The Adventure Begins (Again)

After a long five weeks at home, all the Outtatown students were reunited at last in Atlanta, Georgia, during our layover. Anyone could see how joyous the reunion was, judging by the smiles, the hugs, and the excitement on everyone’s face. Our Outtatown community is a very close-knit, tight group, which makes the times apart hard but the times together beautiful and fun.

The break itself had a variety of responses from different students. Some found it very long and very boring, as loneliness made itself present. Others found it a nice way to relax after the busy first semester that Outtatown brings; constantly busy and moving. They felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle another semester in Guatemala. Still others were happy to be back home to see many friends and family members they hadn’t seen for three months, and therefore were busy with life at home once again. Overall, the entire body of students were ecstatic to be back together and headed for a different country and a new adventure.


The phrase used most often in the first week of our stay in Guatemala would probably be “This is so beautiful!” From the volcanoes, to the foliage, to the vibrant colours of the houses and stores, Guatemala is a beautiful country through and through. Orientation week proved to be both an informative time as well as a time of relaxation and enjoyment of simply being here in this country. It was also a much-needed time to become accustomed to the culture and way of life in Guatemala, in addition to reconnecting with friends we hadn’t seen in the past five weeks.

This past weekend we stayed at SEMILLA, a seminary in Guatemala City that prepares its students to live out the reign of God with justice and peace today. Many groups stay there as they have rooms for guests to stay. During our time at SEMILLA, we learned much of the history of Guatemala, as well as some parts of their culture which are hard to learn about but important to know. For example, we went to an overlook of the garbage dump in which so many people work, including young kids, to support themselves; we also visited a mall, which was such a harsh contrast to the poverty at the dump.


Some of the beautiful Ruins we saw in Antigua

After our time in Guatemala City we went to church in Antigua. It was a beautiful service and amazing to worship together despite the language barrier. There was English translation for everything, and the verses of songs alternated between English and Spanish. It was beautiful to worship the Lord together.

Then came the moment of both excitement and anticipation: meeting our host families. With a couple of exceptions, not one of us spoke Spanish beyond the point of the bare minimum, causing some anxiety regarding this moment. One by one, our names were called, and we left with a family we’ve never met before and with whom we do not share a common language. As each student goes into this week, please pray for us as we try to learn Spanish and become accustomed to the culture and schedule of Guatemala. It will be amazing to see everyone grow through this uncomfortable situation, and get to know the host families better. Adventure is right around the corner!


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.


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.


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.


Happy holidays!



Learning to hear Gods Voice


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.


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,


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.

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.

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.

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.
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.
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.
Stay tuned for more updates in these next few days 🙂

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.”


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.


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.


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.

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.


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

Thanks for reading,