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

Learning and Exploring in Alberta

Hey all!
Sorry for the late update on what we’ve been up to, we’ve been super busy! So, during the middle of October we were at Alberta Pioneer Ranch in Rocky Mountain House. We had a pastor named Paul Cumin from Edmonton come do some sessions with us where he taught on the topic of double knowledge: Christ at the crux of knowing ourselves. I really enjoyed his sessions because he gave me a new perspective on some topics that I’ve been questioning in my own personal life. He really helped me to see that I needed to dig deeper into some of the shattered areas of my past and come to healing and new growth in those places.
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During that week in Alberta we had a big snowfall, but that didn’t stop us from going on a hike to Crescent Falls. It was a long trek to the falls but the hike was well worth it. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was! During the week we also had a Halloween party because no one wants to miss out on that. Hardcore improvising worked our costumes (some of us going as each other), and all in all was a great night.
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After this week hidden in the woods at Pioneer Ranch we left to head into British Columbia where, as you would guess, the mountains blew us away. This was our longest travel day (14 hrs) but it was by far the most beautiful. The power and mightiness of these works of art have to be the most amazing pieces of nature on this earth! After our tiring drive we arrived late at Camp Squeah, stayed the night and then headed to Vancouver the next afternoon where we stayed for the next 5 days for our second urban plunge. That week was filled with amazing things, so I’ll save those details for the next blog.
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Stay tuned for more updates in these next few days 🙂
Peace,
Kiera

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.

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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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New Beginnings

IMG_3169-21Greetings and salutations,

We just finished our first week of adventure at the Manitoba Pioneer Camp (MPC) in Northwestern Ontario!

After our first night at the camp, all 36 students headed out in two groups to begin a four day canoe trip around Shoal Lake. Some of us had never been on a canoe trip before while others felt right at home, giving us a well-balanced group of paddlers. Some of the highlights of our trip included; exploring gold mines, spotting swans, eagles, and enjoying the beautiful view of God’s creation.

Expecting simple meals on our canoe trip we were pleasantly surprised by the extravagant meals prepared by the Pioneer Camp staff and the cooking skills of fellow students. Thanks to all for keeping our bellies full throughout the week.

One of the days on the lake was extremely windy so we decided to put our “flotilla” skills to work, and drifted in an attached fleet of canoes across the massive open stretch of Shoal Lake. This technique wouldn’t have worked if the wind wasn’t blowing in our favour, and for that we thank God.

After the canoe trip, back at Pioneer Camp, we were able to make new friendships with some students from the David Kejick School that came to MPC in the afternoon. We did various activities with them such as canoeing, hiking, and playing some field games. It’s funny to think back to the first day when everyone was nervous and shy, except for a rare few.

After four days of getting to know each other, with our wet stinky socks, and crazy morning tent hair, not only had the awkwardness and uncertainty dissolved but we had become a family.

We went over orientation for the next few days; getting to know our schedules, and deepening our relationship with our leaders and each other.

Overall it was a successful week and we are currently enjoying the pleasure of having Janessa Nayler-Giesbrecht be our first speaker. She introduced us to Theology and Identity as we stay at Camp Arnes.

Kiera, Christopher, and Eileen

Outtatown Site Leaders

Hola amigos! 

Students – get used to seeing these beauties a lot because we are the Site Leaders for 2019-2020!! 

It is hard to believe that in only a few short days students will arrive on campus, we will load up the vans, and depart on our big adventure as a community around Canada and Guatemala. We have spent the last week and a half in staff training: planning sessions, testing out nicknames, practicing Spanish, solving riddles about the zombie apocalypse, and packing supplies in preparation for the year ahead; and we are beginning to feel a bit restless with anticipation in finally being able to meet our students! 

We have spent time praying for the students as they navigate goodbyes, processing all their feelings about starting program, and all the last minute packing that they may have been procrastinating. 

Please pray for us as we continue to prepare to welcome students and be unified as a staff leadership team! 

Looking to meeting students and parents this Sunday! 

Mucho love from,

Kathleen, Karissa, Rachael, Shawn, Luke

OT Group Photo

 

Learning to Speak, Wash, and Be Present: A Week Back Home

By Sienna Armstrong

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We were all really excited to return to San Juan del Obispo and our host families, after a week away. We got back into our regular schedule, returning to volunteer projects on Tuesday and participating in multiple small group activities on Wednesday. For a cultural adventure, many people on our site climbed Volcano Pacaya on Friday! We also went back to school in the mornings, which was a relief because I definitely forgot a good amount of Spanish while only speaking English for a whole week!

We changed teachers around for these next two weeks and it’s been helpful learning new topics that feel more advanced. Most of us have started to learn past and future tense so we can stop speaking in present tense at all times. This is a good thing because for the first two weeks I kept saying things like, “When I have 7 years I move houses.” My host family probably thought I sounded a little bit like a child.

One of the first things I needed to do after coming back was wash my clothes with my peer mentoring group (PMG, a small group of students with the intention of providing another for of support within our larger community). This was very crucial after a week at a building site! In Guatemala, most of our host families don’t use a washing machine, so we’ve been learning to wash our clothes by hand with a system called a ‘pila’. Some families have a small, individual pila in their home, but it’s also really fun to use the public ones, as we can wash our clothes as a group and laugh together when we mess up—which is more often than we might like to admit. The community pilas have a main pool that fills with clean water and smaller raised areas where you wash your clothes. Using it has involved a steep learning curve, while making multiple mistakes along the way—like not rinsing some of my clothes enough, to the point that they were stiff after they had dried off—but making those mistakes with my PMG, and others, makes it slightly less embarrassing.

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I’ve noticed a few differences in my day-to-day life from the first semester. I’m trying to take these in stride and learn how to take advantage of new opportunities, leaning on the community through new difficulties. Living with a host family, I don’t spend as much time with the others on our site, and I’ve found myself sometimes feeling lonely and homesick. My PMG has been really helpful to me in that as we spend time together talking about issues we’ve been struggling with recently, and generally support each other.

One way I’m approaching my homesickness this week, that’s different from last time we were staying in San Juan, is that I’m trying to build familiarity in these spaces, especially because I know that I’ll be missing them a lot once I’m back home. I have been listening to a lot of music that’s very familiar, and it’s comforting to look at the pictures I brought with me of my family or my dog. I’ve also found that I’m getting a lot of energy and excitement from stepping back from my routine and realizing how amazing it is that I’m here!

I think all of us here can specifically relate to how amazing the landscape is in Guatemala and I’m lucky to have a wonderful view from my room. Some mornings I like to look out when people are just getting moving into their day, with the mountains and the forests in the background. The landscape is so different from my home in Canada, but it’s starting to feel less foreign and more like home.

Most recently, we spent the last of the weekend relaxing and getting ready for another week of increasingly intense Spanish classes. To top it off we went to a Guatemalan soccer game! Appreciating and living in the moment isn’t as difficult when each week provides a new eye-opening experience to this country that we are starting to call our home.