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