recorded. It could have been relatively easy to limit the program to an experiment, even for me as a subject. But beautiful human emotion is a confounding variable here. Our attachment to one another based on love—unfair grace that these friends show—makes obsolete the hypotheses that we will either succeed or fail. They no longer apply, because of an essential, radical element of Outtatown: Jesus.

Jesus has guided my group this year, and I have seen it happening in the way we have interacted with people and places outside of the group. We have been truly blessed to interact with and learn from the diversity of Canada and Guatemala.

And from that we have learned quite a bit this year. The university credits we get are all that academic institutions will count towards a degree, but they are insufficient. Like the way scientists tried to make a model of an atom, so we try to communicate the value of our experiences.

Recent events which affected us deeply, plus the testimonies that we shared with each other during debrief week, have left me feeling that were we to continue with the Outtatown structure, we would know each other more and more, and despite that we would love each other more and more. Nevertheless, I send my fellow students out with gladness, trusting that God goes with them.

The Little Prince once said, “What makes the desert beautiful, is that somewhere it hides a well”. It is clear to me that there is more than one well, and that Outtatown was one of them.

Thank you.

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Site 1 Guatemala for the 2017-18 Outtatown program year.

 

One Last Wave

By Elaina Wagenman

Hola friends and family! Site 1 Guatemala is wrapping up their very last moments in Antigua before we board our flight at 3am Thursday morning.

 

Debrief Week somberly began as we said farewell to our host families in San Juan del Obispo. This was a very difficult goodbye, and only the first of many as we finish off this semester. We left our town for the last time and were off to San Pedro Las Huertas, the first place we stayed in Guatemala for Orientation Week back in January.

Beginning on Monday morning we had sessions about how to transition home well, how to tell stories about our experiences, and how to integrate the lessons we’ve learned into our future. We also discussed plans and set goals, while taking advantage of our time all together as a group with some fun activities.IMG_1922

Each student and leader shared a personal testimony about what we have learned and how we have grown this year. As difficult as it was to put into words and articulate such a broad experience, it was wonderful to listen to our group members reflect on their perspectives and to celebrate the journey each of us has been on. Many of us learned a lot about ourselves this year through community living and through practicing vulnerability. After each sharing time, the community as a whole encouraged the person who had shared. It was truly a heart-warming time.

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With debrief finished on Saturday morning, we packed up and drove to the Pacific Coast where we spent 3 days beach-bumming together at El Paredon Surf Camp. The endless black sand beaches, pool, ocean-side campfires, and hammocks helped us have the most relaxing last weekend of Outtatown. We also had surf lessons and rented boards all weekend as we all became pro surfers.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I found the beach weekend the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with our site, after being apart for many weeks this semester. Unlike weeks in San Juan del Obispo where we were spread throughout the community, we were able to eat every meal together and really revel in each other’s presence. I enjoyed celebrating this year with all the new friends I made back in September, reminiscing on all the adventures we shared, and discussing our worries and concerns about transitioning home. I felt that at the end of the weekend we were on the same page again, and better equipped to go home after our debrief sessions. It was an overall joyful time as a group that will stick with me as one of my fondest memories from this semester.

 

Pray for our group as we travel back to Winnipeg. Now, time for graduation weekend at CMU!

Graduation and Goodbyes.

By Grace JonesIMG_0249

Hola Everyone!

This past week was definitely bittersweet – filled with much celebration, but also some difficult goodbyes. The week prior to Easter is easily the most lively and busiest time of the year here in Guatemala. This time of year, up to a million people flood into Antigua for the exhilarating Holy Week (referred to as “Semana Santa” in Spanish). We are all extremely grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed this time leading up to Easter.

Starting the first day of Lent, weekly processions began. Each procession is an event where an andas (float), carried by as many as 100 men or women, displays a scene from the Bible leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Once Holy Week begins, different processions occur every day, with increasingly beautiful and elaborate alfombras begin to fill the streets.

On one of the most significant days of the year, the morning of Good Friday, many of us “woke up” at 11pm and stayed awake embracing 8hrs of powerful andas of Jesus carrying the cross. Running on little sleep, we spent much time walking, observing, and reflecting this past weekend on the season of Easter. We are all extremely grateful for the opportunity to witness this time in Guatemala.IMG_0457

Experiencing the season of Easter here, has most definitely made the significance of the crucification, death, and resurrection much more evident than in years past. It is difficult to put these thoughts into words, but it has something to do with the way millions of people from all over the world were here this weekend to celebrate the resurrection. After the personal and communal growth that has come out of this year, this celebration was especially memorable. The way that we walked with thousands of people (at 3am), watching the float of Jesus carrying the cross, with the reminder of the words “pick up your cross and follow me” placed on the float, was something I will never forget. Something about the physical visual that these andas display, place so much power in the story. This weekend has allowed me to reflect on what this statement means to me in this season of my life. What is it that I need to lay down, in order to fully love Jesus as he fully loves us?

This week also included our last week of Spanish classes, which means we have all graduated now! Thursday morning, with many of our host families attending, we all walked across the “stage”, received our certificates, and even heard a couple groups share their musical talents. We may or may not have heard Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson…Spanish edition! This was such a wonderful time to celebrate and spend our last few days with our host families.

Since this was the week of grad, it also meant it was the week to say goodbye to what were our homes for a total of 6 weeks this semester. This was not an easy goodbye for anyone. I think I can speak for everyone saying that the memories made with our host families will never be forgotten. We are all extremely grateful for the relationships built and the homes-away-from-home provided to us. This was very evident as there were many tears when we met together after the goodbyes. It feels as if just yesterday we were all extremely nervous, barely speaking a word of Spanish, and asking ourselves, “What have I gotten myself into?!” when we dispersed into our host families for the first time. And just like that, it was time to say goodbye. Despite this time being very tough, it demonstrates the impact that these 6 weeks have made on each on of us. San Juan del Obispo has been one for the books. IMG_0262

Reflecting on this past week was difficult. It was a very eventful week, challenging to find the time to soak up every last minute and embrace the beauty of Semana Santa with our busy schedule. I couldn’t help but especially admire the volcanos as I walked to school each morning. It’s crazy to think that in just a couple short weeks, this will no longer be what we wake up to. Despite time flying by, I have realized the importance of remaining present, simply embracing the moments here – good and bad.

As I mentioned, the goodbye to my host family was very difficult. My little 4-year-old sister was someone who I will specifically never forget. So on Saturday morning when she entered my room with a homemade card and gift as I was packing up my final things, my eyes were immediately filled with tears. Who would have thought such a short period of time would make such an impact? The idea that play is a universal language has never meant so much to me as in this season of my life. As hard as the goodbye was, I was leaving with endless memories, stories, and photos.

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Dancing with our families at Graduation.