Who do you say He is?

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Greetings friends and family! Our days since the Urban Plunge in Vancouver have been filled with both learning and laughter, as well as deep reflection and processing what we experienced during our week in the city.

This past week, we welcomed an instructor by the name of Paul Cumin. He taught us about different worldviews and their life outlooks, and compared and contrasted them with Christian beliefs. For example, we discussed how life looks through the beliefs of atheism and pantheism. He also introduced us to the concept of ‘me-ism,’ and how in our walks of faith it’s easy for us to pick and choose aspects of our beliefs, or verses in the Bible that we like, and leave out the ones we don’t love so much. This in particular sparked all of our attentions and it caused us to deeply reflect on our own lives and how we live out our faith.

As Paul continued to teach us, he reminded us of Matthew 16:15; “But what about you? Jesus asked. Who do you say I am?” Paul implored us to seek for ourselves who Jesus is to us, and not answer the question with a ‘cookie-cutter’ response; he really prompted us to discover for ourselves who Jesus truly is to each of us personally. I’ll always remember this one quote that he mentioned to us; “we are incognito even to ourselves, until we find ourselves in Christ.” It was awesome to really dig into our faith, and we all learned so much. At the end of the week, each of us felt full of new knowledge and insight.

In the middle of the week, we participated in a service day at Camp Squeah. We were divided into small groups and instructed to do a variety of different chores around the camp. For some of us, this looked like splitting wood into smaller logs, carrying the wood in wheelbarrows, stacking firewood, or raking, to name a few of the tasks. As we laughed and sang through the tasks assigned to us, we found so much joy in our work.  My group developed quite the rhythm as we passed firewood between us for stacking, passing the wood along to the beat of the music we listened to. It was a day full of hard, but fulfilling work, knowing that we were blessing the camp that has been so graciously hosting us.

We also had our site Christmas banquet together! (Yes, it’s only November, but the end of the semester is approaching rapidly!) As jolly Christmas tunes played, we sat down to a candlelit feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. (Huge thanks, Camp Squeah kitchen staff!!) After this delicious meal, we gathered in a circle, and gave each other secret Santa gifts! They were all homemade, and there was a wonderful combination of sweet and hilarious gifts alike. It’s amazing how creative everyone got, and as we each gave and received the little presents, we reflected on how well we’ve all come to know each other, and that we’ve become so much like a family. It was a wonderful evening, and an incredible way to finish off the week!

Thanks for reading! Next week we’ll be heading out of British Colombia and making our way back across Canada. Continue praying for us as we roam and debrief in Alberta!

-Megan

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How to Be Blessed and Be a Blessing

 

Vancouver Urban Plunge – Kyla Willms

There were a lot of mixed emotions going into this week for the entire site. Some of us had amazing experiences during our urban plunge in Winnipeg, and others not so much. We all knew for sure that we were walking into a challenging week. Venturing into downtown Vancouver some of us definitely felt culture shock. It was impossible to ignore the obvious signs of material poverty and brokenness that surrounded the streets.

We spent the week being lead in different experiences by our partner for the week, Youth With A Mission Vancouver. The first day we were split into small groups to discover and connect with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It was amazing to make so many connections with people who were generous with their time and willing to talk to us as we went along saying our hi’s and hellos, and so many of these people appreciated having a couple of willing listening ears to talk to.

Many people I met had some of the biggest hearts I have ever encountered. They were so caring and concerned that my group knew how to be safe. Although I experienced a lot of anxiety for this day in particular, God met me in that and showed me exactly where God was among the places that scared me. People were so vulnerable with their stories of either drug addiction, broken families, or personal faith journeys. It made me wonder how willing I would be to tell a complete stranger my deepest struggles. For a lot of us it was easy to see Jesus that day. We could see how Jesus was sitting right with his children in their brokenness and how he was reaching out to different people in so many different ways. I can honestly say that I was blessed by those people more than my presence could have blessed them. Just a smile was all that was needed to spark conversation. Kindness is a bit counter-cultural in that way.

We were also able to serve with organizations that were working with the beautiful people of the Downtown Eastside. I was in a group of ten girls that went to Door Is Open, a community centre that hands out breakfast and lunch every day of the year. Fellow Outtatown student, Natalie Ladd, and I started the day handing out sandwiches through a window, again getting beautiful opportunities to offer smiles and good mornings to people. It was inspiring to see the interactions of the staff with the regulars that visited the organization. Other groups served at Union Gospel Mission and Powell Street Getaway.

A really impactful part of the week for me was Wednesday afternoon, where a group of us held ‘Free Prayer’ signs and stood on street corners in large red shirts. It’s a beautiful thing to witness total strangers admitting to themselves that their problems are bigger than they can handle and taking up the offer to ask for help from their Creator. God brought so many people to us that day that were either celebrating, mourning, or questioning. Another fellow student, Olivia Hazelton, commented, “The prayer stations were a great way to connect to people, through taking the time to struggle together and to ask God for help.” God’s children are reaching out for their Creator in every corner of the earth, especially where you least expect it.

We wrapped up our week with a day called ‘impact’. In groups of three or four we were given a certain amount of money and challenged to go bless the community. With a lot of enthusiasm, some groups decided to draw with chalk on the sidewalks, either proclaiming God’s love or just spreading a sense of child-like joy. During debrief of the day, it was obvious that the act of kindness not only blessed the community but also the group that had decided to do it. Their joy and smiles from the day lit up our meeting room at the Ivanhoe Hotel. Another group, moved by the Indigenous Remembrance Day ceremony that was taking place, chose to donate their money to the cause. Multiple groups decided to hand out flowers to different people trying to shake their day with some colour.

Overall, we were all able to realize that representing Jesus in the world is much simpler than we thought. Just our smiles and greetings were able to cause God’s kingdom to light up in Vancouver. We also recognize that God is already in all of the areas that we visit, before and after. We don’t bring God to these places, but we meet him there and he tells us what we need to do. Many of my anxieties for the week were washed away by God’s faithfulness in providing purpose in my experience. We didn’t have to bring anything to Vancouver but the willingness to learn, and God showed all of us how to be a blessing there.

 

Week 1 in British Columbia (Oct 22-28)

Welcome back folks to yet another edition of The Adventures of Guat-Squad™!  The action packed blog where we, the fabulous writers of the Blog Committee, provide you, the beloved readers, with the THRILLING experience of reading about what we’ve been experiencing! Your lovely (and moderately caffeinated) writer Ada is back at it again, giving you the sauce AND the meat of the last week. So sit back, put your feet up, get that uncomfortable wrinkle or twist out of your sock and relax! The show is about to start!

Since arriving at Camp Squeah in the stunningly beautiful, though slightly damp, province of British Columbia we have had two major learning experiences. The first of which was lead by speakers Kevin and Emily who brought some fantastic lessons and guidance on the topic of relationships. We were happy to join South Africa for these sessions and share stories from our respective adventures with each other! During our time with Emily and Kevin we talked about sexuality, singleness and marriage, and the too-often-not-talked-about struggles of them. They used many personal and vulnerable stories to help better equip us to go about healthy relationships, as well as provided insight as to how to integrate your faith into relationships. Personally I am very grateful for the opportunity to hear and ask questions about these topics in a safe and encouraging community setting. I believe Emily and Kevin’s stories and messages will stay with us all for a long time and will impact us all as we go about our lives with or without partners.

Now before I dive into the second part of this last week I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you. For a religion that preaches so much about unity, Christianity has a large amount of fairly different denominations, and we often believe that our denomination or our way is the best one, whether it’s a conscious thought or not. I’m guilty of this myself. However, something that has recently become apparent is that we as an Outtatown group all come from a diverse spread of Christian groups. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal, Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Missionary, Missionary, Baptist, Mennonite (GC and MB), and Non-Denominational. We all come from different backgrounds, different styles of worship and prayer, different areas of focus and approaches to faith, and different kinds of interaction with God. Some of us have only ever set foot in a single kind of church, yet despite all of that we have come together to form a beautiful, joyful, supportive, and caring faith-based community! We’ve united as one body despite our differing methods, often sharing our own understandings and experiences, helping each other to see things in a different light, and learning a lot from each other.

This kind of thinking was something we explored this last Friday to Sunday as we had our church visit weekend. Our leader through the weekend, J, brought us to a number of very different church services. I believe all of us had at least a few entirely new experiences, and witnessed approaches to faith and church that we would never have expected. We reflected on each service as a group and talked about the values each church seemed to hold strongest. We all carried an amount of personal bias into each service, and many of us were uncomfortable at some point in the weekend, but after some guided discussion I believe we came to a better understanding and new appreciation for every church we visited. A speaker named Lloyd who we listened to in Winnipeg told us, “You have to step into someone else’s culture before you can understand your own.” I keep recalling that line, and it has rung so true for many of our experiences thus far. This weekend has given me a lot to think about and has helped me realize a lot about what I value in my own faith, as well as why, and I’m sure it’s had a similar effect on many of us here.

So I’ll leave you with a few questions I’ve been pondering myself. What does church mean to you? Why do you worship and pray the way you do? Why do you like your church? How do you view other denominations and why? Can we still be one body despite our different methods and preferences? I would encourage every person reading this to experience this for themselves. Consider going to a service you never would have considered going to before, leave your biases at home, and try to see and understand the goodness that is occurring there. I promise there’s something for you to learn there, but it’s up to you to try to find it.

Thank you for reading! Stay hydrated and eat plenty of fibre! Until next time…

Leaping Into Adventure

Hello once again, friends and family! We’ve been enjoying our Outtatown life to the fullest in British Colombia, and I’m so excited to share about it with all of you!

After a very scenic drive through mountains and valleys, we arrived at Camp Squeah, near Hope, British Colombia. Despite what feels like ever-present rain, we are all filled with awe at the mountains and magnificent trees around us! A highlight of the week was joining with the South Africa site for sessions concerning relationships, led by Emily and Kevin. They are incredible speakers and very insightful, and asked us questions that made us deeply think and dig into our own values and beliefs. On one of our days with them, they invited us to anonymously submit any questions we may have concerning relationships, God, or life in general. After laughing at a few of the goofier questions, they dove into the tricky ones, and answered them with wisdom and grace. Kevin and Emily taught us the value in having healthy relationships, platonic and romantic alike, and also the value of being single or unmarried. 

Another highlight this week was that we participated in different church visits in Vancouver, where we attended services of a variety of denominations and beliefs. It was really eye-opening and incredible to have an opportunity to see how many different ways people worship God. It also allowed us to take into consideration and discuss what we want to get out of a church experience, and what values are important to us. Our guide, J, taught us that there are three different categories most churches will fall under based on what their primary focus is: body, herald, and temple. A ‘body’ church may make community a priority, while a ‘herald’ church may place outreach as its primary goal. A ‘temple’ church may focus on creating a beautiful temple to worship the Lord in. It was super interesting to learn from him and discuss how we see the church, and what values are important to each of us.

On Wednesday we went caving together a little ways outside of Hope! Gearing up in jumpsuits, headlamps, and helmets, we felt many emotions rush through us; giddy excitement, yet fear of the unknown as we took in the dark cave entrances and imagined the rock that would soon be all around us. We were split into small groups of three or four, and told to head into the caves, one group at a time. Many of us were facing anxiety as we crawled into the gloom, but as we pressed on through the caverns, all of us felt our courage grow. It wasn’t long until we were singing our way through the caves, the sound of our songs flooding the caverns, and us, with joy. There were some points where the walls of rock pressed in so tightly on every side that we had to crawl forward on our stomachs, but together we helped everybody make it through. We encouraged one another and guided each other down the right path, uplifting one another and belting out tunes. Many of us conquered fears, and as we emerged back into the daylight above-ground, many hugs were shared and proud smiles exchanged.

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We finished off this incredible week by bungee jumping at Whistler Bungee! As we walked onto the bridge over the canyon we’d soon be jumping into, we were once again filled with fear. With encouraging cries of “you can do it” and “you’ve got this,” one by one we were coaxed to the edge of the bridge to take the leap into the gorge. Terror, yet complete exhilaration, pulsed through our hearts as we took turns flinging ourselves into the canyon and flying over the river below. A few of us had to nearly be pushed off the platform (myself included!) due to hesitation, but as we soared through the air, a lot of the fear left us. It was the initial jump that was the most terrifying part for many of us, and choosing to take that first step off of the sturdiness of the bridge. We really bonded as a community over this experience through uplifting and pushing each other on through our fears. It was awesome to see someone who was so terrified initially, returning after their jump full of pride and beaming with excitement at what they had accomplished. We definitely pushed ourselves and conquered our fears that day. It was an experience that none of us will ever forget!

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This week was incredible and packed full of adventure! We’re thinking and praying for all of you back home. Thank you so much for your prayers and support, and we send all our love your way! We are off to spend next week in Vancouver and continue our explorations in BC!

Thank you for reading! Best wishes,

-Megan