Monday, December 31, 2007

First Semester Reflection

My first semester was incredible. For the past 3 months I have lived out of a suitcase, traveling around Winnipeg to Calgary, Banff, Shushwap Lake, Mission, Abbotsford, Hope, Vancouver, Canmore, back to Calgary and then Home. I have experienced God in ways I couldn't have imagined, with a community of 31 people that I would now call a Church, because we strive to know God together. We seek his answers, pray together, worship together, experience the Holy Spirit's presence, reflecting on His involvement in our lives and the growth He has influenced in our community. Through these experiences I have learned that a community is very important for Christians so we can hold each other accountable, learn and grow together and through each other, and help each other when we are struggling spiritually.

The reason I first took this program was because I was looking for the direction God had for me. If people asked me what I pictured myself doing in 5-10 years I would have replied, "Some sort of evangelic missions in far away countries that need to know Jesus." But now if I were to be asked the same question I am not so sure I would have the same answer. Throughout this semester, I have experienced such a need, such a thirst for Christ's love, here in our cities, in our towns, in the Church in North America. I have been a part of this society all my life but blind to what I was a part of. I would walk down the streets or in malls with my eyes forward, on a mission because I have a busy life and things to do, not knowing or thinking of what God might want me to do.

My eyes were opened walking through East Hastings in Vancouver, the poorest postal code in Canada, with human beings shooting up all around you while sitting beside piles of their own excrement, then walking to the richest postal code in Canada, West Hastings (the same street), where a sky- scraper was being built with a pent house worth a few billion dollars. West Hastings looked much like the streets of any city; people, busily walking by each other, the world flying by all around them. The strange thing is that I experienced more love on East Hastings. If I smiled at someone on East Hastings, homeless or not, they would give me an overly-enthusiastic grin and probably start a conversation, whereas if I happened to catch a busy-body's eye and smiled on West Hastings and Robson St. they would either look confused, give me a dirty look, or look straight ahead and ignore me. How many times have I done that? These experiences have shed light on our society and how some of my actions have been molded by it more than by Jesus. It also made me think about how the little things can make such a difference because the Spirit is working all the time.

One statement has stuck with me. Rudy, a first nations woman who used to be a prostitute told us her story. She would be standing on the street corner on Sunday morning watching the people drive to church. None of them would look at her. She felt shamed, like she didn't deserve to be there, like they were too good for her. She screamed to those in the cars going by, she screamed to God wanting them to just look at her, to acknowledge her existence. She tried to commit suicide that morning. How many times could that have been me in the car, oblivious to the real world around me, in my comfort bubble?
Rudy used to be invited to church but she said, "What's the point? I feel bad enough about myself already." What is wrong with the church that it gives off that kind of an impression? I am a part of the Church. Am I accurately expressing God's love to I can always do it better. Somehow the North American Church has given off the vibe of the bad judgment instead of the loving accountability of Jesus. It gives off the judgment that is not meant to help but to hinder. How do we reverse this? How do we show the world otherwise?

This is why a strong Christian community is crucial. It’s a place where there is enough of God's love, compassion, and forgiveness so that we can address our brothers and sisters and where we can share with others our own struggles. If we let the world know that we know we are not perfect, would that change their views?

I have learned that being a Christian is really, really hard. Jesus asked us to do really hard things. I heard about this man that was on a late night Christian show. People called in and asked questions about Christianity and he would answer them on the air most of the time with quotes of Jesus from the Gospels. But soon he was told that Jesus' words were too harsh and he had to stop quoting Jesus on the air. This misses the entire point. Yes, Jesus asks a lot from us, and we are supposed to love him. And if we truly loved God wouldn't we want to please him? We are actually called to be like Jesus, use him as an example. I used to think that this would be impossible. But why would such a loving God ask us for something that is impossible? And the amazing thing about it is that God loves us no matter what. No matter how many times we fall, we are saved by Grace. We just have to sincerely ask for forgiveness.

So how can I give back to God? How can I possibly thank Him for what He has given me? Worship. I am discovering how I can worship God in my day to day life; how to do everything for His glory. A loving relationship takes work. God doesn't just want me to sing praises to Him, He wants me to live for Him. Walk with Him and include Him in all aspects of my live. He wants me to be a worshiper in spirit and in truth. It was CS Lewis who said, "It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to us."

One of our speakers, Garreth Goosen, told us a story about a pastor who noticed a change in the post-service conversation at his church. Instead of walking out of church talking about how they experienced God they would be talking about how their professional worship band sounded. He was very disturbed by this and decided to take music out of his church all together. This caused the church to shrink by half. For a few months the people who continued to worship there would meet in a circle, pray, talk and discuss God and the Bible. The focal point of their worship time changed from the music to the glory of God.
And during this time of fasting from singing the Pastor wrote the song: "It's all about you."
“When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come
Longing just to bring something that's of worth, that'll bless your heart.
I bring you more than a song for a song in itself is not what you have required.
You search much deeper within than the way things appear.
You’re looking into my heart.
I'm coming back to the heart of worship, cause it's all about you, it's all about you Jesus.”

I am now learning what it means to lay down my desires and life for Christ. Part of this is being able to accept everything with open hands; all gifts and talents, everything I am blessed with, taking nothing for granted. Be willing to give it all away, back to God. Another speaker, Nathan Regher, talked to us about idols and he said that any thing at all that gives me value, status, power or pleasure that only God is supposed to give me is an idol. When I look to something other than God for my identity, it is an idol because I am allowing it to take the place of God in my life, making it bigger and more important than God. I found this very hard to think about and am still reflecting on what it means in my life.

Another thing that I have learned during my first semester is the importance of prayer, reading the word, being silent, and having conversation with God. We should always question and look for the answers in the word of God. And when I pray, God answers me, a lot of times I am just too busy to notice. That is why it’s important to build silence into my relationship with God.

The mission statement of Outtaown is, "Knowing Yourself, Knowing God, Knowing the World." I have learned so much about myself, God and the world around me. Not solely from my classes, but from applying the classroom lectures to my everyday experiences. I have learned so much that I don't think I can even comprehend what most of it is or how it has affected me yet. I have been challenged beyond what I thought was possible. But everything that I have learned has been intertwined with God's love and grace, something that I do not deserve and yet am required to share with others.

By: Rachel Kamps

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Part of the Solution

“‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The king will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
~ Jesus ~

I just got back from 3 months of traveling around Central/Western Canada, and it was an experience that can't simply be put into words. Slowly unpacking the things I've learned will take more than just one month at home, but there are some things that have stuck out more than anything else.
Learning to become globally aware of what's happening all over the world is becoming increasingly more important to me.

There is opportunity all over this planet for us, the wealthy MINORITY, to be working towards creating some sort of equality amongst people; food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, warmth from the cold, and love for the neglected. Everyone sees these needs.
I know we do. It's plastered all over the news.
Yet, we live in ignorance. Some think that if they don't acknowledge it then it might go away, or they pretend it's not even there. Others think, 'it’s not my problem, someone else will deal with it'.

The news. It shows one horrific scene after another, and we're numb to it: We've all heard stories like "20,000 people died today in flash flooding that swept the city," or "5000 people died as police opened fire on a group of protesters in the streets," and even organizations like World Vision continually plaster the faces of starving children all over our television screens as we sit on the couch, channel surfing, wondering what we can gorge on as we try to find something to entertain our deteriorating bodies and minds. Day after day its a struggle deciding what we want to eat; we don’t take the time to truly realize how amazing our life is, for we never have to ask ourselves where we'll have to search to find our food, or whether food will even be an option for the day let alone the week.

We may not realize it, but we are all a part of the problems that this world is facing. Every action, decision and lifestyle has an effect on our environment and those around us. Take a look at all the major cities just in North America. Every day, each individual uses vast amounts of electricity, creates trash, contributes to the ever increasing pollution problem, uses disposable cleaning supplies, washes loads of laundry which uses soap that harms the environment, wastes food, and so much more! Think about how you yourself justify your wasteful habits, and then multiply that by the number of people in North America, and we have an equation that only ends with frustration and a world being sucked down the sewage drains. I feel as though as North Americans, we have become numb towards the needs of this world. Kids these days are growing up having their lives handed to them. We are all brats, demanding to have more and get more.

Buy Buy Buy Buy Buy. (I actually saw a credit card ad put up downtown that simply had these words splattered row after row all over a white background.)
That's what we're being sold on. That is what we are all being fed, and the public responds. We may acknowledge what media is doing to us, yet we still give in. We spend and spend and spend, and then wonder why we're not happy. There is a huge emptiness in the lives of North Americans, and people think it's filled with money, success, education and so many other short-term things.

People say it over and over, but we really must learn to change the way we spend money. We are wasteful in so many ways, and the money we spend on a $4 coffee everyday, a $12 movie every couple weeks, that $100 "good quality" sweater (even though its made by the same children who made that $25 sweater the next store down), or the countless shows, concerts, shopping trips and personal pleasures, are simply ways we seek to fulfill our lives.
This money could be put to use for so many other things. We live in riches, complain about our lives trying to satisfy our own emptiness with more 'things', and don’t bother to look at how we can help others.
Money is such a problem.
It's a challenge to myself more than anything else, and I also just want people to think. Think about where you're spending your money and why. Is it really necessary to spend that much?

Even if we all did little things to curb our spending, it would make a difference. I truly believe it. We just need to recognize how wasteful our society and culture has become. If everyone contributes a little to try and make a change, it will add so much more.

There are many organizations and committees working toward changing this world, but there is also a majority of people who simply live in ignorance.
If you are one of these people, I challenge you to make even a small effort. Every small effort will make a difference, even if it may feel like nothing. Don’t just live in ignorance to the problems this world is facing.
Don't justify the things you know need to change.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I'd rather be a part of the solution than adding to the problem.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
~ Jesus ~

By: Jen Nickel

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Unpacking First Semester

The mission statement of Outtatown is: knowing God, knowing yourself, and knowing the world”. This is something that I’ve been in the process of learning and since coming home for Christmas, I’ve been able to slowly unpack all the lessons and experiences I’ve had this past semester. I’m gaining a greater understanding of God’s will in my life and what that means.
Coming into this year I had been struggling with a few things; one being confidence in myself, another being my relationship with God, and a third being to find God’s direction in my life for when this year is over.

Confidence: This year has been helping me identify my God given gifts and talents, which has been amazing. What I’m finding more and more valuable is the realization that these gifts aren’t meant for how much I can do for myself, they are meant to be used in the world and the community around me.

My gifts are not something I should hold onto with a closed fist, they are something I need to hold with my palms up and open. It’s amazing then how my confidence has been growing since I’ve started using my gifts to honour those around me, and not for the purpose of them liking me, but just because there’s a need and God has enabled me to fill it. My confidence is not found in how much I know or the things I can do that others can’t, it’s in the realization that God made each of us extremely different and yet extremely beautiful. My gifts are needed in certain areas, but there are also times when I need to step back and allow others to utilize the gifts they have to fill the gaps. Identifying my responsibility in a group or community and as well as what is not my responsibility has done wonders for my confidence. The fact is that I don’t have feel responsible for taking every issue onto my own shoulders.

This translates into knowing the world: once we know our gifts and talents, we can explore the world (be it South Africa or just our home church) and identify areas that we can use these gifts to make a difference. I have the opportunity to go to South Africa in a few weeks and gain a whole new insight into a different culture and world. I’m realizing that with increased knowledge, comes increased responsibility and although I’m still unsure of what that means for me at this point, I know God is going to reveal amazing things to me and my group.

Relationship with God: I’ve always struggled immensely with devotions and reading my Bible. I’ve always to some degree had a heart after God and have found it easy to have faith in Him. I’ve mentored and counseled many kids and friends through the last 5-6 years, and God’s always seemed to give me the words to say despite my lack of biblical knowledge. I often feel His nudges here and there and try to follow them as best I can, but there still seems to be a gap some days. The more I look at it, the more I realize just how much of this problem is because of me being stubborn and wanting to be in control of my life and not living by faith and trusting God with it.

Going back to the things I’ve learned about confidence, I’ve held my gifts and talents so close to my own heart in attempts to make a name for myself in this world and as a result I’ve taken my gifts and have tried to run a lot of my life without God’s input; making myself likeable, holding on to money and spending it on myself and only myself in further attempts to push me up the rating system of this world. A few years ago, I choose engineering as a career choice, because it was something I’d be good at and it would bring “me” what I wanted in life. The money, the job security, the title, and at one point I even believed the type of wife I was looking for. Wow, is God ever changing my views on this!

Although I’ve completed a year of engineering, I came into this year thinking that I would never go back to it. I realized that the reasons I went into engineering were severely flawed, but throughout this semester, as I’ve sought out God’s will for my life and discovered and used some of the gifts He’s given me (leadership, encouragement, my knowledge of computers and technology, solving problems, working with my hands, dealing with different personality types) I see that maybe engineering is a good choice for me. I can see how all of my gifts can be utilized in this profession and even how I can use both my gifts and the profession to do God’s work not just my own.

I’ve learned a lot and I’m sure the learning will continue. Please continue to pray for me in this upcoming semester as I continue to realize God’s presence and direction in my life, and that he continues to work in my heart so I may make my life as a service to him.

By: Stephen Foord

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

First Nations Cultural Learning Week

This post is written about what we did from October 14th - 20th

This week was our first real plunge into the First Nations culture. Our first day was a huge history lesson about the First Nations people and it was all very interesting. First of all, the class was in a residential school. It was pretty eerie, knowing that we were in a place where such horrible things were done to people. It was actually the last residential school built in Canada and the last to be shut down in ’86.

It was cool learning about the First Nations culture. Not knowing what to expect, I had mixed feelings about it. However, as I heard more about their culture and beliefs I found that I could relate to a lot of what was said; some of it sounded like good morals, very similar to Christian values, while some of it baffled me. That being said, I feel that it is important for us to show respect and listen, whether we agree or not, and accept and appreciate their way of life without conforming to it. I particularly appreciated what Brander Standing Bear McDonald (a speaker of ours) had to say about his own struggle with this. He explained that as a First Nations Christian, he often feels as though one foot is in his Christian faith but the other foot is in his Native culture, and he often finds himself questioning and bouncing feet back and forth.

We found the First Nations’ ideas of communication interesting for many reasons. Whereas our culture thrives on good eye contact, clear speech, firm hand shakes, etc., their culture shows respect by not making eye contact, speaking little and softly, silence is a good thing. They hold much value on the content of a first impression rather than in the presentation of oneself. It’s really cool to learn of their values, and how we could possibly adapt them into our own lives or at least challenge the values we hold.

When it comes to the First Nations land issues, I have only ever known what other people told me. That we’ve stolen their land, and they hate us and just want their land back and are stealing our tax money. But hearing people share their own personal struggle with land issues opened my eyes and reminded me of how naïve I am. It also gave me a stronger level of appreciation and sympathy for the struggles of the First Nations people. I learned that they believe that they belong to the land – not that the land belonged to them – but now because of our force they must adopt this policy. I am beginning to understand this as a vicious cycle that they are caught in

On the second night we joined six First Nations elders for a healing/sharing circle. A healing/sharing circle is a time for people to share what’s on their hearts, what they feel the Creator wishes them to share. It’s almost impossible to find words to explain what went on that night. These elders had some great wisdom that they were happy to share with us. Some of it raised a few eyebrows as it clashed with some of our Christian beliefs, but amidst this we were able to have open hearts, examine their words and almost surprisingly we found that God was able to use them to speak powerful words to each one of us.

Our week continued on as we visited the Charlie Longhouse where a man, Kelsey Charlie, who had just hosted a funeral the day before and wasn’t expecting us at all, welcomed us into his home with open arms. As he started up the fire, hoping to warm his home for his guests, he shared with great excitement of his family’s history, the traditions they had, and the stories that are the foundation of their territory as the Chehalis tribe.

To end the week we had the opportunity to join the Chehalis community in celebrating the Stahlo New Year. It was an incredible time to see all that we had learned about their culture and beliefs in action. The celebration started with lunch where we had the opportunity to taste some salmon, which is one of the most traditional things we could have eaten. After the meal we watched and heard many dances and songs that celebrated a culture that has for so long been oppressed. It was beautiful to see small children of this new generation proudly living the culture that had been robbed from their parents. No textbook can give a student the education that these experiences gave us. Near the end of the celebration the children ran to our group and gave us gifts of fruit, artwork and peach jam that they had prepared for us and I think I can safely say that we all felt such a sense of honour to be shown such love, generosity and hospitality.

Throughout this week, stereotypes were constantly being challenged. It’s really sad to say this and I actually feel quite ashamed of this, but prior to this week when thinking of the First Nations people the pictures that came to mind were pictures of drunks on the street and run down reserves. This week, I was able to get to know people, hear stories of struggle and triumph over addictions, to encounter one of the healthiest communities I’ve seen, to see a beautiful people group display their culture proudly.

Our good friend Tim, who helped co-ordinate this week for us, shared with us that the opportunities that we encountered this week were one of a kind. He told us that we followed through with many missionaries’ broken promises to participate and learn from this culture. It is my hope that our experience helped to bring restoration by paying respect to this beautiful culture that many are quick to reject.

By: Ben Pavey

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I am on a houseboat!!!

This post is written about what we did from October 9th-12th

“I am on a houseboat. I am on a houseboat. No really, I am on a houseboat here people! Like really, who does this?! This is amazing!!!”

It would be utterly useless to try and count how many times this thought ran through my head during the week! As our group launched from the beautiful harbor in Sicamous, our excitement rose when we began to realize just how awesome our time on Suite Dreams (the girls boat) and Summer Reflection (the guys boat) was going to be. Sure there were definitely some tight quarters and interesting sleeping arrangements to be discovered but I mean, really…it’s not like we have much of a personal space bubble anymore.

No sooner had we set sail, when we come face to face with the incredible beauty of the Shushwaps. While we floated along the water it was easy to feel small since our surroundings consisted of nothing but sky and the mountains towering over us. Like most days that week, the air was crisp and the clouds hovered extremely low.

Our week entailed one memorable moment after another. Dance parties on the top deck, hot tubbing on the mid deck, movies, chess and card games on the main deck. A few of us were even crazy enough to jump into the lake off of the back of the houseboats. And I do mean crazy because a) it’s freezing cold water in October, and b) these were some of the words of encouragement “Don’t worry Mei-Lin, you’re totally safe. Just be sure to jump far enough so you clear the boat. Oh and don’t hit that rope down there either cause that would hurt. You’re good Mei-Lin. Do it.” And while some perfected the art of skipping rocks, others simply perfected the art of making more room in their suitcase to bring home the beautiful rocks that they had found. Yes, I was most definitely one of those – my bag is bursting because of this new found addiction. But what can I say – rocks are pretty. Each shore we beached on had a very different feeling; smooth, jagged, round, rectangular, sparkly. One couldn’t help but fall in love. Ok. I couldn’t help but fall in love.

This week wasn’t without some really thought-provoking moments as we spent time working through a “Knowing Yourself” module led by our site leaders. Each session focused on something different. Jodie kicked it off by taking us through a really awesome activity called Zoom where we were each given a different picture & told to make up a story about what we thought was going on in it. The person with the first picture started – and from there we went to the next – and soon enough we began to see how every picture was linked & as we saw more pictures we got a grander view of what was actually going on. Jodie challenged us to think about perspectives and how it shapes us and our community. It was an awesome reminder that everyone can see things differently and often times we need to stand back and zoom out on a situation; while other times we need to recognize the possibility to zoom in for more detail.

Another really encouraging time was when Anita talked with us about gifts and abilities. She gave us three questions to think about before discussing them among the circle. They consisted of: what am I good at? what gives me energy? and what have other people affirmed me in? For some people it was rather easy to come up with something, others had difficulty really pin pointing anything. This got me thinking about how we so often dwell on the bad things about ourselves or the things that we don’t think we can do. It was awesome to learn more about the people around us and with a simple smile or nod – be able to kind of affirm them in it. Along with this discussion, Anita also had us think of ways in which we can bring our gifts and abilities together and use them within our Outtatown community for the coming months. Born were a vast array of useful teams for people to be a part of, but of course, Team-Ridiculously Good-Looking was all of South Africa Site 2.

For one of our other sessions, Sabrina introduced us to an activity that I don’t think any of us really saw coming - an afternoon of silence. She opened with a scripture reading (John 15:1-17). And we talked for awhile about why is it important to remain in God, what are some ways to do so, and how can taking some time to be still and silent before God affect us. I’ve come to think that silence is not always an easy thing for our generation to find. There’s cell phones and t.v. and iPods. Things to do and people to see. Sabrina said something that really stuck out to me about how we have so much in a day and how it feels as though we always have to fill it with something. Perhaps it’s not that silence is hard to find, maybe it’s simply that some of us are not quite comfortable with it yet. There were a lot of stretching moments that afternoon as some hiked to the waterfalls, walked along the shore, and/or found different places to sit and be still. I think I can speak for most of us when I say that the quiet time to be on our own was more than welcomed. As everyone gathered back together at the boat I could sense people feeling refreshed and excited to share their stories about what they had just experienced! It felt good to be wrapped up in this positive vibe and finish the day with an awesome night of worship led by Simon & the crew!

And so with that and much more, this week was once again full of incredible places and experiences! How blessed are we to be able to go through such things and be with such wonderful people. This week it was on a houseboat. Next week it will be in Mission. Until then…

By: Mei-Lin Ing

The houseboat cruising through the waters

Simon steering the boat

Mei-Lin enjoying the view

Corey adding to the beauty of the moment

James setting the stakes

Sarah, Sabrina and Carrie setting the stakes

Stretching our legs and exploring the beach

Marla looking at the rocks

A great game of beach bocce

Jumping into the water

James going off the water slide

Meal time on the was tight

Playing cards

Amanda, Carrie and Sarah taking in the beauty

It's been too long

Hello family, friends and anyone else reading this blog. Sorry that it's been so long since anything has been posted on here, both time and internet access have been scarce. Luckily we're going to be a bit more settled for the next three weeks, so the posts should be coming now. Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement.

Sabrina Wiens

Monday, October 15, 2007

Man Venture

Man venture week started off on a rocky field just outside the lodge we were staying at. The leaders had a brilliant idea of playing a game of touch football, shirts vs. skins, on the most frigid day ever. I am on to say this because I was part of the skins team. This was fun for some of us. We moved on to a scavenger hunt in Canmore where we had the opportunity to earn points for answering questions. My team figured that it was just a game so we didn’t run too hard…or really run at all. So you can figure that we didn’t win. Then we played a game of paintball, which the guys quite enjoyed. We next went to a recreational centre in Calgary where we played basketball, sat in the hot tubs, and swam in the wave pool. I took the slide 11 times, which was a lot of fun. There was a fitness gym and a lot more stuff too. While in Calgary we caught a hockey game…Calgary Hitmen vs. Medicine Hat Tigers. As a group we all decided to cheer for the Tigers who got hammered 5-1. We had fun drowning out the Hitmen fans with our Tigers chants. The most entertaining part of the game was a dance-off in the second intermission between Johnny Fukumoto from Site 3 and another fan…Johnny won. Before going to the game, the guys from our site went to Tony Roma’s for supper. It was fun. The week was filled with fun things.

By: Dave Toews

Girls' Week

Picture this: 5 days. 60 girls. You would think it would be an estrogen overdose – but we came out alive! Tuesday was the start of our Girls Week in Calgary. We hugged our guys goodbye and wished them well on their “Man Venture!”

We were blessed to have three additions to our group for the week. Deanna Loeppky from the Outtatown Office came to hang out, Meghan Pierce led us in worship and Sharon Peters from Trinity Western University joined us as our speaker.

The insight and experiences Sharon talked about enabled us to grow and relate with one another; as well as in our relationship with God. Together we discussed what it means to be women of faith and character. The heart of what we learned focused around Self- Image and Sexuality; keeping in mind Psalm 139, Genesis 2 and the book “Real Sex” by Lauren Winner. One thing that both of us took away from girls week were words Sharon gave us on the first day – “I am loved. I am able.” It is so easy to get consumed with what other people think of you. It felt refreshing to take the time to remind ourselves that God thinks the world of us. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 2:31)

The two of us were also inspired by a question that was proposed during session - who is my co-author? It caused us to reflect on earthly things that have been significant in shaping and impacting our lives. While these things aren’t bad in themselves, if one is more dominant it can have an affect on how we rely on God.

A highlight for most of us was when we were given the opportunity to ask the guys questions about relationships and sexuality, and vice versa. Our top 15 questions were sent to the guys, where as a group, they discussed them. During one of our morning sessions, Steve (Site 3 Leader) & Simon joined us to relay the guys’ thoughts. Even though there were some answers that we thought we knew already, their honesty brought reassurance & it was definitely respected. We found it really valuable to talki openly about such things in a community like Outtatown. Through this experience we gained even more appreciation for the guys in our site!

While we weren’t in session our time was filled with awesomeness! Go-Karting, laser tag, mini-golf, random dance parties, worship night, dinner @ Melrose Café in Calgary, spa night, and hip hop lessons were a few of the killa events lead by our site leaders.

On Wednesday all three sites of girls hiked (what Lauren would classify as a “leisurely stroll”) through Johnston Canyon. As you will probably see from the thousands of pictures, it was gorgeous! Or as Reba Dookhie would put it, “I’m most definitely not a nature person… but this is BEAUTIFUL!” The afternoon hike was followed by dinner in Banff where we got to pick and choose what we wanted. (We made sure to leave room for our long awaited trip to the candy store.) Our night ended with a relaxing and rather eventful time at the Banff Hot Springs. Who knew God had such a sense of humor when He put four men’s volleyball teams right there with us… Where were they from Sarah? Norweiga? Or do you mean Norway? *Note: Mothers quiz your daughters on this one!!*

Our favorite day by far was our free day in Banff followed by a special surprise hosted by our site leaders. As our day began we split into our Peer Mentoring Groups (PMG’s are made up of three girls from our site - the goal being a support system for the year.) Our task for the day was to take the $20 given to us by our leaders and buy a Secret Santa gift for another PMG picked at random. After our day of exploring cute shops and buying gifts we met up with the other sites at the High Country Inn. Here we were welcomed with Christmas carols, decorations and goodies. Since it had been awhile since any of us had seen family, having a Christmas type setting made us all feel a bit more at home.

As the week came to a close it felt bitter sweet. On one hand we made a lot of new girlfriends and had a blast doing so. However I think all of us were more than excited to see our guys again. No offense to estrogen, but testosterone is awesome!

Peace Out - Lauren & Mei-Lin

We spent many hours in this confrence room listening to Sharon and discussing what it means to be women of character.

Meghan Pierce leading a time of worship.

The girls getting ready to hit the track.

Carla looking pretty pumped to be go-carting

Christine and Anita taking a break at the Calgary General Store.

Carrie and Miranda owned in laser tag...except for the time that Carrie ran into the wall...

Michelle playing mini-golf.

Johnson's Canyon

The girls taking in the beautiful view.

Mei-Lin becoming one with nature.

Amanda, Jen and Sarah looking pretty in the van.

Dinner out.

The girls looking comfy for the spa night.

Krystal, Jen and Michelle beautifying themselves.

Anita and Sabrina looking festive.

PMG Secret Santa gift exchange.

Michelle playing some Christmas carols.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Monday, October 1st 11:53:39am

ROADTRIP!!!! Sounds fun right? But being only 5 hours into it… we still have quite a ways to go. We departed from Winnipeg at 6:30am Monday morning, and our estimated time of arrival in Banff, Alberta is 10:30pm tonight… Oh boy.
We’ve made 2 pit stops so far, enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, witnessed Dave Attema taking well over a hundred pictures of the two lane highway we’ve been driving on, and we’ve crossed the border into Saskatchewan. The journey is underway… there’s no telling what will happen next.

By: Ben Pavey

Sabrina at the wheel

Students in the van

Dave taking photos for a photo journal of the highway...he honestly took ver 400 photos of the highway

The beautiful prairies

The vans driving into the sunset

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Week on Outtatown

Written on Thursday, September 27th

Meaningless! Meaningless! ...Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

These words and thoughts seem to ring true in a world void of God, hope and light. However, throughout this week, after studying various parts of Ecclesiastes, we came to understand that this meaninglessness cannot take a firm hold on our life once we have discovered the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Our main speaker this week, Jamie Howison, spent some time with us looking into the various scriptures of Ecclesiastes and Psalms and then connecting the messages and creating parallels between them and certain songs of today’s popular music. We studied musicians such as Pedro the Lion, Sufjan Stevens, Bob Dylan, Steve Bell and a few others. We were able to discover new connections from these songs we knew well, and we were then able to recognize the Bible’s influence in the lives of the artists, whether these influences were positive or negative. This innovative way of studying the Bible was exciting because the stories of ages ago, which come along with the preconceived notion of being dated, could be related to the situations many of us face today in our lives and the lives of those around us.

In addition to the many new things we are learning, there have been some exciting events occurring in our community as well! On Sunday we kicked off the week by attending the MUD Café at CMU. At this service, our very own Rachel Kamps, Dave Attama and Joanne Schapansky were each awarded a $300 voucher to an MBMSI program because they had won the Amazing Race challenge we all took part in last week in Winnipeg.

Our week has been filled with more fun each day as games of Frisbee continue, our newly formed site fitness club continues to run after snack time, and with the falling of rain, mud football was expected to break out at some point. The mud was calling the names of some of our friends as they jumped, rolled and fought through thick mud pies in a battle for the pigskin. Carrie was still chiseling the mud off her face the next morning while the washing machine destroyed Deanna’s unmentionables.

Nevertheless, everyone was cleaned up enough to join Site 3 at Pinawa for a seminar on AIDS; we heard inspiring stories about what’s currently happening in Africa regarding the AIDS epidemic, and we became excited to receive a foretaste of some of the things that are in store for next semester. Wednesday morning we woke up excited to leave Bird River for a little while (even though it already feels like home), to see some of our friends from the other site, and for many of us, to receive the long awaited internet access and cell phone reception!

As we wind down our week here at Bird River Bible Camp, we are all scattered around camp preparing for the meticulously planned Talent Show occurring this evening at 7pm, thanks to the motivated and ambitious Entertainment Committee! It will be an evening showcasing the diversity and many talents of our fabulous new community.

Tomorrow we will head our separate ways for the homestay weekend before we all come together again to head off to the glorious Western side of Canada on Monday. Please keep us in your prayers!

By: Jen Nickel

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Winnipeg Urban Plunge

This past week we partook in an urban plunge into Winnipeg’s inner city, hosted by MBMS International. We started the urban plunge with an “Amazing Race (Journey)” which divvied our site of 27 students into 9 groups of 3. We were sent all over the North End and inner city Winnipeg to gain an understanding and an appreciation of the “brokenness and beauty” of the Winter City we call Winnipeg.

My group, Team High Five, started the day at the Siloam Mission where we were given a brief tour of the mission and where we were each challenged to exchange one piece of our clothing for a piece from the donation room. As a North American, letting go of material possessions is not an easy task, but I felt it was definitely the best way to set the tone for the day. In that moment I realized that God, not me, was to be the focus of the day. This is something I believe I really need to make myself more aware of on a daily bases as a North American who often values his possessions in too high of a regard.

From there we traveled up Main Street and were challenged to step outside our comfort zones when our task was to strike up conversation with the less fortunate that we encountered. We were able to talk and just hear their stories. It’s crazy how fast the cultural/social divide breaks down when you actually take time to get to know someone; a person changes from a face on the street to a story of highs and lows. Even more amazing is how impactful prayer was in that encounter. Offering prayer might not feel like much, but the tears in those ladies eyes demonstrated to me how God’s love for each and everyone one of us is the hope that the world will never be able to squash.

We were introduced into the tough reality of prostitution and addiction in the North End when we went to visit Harvey Rempel at the Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship. He really opened our eyes to how prevalent this issue is in the city of Winnipeg, and in so many other cities all around the world. After my eyes were opened to reality of it all, every person I saw standing on a street corner just tugged at my heart. “Please God, not her too” was a reoccurring thought I had as we walked around. Harvey made an excellent point; women do prostitution, but it does not define them. They are someone’s daughter, mother, sister, and more importantly a child of God just like any of us.

We were introduced to a Winnipeg got spot called The Forks, giving us an understanding of its significance to Aboriginal people who first settled on its banks many years ago. Through a free shuttle ride on the Spirit Shuttle, we were able to explore the Provincial Legislature. Here we were able to take in the beauty of this building, but also to pray for the huge responsibility of decision making for our province and country abroad.

From there we went to Portage Place Shopping Centre, where we were challenged to get to know a random stranger in the food court. My group was a little scared at the thought of just walking up to any random person so we sat down and prayed for confidence and to be shown the person we should go talk to. It’s pretty crazy how fast God works some days; not a minute after we finished praying, a couple of guys in a table right next to us started up a conversation with us.

Heading towards the University of Winnipeg Campus, we spoke with a man named Travis who introduced us to the Spence Neighbourhood and a boarding house. He told us a bit about his life and the house church he’s started within these boarding houses. It’s a church made up of tenants of all different backgrounds, addictions, and individual challenges. Travis, as well as Harvey, is an excellent example of Christian men and women being willing to take a risk to reach the seemingly unreachable. They defiantly challenged me not to look at ministry as a 9-5 day job, but to see it as a calling, as a way of life.

This urban plunge opened my eyes and the eyes of the members of my site in so many ways. Time and time again, God demonstrated his love for all of his creation, be it in the sites we saw or in the rich or poor that we encountered throughout our day. The day was all about the journey, not the destination.

By: Stephen Foord

Ben, Deanna, Sarah, Carla, and Jen hanging out with Steve, the building manager at the Vineyard.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Reflections on Diversity

It’s been so great to get to know so many of the people on our group. If you were to ask anyone, they would agree that it has felt much longer than just a week that we have been together. I like to compare the vast diversity of our group to the people I have met over the years at my camp back home. When a new staff member arrives, you ask where they are from and all that is necessary is for them to share the town or city that they belong to, and you either know of the place, have family who live there, or have at least driven through it before. But with Outtatown, we ask what province or state everyone is from. The distance is so much greater than anything I am used to. We come from all over the country and all walks of life and we are just thrown into this random community forced to be friends with everyone… yet amidst all this anticipated friction, we’re able to make it work –and we make it work well.

It’s awesome because we are all outgoing people –we wouldn’t be on such an adventurous trip if we weren’t. We all love taking pictures or at least have a deep appreciation for pictures –we wouldn’t be on such a trip that captures the beautiful creation God has blessed us with the opportunity to take in and better appreciate. As different as we all are, we oddly enough have so much in common that acts as the glue that brings us closer and closer together. This is an exciting journey, and with only one week down, we’re anxiously awaiting all the surprises, challenges and blessings that we trust God has in store for us.

By: Ben Pavey

Canoe Trip

Think 5 degrees, wrapped in all your clothes, and getting to know your neighbor more than you ever wanted to… and that would be our past 3 days.
Our site group left the rustic Manitoba Pioneer Camp on Shoal Lake Friday afternoon, divided into two groups each led by 2 highly experienced Pioneer staff members. As we began on our own paths, we could only imagine the fun times we were about to embark on.

We, group two, began our journey by paddling 6km down river to a 15 minute portage leading into Canoe Lake. It was there that we found our first home. As we set up our tents and prepared dinner, most were layering on the clothes anticipating the cold night that awaited us. Indeed, it was freezing!! As we discussed the beauty of the journey thus far, we also admired the clear sky blanketed in millions of stars –which soon led to Sean’s decision to sleep under the stars (with an apparent friendly field mouse and Garter snake).

Saturday soon arrived and we set out on the second part of our trip. This time traveling against the wind, we were faced with some huge waves! Eventually we found our way to our next site, where we again set camp and spent the rest of the evening there. A much warmer night to say the least, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the evening.

This was a great trip for us. A time to work in partnership with many of our new friends, and an opportunity to dig deeper into the hearts and minds of these incredible people. As we journeyed, we focused our devotions toward the beauty of creation versus the brokenness we are surrounded with, and trying to bridge the gap between the two along with recognizing what barriers we must remove from our lives in order to properly identify the beauty and brokenness that we will be exposed to throughout the rest of Outtatown.

As we headed back to camp on Sunday on the calmest day yet, we were able to reflect on the theme of the trip: awkward turtle, we watched as a few of the guys bared the cold temperature of lake with a quick dip, we learned all about Corey’s teenage pranks, and only some will ever know of the infamous Walk of Shame.

Last but not least, as I am proud to quote the great Sean, on a trip such as this we must always remember to ‘Keep the animosity to a minimum.’

By: Ben Pavey

Our 2nd Outtatown Home

Loading up the canoes and getting ready to head out

Sabrina, Carrie and Jen

Lauren and Sean

Simon looking like a true outdoors man

Donna, Joanne, and Dave

Unloading for a portage

Lauren and Amanda doing supper prep

Cooking stir-fry over an open fire...who would have thought that we could eat so well in the wilderness?

The beautiful view from Donna's Place (the island we spent the night on)

Enjoying the sunset

Simon enjoying the view

The empty canoes

Brian, one of our great canoe trip guides

Donna, our other canoe trip guide, praying for the day

Loading up to head back to main land

Heading back to civilization