Sessions in the Plains

Greeting friends and family,

After spending Thanksgiving weekend at our homestays, we returned to CMU on Monday morning refreshed and ready for the nine hour van ride ahead of us. By the time we arrived at Redberry Bible Camp our bodies were sore from sitting all day so we were eager to make ourselves comfortable. Over the next three days, Jacquie and Rick Block, a couple who work with Canadian Foodgrains Bank, led six sessions on “Doing Justly: maintaining a relationship focus as we do good works.”

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Jacquie led us to reflect on the passage: “the Lord requires of you to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). She explained that to do justice is the action, to love is an attitude, and to walk with God is to be in a relationship. With Rick we explored doing justly in Development Case Studies. We watched a video about a Manitoban First Nation reserve that has no safe and reliable drinking water and were asked to spot where we found beauty, suffering, and agency.

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This past week, we had sessions with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), an amazing non-profit organization that works to share God’s love on a global and local level. We had the opportunity to learn from Str8 Up, a non-profit organization that offers an exit strategy for gang members. Hearing firsthand from two ex-gang members about the trauma they’ve been through and their ability to turn their lives around was inspiring. One thing that they focused on was how instead of viewing people as good or bad, it is critical for us to understand that everyone is on a spectrum of health versus sickness, in their body, mind, emotions and spirit combined, so we should treat them as such. It was amazing to see how the humble work of organizations like Str8 Up provide people with an outlet to transform their own lives and benefit their community.

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I really enjoyed this week because of how interactive all the sessions were. MCC ran a simulation called “Forced to Flee” where our goal was to escape an unsafe country successfully as a family. My family encountered multiple barriers, that we had to bargain our way through, and were forced to make difficult choices. Only a small number of families were able to flee. Others were relocated, ended up in a refugee camp, or died. “[Forced to Flee] helped me realize how long the process takes for refugees and how desperate someone in that situation can get.” –Annika.

Next week we are heading closer to the mountains and staying at Alberta Pioneer Ranch near Rocky Mountain House.

Outtatown Family❤

Winnipeg Urban Plunge

Hi everyone!

We just completed the Winnipeg Urban Plunge last week. We stayed at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, which is a church located in an old elevator factory in Winnipeg’s North End. The building has a lot of character and, if you walk around it, you will notice vast and colourful murals covering the outer walls. The murals are representative of the community; vibrant, yet broken.

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Our first day of the Urban Plunge was a walking tour of the West and North Ends of the city. We had the opportunity to visit different organizations to learn about what they do to help out their community, along with learning about poverty, gangs, and Indigenous issues. We were divided into small groups so that we could easily interact with our hosts and ask as many questions as we needed to fuel our curiosity. Those of us who are from Winnipeg were a little nervous to venture into these parts of the city, but once we got there and learned more about the communities, we realized that there’s also a lot of beauty and goodness in these areas.

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When we had completed the day’s activities, we were each given $2 to buy dinner. We could either pool the money we had in our groups of four and get food to share, or we could fend for ourselves. It was an eye-opening experience because it reminded us that some people only have that much to spend on supper, and it’s pretty difficult to find a well-balanced meal for that amount. My group ended up eating instant ramen, 99 cent pizza slices, and Timbits. It made us realize how fortunate we are to be in the position that we’re in right now, never needing to worry about when our next meal is coming or if it will be enough to keep us full.

The next two days of the Urban Plunge were spent volunteering at various churches, food banks, shelters, and other organizations. We got to interact with both the people running the places and the people who are using the services. We met pastors, artists, and people who were just looking to sit down with a cup of coffee and have a good conversation. Some of us were intimidated at first because of the area we were in and the stories we had heard, but our hosts were all very hospitable and patient in explaining how everything worked, which helped put us more at ease.

This week was a good reminder that there is more to people and communities than what is on the surface. You may see the North End for its drug problems and gang violence, but we were shown that there is so much more to it than that. It’s a community; it has its issues, but it is also so full of life. As for the people, one of our hosts gently reminded us that each person we met is a human like anyone else. It is so easy to judge what we see in front of us, but it is also so easy to change that judgement if you actually take a minute to get to know a person or place.

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We’re now in Saskatchewan, we’ll tell you about what we’re doing in SK next week!

Thanks for reading,
Kailyn

Dan’s the Man

Hey Y’all,

At the beginning of October we were at Camp Assiniboia and attended lectures during the week at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) that were led by Professor Dan Epp-Tiessen. As much as I love the adventurous routine we’ve been a part of, I really enjoyed having one week of being back in a classroom for a bit. Dan’s lecture series looked at the Bible as a drama in six acts. We focused on the creation story, the fall of humanity, God forming God’s people, Jesus establishing the reign of God, how the church carries on Jesus’ ministry, and Jesus’ second coming.

Before going to these lectures, I thought I knew my Bible rather well, but now I realize there’s so much more that I don’t know. After listening to such captivating lectures by Dan, my eyes were opened to further studying who God is and the book that God gave us. After what seemed like such a short few days of lectures at CMU, we were able to have a rest day followed by a barn dance at the camp we were staying at. It was definitely a night filled with fun and laughter; participating in a pie walk, square dancing, and auctioning off home-made pies.

Dan

On Sunday, we went into downtown Winnipeg to attend church at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church. This is also the church that we stayed at in the days that followed as we participated in our Urban Plunge! I was very nervous but also really excited for what the next week held, but you will hear all about that in the next post!

Thanks for reading,

Kiera

Eye-Opening Encounters at Roseau River

Dear family and friends!

I’m very excited to share with you about our cross-cultural learning week at the Roseau River Anishinabe reservation! It was an absolutely incredible week! At the beginning of October we drove out to the reservation from Roseau River Bible Camp every day. We had the privilege of listening to our hosts, Peter and Colleen, tell us stories of the Anishinabe culture. We got to hear the Anishinabe creation story, how the clan system came to be adopted, about the treaties that were imposed on them by the Canadian government and how much of their way of life was lost as a result. We also got to hear stories from people such as Sitting Eagle, who told us how he has come to embrace his heritage in a world where his culture is often perceived as inferior. We were able to learn about some of the traditional practices of the Anishinabe people, such as the importance of leaving tobacco leaf when you’ve taken something from the earth, and how to sing a powwow song in Cree. These experiences were eye-opening and provided many of us with an understanding of this way of life. This learning is so important for us as we think of how we can be part of healing relationships with First Nations peoples.

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Every morning on the reserve, we would meet with different members of the community. We would often sit around the fire and listen to the stories and teachings of Anishinabe history and culture. In the afternoon we had the opportunity to contribute to various projects under the sage guidance of our new friends. We were taught lots of skills that were new to most of us, like: building a lodge out of poplar trees, what a sweat lodge consists of, baking bannock, beading, making dream catchers out of metal wire, and even skinning a few deer.

We wrapped up the week by going to Winnipeg to participate in the Climate Strike or for free time at The Forks. We also went on a small hike to a swinging bridge over Roseau River and had a BBQ at Colleen’s house to celebrate 11 years of Outtatown partnering with the Anishinabe community at Roseau River! All in all, an absolutely great week!

Catch ya next time!

Ethan

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Learning About Theology

Hello Family and Friends!

At the beginning of September we stayed at Camp Arnes where we had the first speaker of our year: Janessa Nayler-Giesbrecht. She encouraged us to think about our own theology, based on where we have come from and what we have learned before; to think intentionally about where we are and what we believe. As an exercise to discover prior theological backgrounds, us students were told to answer some questions regarding our experiences with theology. These included “Who in my life taught me about God?” “What do I think matters to God?” “What Bible verses taught me about God?” as well as some others, simply to get the ball rolling for the start of the session series; to awaken in our minds the answers we had already pertaining to theology. This exercise was really helpful as each student could see where they are coming from in their knowledge of the study of God.

The four lenses we were told to use to learn more about theology and discover more about the topic were as follows: the Bible, context, community, and experience. There were several key points from the sessions, one being that the community we are in helps to shape our theology, but the Bible is the most important reference point for everything. On the third and last day, the topic of the session was Jesus and Theology; how Jesus is the centre of everything we see as Christians. Based on that truth, an important Bible passage is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Jesus taught many important principles during this extended sermon.

To wrap up the theology sessions, we held a prayer exercise to listen to the Lord and what Jesus has to say to us. One student described it as a “unique and different way of praying because you don’t always wait to hear for an answer.” I think it’s important to pray, and also listen to the Lord. Because theology is something you learn, and the best way to learn about the Lord is through a relationship.

See ya next time!

Erika

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