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

The first two days...

It's crazy how close our site became in so short a time, like family. Looking back already it's funny how nervous and awkward we were. The first day at CMU sems like months ago and it's like we've all known each other for years.

After a long drawn out welcoming day, we headed to Bird River Bible Camp. During the three days we spent there we had sessions lead by John Unger during which we spent time mapping out our lives and looking at how the the things we've experienced in life have shaped who we are today. We also played a bunch of games in order to get to know each other better and ate WAY too much food. Some of us bonded by playing frisbee and exploring the camp. Unfortunately we had no access to telephone at camp (the phone tower had been struck by lightening), so one afternoon some of us bonded on a long walk to the nearest payphone.

Prior to drop-off day I had been terrified and filled with doubt about whether or not I should be going on this program, but even after just a few days I was reassured that this was where God wanted me to be and I can't wait to see what the next eight months will hold.

By: Lauren Sonnenberg

Ben, Dave and Stephen getting to know each other on registration day

Getting into the vans for our first of many exciting van rides

Our first Outtatown home

John Unger speaking about life mapping and spiritual gifts

Frisbee seemed to be a popular free-time activity

Ben making a sweet catch

James, Dave and Jacob enjoying nature

Reba and Lauren going for an afternoon walk

Christine relaxing after an intense game of ultimate frisbee

Joanne enjoying the warm sun

Jacob taking a nap in the grass

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Two more days!!!!

Welcome to this blog. If you're reading this then someone you love will probably be joining me shortly and in two days we'll be heading out for a great adventure. It's going to be an exciting year of travel, community, seeing God work in our lives and in the world and I can't wait for it to start. I think that's all I'll say for now, but stay tuned for updates and photos.