Wrapping Up Our Semester

Hey everyone!

We just finished our debrief week in Hope, British Columbia, and ended the semester with a few days of fun in Banff. Our debrief week helped us reflect on the experiences that we’ve had over the past few months, and to do so, each of us presented a short testimony to the group about which parts of the semester impacted us the most, as well as some challenges that we have overcome. It was a week full of learning more about each other, seeing how God has been at work throughout the semester, and seeing how we’ve progressed since the beginning of Outtatown. It was so cool for us to be able to look back to how we were impacted individually and as a group, because all of us have grown in so many different ways since September.

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In Banff, we had a ski/hot springs day, dinner with our small groups, and a free day to explore the town, hang out with our peer mentoring groups, and relax for a bit before the trip home. On our ski day, we took a gondola up to Sunshine Village where we could then take a chairlift to the top of a mountain. At the peak, we were at over 7 000 feet in altitude! Since we were so high up, and the wind chill was -32⁰ Celsius, we really had to focus on the task at hand. As difficult as it was to ignore the bite of the cold winds and low temperatures, once we learned to do that, it helped us to appreciate God’s creation around us. There were mountains everywhere, and the falling snow made everything sparkle.

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During our small group dinner, we had one final chance to check in with each other and share about what we had learned in the past week. In my small group, the way we always start our weekly discussions is by sharing one thing that challenged us, one highlight, and one thing we’re looking forward to. We had a great chat and, after dinner, we reunited with the larger group to go to the hot springs. It was the perfect way to end the day because we all had sore muscles from skiing. It was nice to relax and wind down after a busy week, and we all felt so refreshed afterwards.

After such an eventful and rewarding semester, we all have many stories to share with loved ones at home. As difficult as it was to leave the group, we are all looking forward to catching up with friends and family over the next month as well as preparing for Guatemala.

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Happy holidays!

Kailyn

 

Learning to hear Gods Voice

Hello!

Nearing the end of our first semester, we had Steve Klassen come and speak to us about listening to God. He talked much about his experiences with God speaking to him and giving insight into his life. He had many fascinating stories about getting an impression from the Lord to do something and, after he did that specific thing even though it was strange and didn’t make sense in the moment, he could see how God worked through that and did something amazing. He also told many stories of people that he knows who are in tune with God’s voice. His friend Jamie, a police officer, has had many encounters with God speaking to him to do what seems like random, strange ideas, leading to lives becoming touched by the good news of Jesus. It was pretty amazing to listen to Steve talk about the many times that God moments have happened simply by listening.

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Steve encouraged us to slow down and to listen to God’s voice by simply being silent. People are so busy these days, and it is hard for us to take time to just be. He told us about the many ways God speaks to God’s people: through the Bible, other people, small voices, impressions, or many other ways. Steve also brought to our attention the ways we can try to figure out if what we are hearing is God or other voices, which was important to hear so we can try to distinguish what we are hearing.

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On Wednesday we had a silent day. The entire day we were not supposed to talk, or even text. We were encouraged to take time to meditate on Scripture, read poems, reflect on the Lord and our lives, and listen. Many people went hiking, sat outside, or reflected on Scripture. A lot of students felt words or pictures from God during the silent time. In the evening we broke the silence with worship, praising the Lord for his goodness and faithfulness. Many people shared stories of their day, about how they felt God’s presence or heard from God. Almost everybody said they enjoyed the silence and solitude, wanting to partake in more stillness in the future instead of constantly being busy.

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Lessons were learned from the silent day, as being still, being silent is not a normal activity in our lives today. We learned from Steve the importance of being silent, and listening to God throughout our day. God has many important things to say to God’s children, if we but take the time to listen.

Catch you later,

Erika

Venturing in Vancouver

Hello friends and family,

Our past week in Vancouver was filled with learning, exploring, and a general lack of snow.

We began it with J Janzen, who led us in our Church Plunge. Visiting 8 churches in 2 days, we were given the task to observe and look for elements of “Temple, Body and Herald”, which are the scripture-based components of what makes a church. From a Catholic mass and a mega church to a small, contemplative service and jazz vespers, we seriously got our church on! Probably our most foreign experience was the Gregorian chant at Christ Church Cathedral. It was very holy and felt different to the kind of worship services most of us have been a part of; a dim, candle-lit sanctuary, a small group in white robes singing the chant in a very quiet reflective mood. Most of us found this service to be very relaxing and took the time to reflect on our plunge or pray. These two days challenged us to analyze our own churches, how they incorporate (or don’t incorporate) the temple, body, and herald aspects of a church, and gave us some new insights on other Christian denominations.

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Following a great free day in the city, we began our Urban Plunge portion of our stay in Vancouver. Hosted by YWAM (Youth with a Mission) Vancouver, we had the opportunity to tour both the West and East Sides. In groups of three, with a map and lunches, we set out for a morning in the Downtown East Side, known for being one of the most financially impoverished postal codes in Canada. We were surprised at the stark contrast between the East and West Sides. One minute you could be walking through downtown, past nice coffee shops and then the next block you were weaving your way through packed sidewalks of people experiencing homelessness. From talking with people on the streets we saw how close a community they were, and how they look out for one another with the evident hope that their situation will improve. It also brought our attention to how materialistic and detached the West Side was. We finished our day with a session about sex trafficking in Canada. After learning how prevalent and current it is, we were led in a prayer vigil for those affected. On our second day we were separated into groups to do service work at different non-profit organizations.

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After finishing our time in Vancouver, we returned to Camp Squeah in Hope, where we concluded our busy week of learning with adventure! We went caving, where we reflected on how caving is similar to our journey with God. We were divided into groups of five, given overalls, helmets, headlamps, and minimal directions, and sent off into a series of caverns under a mountain. Often crawling on our stomachs, squeezing through tighter spaces than we ever realized we could squeeze through, and battling claustrophobia, our little “spelunking” adventure was quite a struggle for many of us. We would frequently reach dead ends or were confused about what direction to go, but with determination, encouragement, and a few breaks here and there (my group liked to sing during these), we eventually found the path again. Afterwards, our guide Walden debriefed us on how we often reach ‘dead ends’ in our faith and, in order to continue the path, you must persevere, with a little help from community and listening to God.

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All in all, we’ve had a pretty jam-packed week in VanCity, and can’t wait to tell you about our week with Steve Klassen and our silent day! Until next time!

Blog by Ethan and Eileen