Friday, April 11, 2008

Reflections on Community

Outtatown has been a great opportunity for me to work on myself; to develop and grow into the woman that Christ wants me to be. The atmosphere is perfect for this because we have had such a strong community around us to help us along and to give us strength in times when we need it most. Not just with mentors or peer mentoring groups either; simply hiking, spending a long bus ride sitting beside, rooming with, working with, or reflecting with a fellow student creates perfect opportunities to share your thoughts, concerns and struggles, thus creating perfect opportunities to support each other. I have experienced this over and over, probably every day and didn’t even notice the significance until now.

Coming on Outtatown and to South Africa I expected to be moved, challenged and changed, but mostly as a result of the poverty that we were about to face. I was wrong. Sure, I was moved, challenged and changed to a certain degree by the poverty I have seen and it brought questions, many questions, but most of the growth I’ve seen in my life is a result of living in community.

Our community is a church. We are real with each other, holding one another accountable and influencing the growth in each other. Due to this special environment I have a stronger faith and trust in the Lord, I have more passion for the things of the Lord, I have experienced the character of God in people. I now understand what it is to be an example of Christ in the world and I finally realize the importance of a strong Christian community.

I am so sad to be leaving it now, but I thank God for this year, my Outtatown community and what I have experienced with them. I now know what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ and know what to look for as I try to create or find my Christian community in Canada.

Written by: Rachel Kamps

My Hike of the Century

From Durban we headed to Petermaritzberg where we stayed at an organization called Project Gateway. Coming into this week I was excited to do service work and feel like I was trying to make a dent of difference in this community. Project Gateway is a non-profit organization based out of an old jail. They renovated thecells into rooms for guests, created a café and have given many craftspeople jobs on site.

From the first hour of arriving in Petermaritzberg it felt like home to me; all the people we met at Project Gateway were so friendly and excited for “the Canadians”. We had a chance to attend and worship with Petermaritzberg Community Fellowship, visit a nearby school, and just help out on site. Some examples of the work we did include: painting a cell, covering school textbooks, scooping pigeon poop and picking up garbage.

During our time in Petermaritzberg our group was split into two groups, one went hiking while the other stayed back at the jail, then we switched. I was not looking forward to this hike, yet I kept trying to convince myself that it would be okay. I’m not very good at physical activity like this and I’m still recuperating from the canoe trip first semester, but I knew flaking out was not an option so I packed up my 60 litre backpack and said my prayers.

Once we arrived at the bottom of the hill and met with Geoff and our other hike guides, we saw just how beautiful the mountain range was. The Drakensberg is like nothing I have seen before and all I can really say about it is that it sort of reminded me of the scene at the end of The Sound of Music when the VonTrapp family is hiking to Switzerland.

It was a two hour hike to our first destination – a cave. We were blessed to have great weather; I think God knew that I needed sunshine that day to keep me positive. We made camp in the cave and called it home for two nights.

The next morning after waking up and eating some oatmeal we started our adventure to the top of Rhinos Peak. I was doing alright physically, thanks to our many snack breaks and rest stops, and I actually found myself having a pretty good time. It was a lot of fun spending time with our group in such an amazing place, with such intense beauty and like I mentioned before I’m not a huge nature person, but it was really beautiful. After about 4.5 hours we made it to the peak (we are the fastest Outtatown group ever) and it was actually breathtaking. I still can’t believe it when I look back at my pictures!

My group was blessed with an amazing experience while at the top. We met a group of indigenous Losoto cattle herders. I found this amazing. They were watching their cattle, wearing traditional clothing and didn’t understand English. I didn’t know that these things existed anymore since everywhere else that we’ve gone has been Westernized. Meeting these people is something I will always remember.

All in all, I’ve called the Drakensberg my hike of the century. It was hard will probably be the last hike I’ll do for quite some time, but really, I had a much better time than I expected to and feel proud that I made it to the top.

Written by: Lauren Sonnenberg

Corey and Lauren painting a cell

Stephen hard at work


The group starting a long and beautiful hike

The beauty that surrounded us

Snack break

Home, sweet home! It's amazing how inviting a cave seems after a long day of hiking

Gabe collecting some drinking water

Gabe, Lauren, Corey, Meagan, Simon and Far (one of our guides)

Lauren sitting at the top!

A few of the Losoto cattle herders we met at the top

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Durban Homestays

This write-up is written about the events that happened from March 8th – 14th

For one week we partook in the South African Indian experience. Outside of India, Durban is the third largest concentration of Indian people in the world, coming just behind England. It was great to be immersed in the Indian culture, from the spicy curries, to the Bollywood, to the recognition of different religious presences in the community.

We were told a bit of the Indian story; how they came to South Africa as sugar cane cutters back in the 1800’s and about their effort in helping bring the Apartheid to an end. We learned a lot about Ghandi’s efforts to bring freedom and equality to the country through his movement of peace and non-violence and we also learned about where the Indian culture is heading in this new democratic country that is South Africa.

This was one of the roughest weeks for our group due to a strange stomach flu that we picked up at the end of our stay in Mdumbi and the homesickness that comes with being physically sick while away from home, but thankfully we spent the week in homestays with Indian families from the church we working with. Our host families were extremely hospitable and nursed us back to health.

I had an amazing host family this week. They may not have had a lot to offer us, but I’m sure they gave us everything they had. They were so welcoming and I’m pretty sure that I had the cutest little sister that I could imagine.

Looking back at the week, there are a few things that stick out to me that I learned through experiencing this new culture. First is the importance that they put on tight family living. Both sets of grandparents lived basically in the same house as my host family. It was incredible to see the impact on the family’s life due to the close relationship of the grandparents, parents and children. This has challenged me to examine my relationships with my own family and made me realize just how blessed I am to have them.

The second thing came mid-week when my host family as well as many other families in Durban experienced a huge rain storm that caused extensive flooding in many areas of the city. What struck me about this was the way my family dealt with it. It amazed me to see the joy and peace that they maintained as the rain flooded into their house and ruined the little that they had. This honestly left me with so many questions. If they had more to lose then would they have felt the loss more and handled the situation differently? Would a typical family in North America handle the situation in the same way? Are there things in my own life that I am holding on to so tightly that if they were suddenly taken away I would lose site of God and my joy in the process?

I haven’t come up with answers to all of these questions, but I challenge you to think about them as well. God is a great God and He is working throughout the world. I know that this week has further opened my eyes to that truth.

Written by: Stephen Foord

Photos of the flooding

Mei-Lin, Carla and Deanna enjoying the ocean one last time


This write-up is written about the events that happened from March 1st – 7th

Our long day of driving brought us to one of the beautiful areas of South Africa that I have seen so far. Clusters of huts scattered along the countryside. Children running outside to wave, smile, or simply to ease their curiosity. Men
and women going about their day. All of our eyes remained fixed on the world outside our bus windows. In our own way we were captivated by the beauty that is rural South Africa.

I’m sure you can picture our bus manoeuvring its way along the long winding dirt road, the hot African sun beating down and all of us trying to relieve ourselves from the heat. “Hey guys, there’s the ocean! Oh wait…no, that’s just a hill in the distance.” (a little while later…) “Hey guys, the water over there…oh, uh, never mind.” This is to say that there were definitely moments when I thought the ride would never end.

Finally we came to the end of the road and arrived at our destination. Situated right on Coffee Bay, Mdumbi Backpackers became our new home for the week. Our time here was set aside to do the second half of our Knowing Yourself Unit. We spent a chunk of time everyday having sessions in the lapa (an outdoor sitting area).

In one of the first sessions we looked over the results from a personality test we took the week before. There were the loyalists, peacemakers, helpers, enthusiasts, individualists, challengers, and reformers. Within our groups we discussed the tests accuracy and discovered some aspects of our personalities that we knew, but just didn’t understand or know how to put into words. Interesting stuff.

Simon led an awesome session on the Holy Spirit; what it is, what it does, and how it affects who we are. Anita went through a really worthwhile exercise where we thought about things we’d like to “stop, start, and continue” once we get back home. Sabrina spent time with us talking about going home and gave us some really sweet questions to think about. Jodie shared a synopsis of David’s life and how he was a man after God’s own heart. Jodie also presented the ideas of passions and complaints, challenging us with the thought that our ministry comes from our complaints. We were even blessed to have a session led by one of our fellow students. Michelle Ball spoke to us about an issue close to her heart; social justice and what our role is in that.

The leaders also sent us off for an afternoon of silence. Some journaled, some walked around, some found a spot to plunk down. Pray, read, or just be quiet, it was completely up to us. It was really great to take time away from the busyness of the week and just be still and spend time with God.

The atmosphere at Mdumbi was really chilled and relaxed. It made for a perfect place to process all that we have experienced and were learning. We also had a dang lot of free time, most of which was spent: hanging out in the main hut, listening to music or playing cards, boogie boarding, surfing, playing in the waves, going on hikes, stargazing, laying on the beach, picking up seashells (which thankfully are a lot lighter than rocks), or just resting and doing nothing.

Mdumbi was amazing. It was one of the slower, fast-paced weeks (trust me, that does make sense). Oh, and by the way, WE SLEPT IN HUTS!!!!

Written by: Mei-Lin Ing

Mdumbi Backpackers

One of the huts we stayed in

Lauren and Jacob saying hello to our neighbours...the cows

Johan giving us some quick, yet helpful, surf tips

Sean, Gabe, James and Corey walking on the beach

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jeffery's Bay

This write-up is written about the events that happened from February 24th - 29th

Finally, the ever so popular J-Bay. This was such a beautiful place full of awesome waves and cheap surf shops. We stayed at UCSA (United Christian Student Association), a camp retreat centre that was not even two minutes from the beach.

In addition to experiencing the Leap Year on February 29th, we had some pretty sweet activities set up for us this week. Each student had the opportunity to choose 2 out of 3 adventure activities. The options were surf lessons, horseback riding on the beach and sand-boarding. Those surf lessons were pretty much the key to us becoming the professionals we are today, and although riding the horses was painful at times, it was still such a blast to trot through the sand dunes and race at full speed along the ocean’s shoreline.

We were also able to spend some time with a YWAM group stationed there in J-Bay. They welcomed us into a lively worship service, followed by a time of prayer, which lead into some service opportunities. While some of our group prepared food boxes for HIV/Aids patients from a nearby township, the rest of us helped lead a day camp for some of the children of the township. The day was full of Bible stories, worship, games and a snack. It was a great opportunity to see how a different organization is working and serving in the world around them.

This was a really fun week to kick back, relax and enjoy the community of the group once again.

Written by: Ben Pavey

Joanne, Meagan, Gabe, Lauren, Michelle, and Jen in front of one of the the many surf outlets.

Sean taking some time to spend with God

Dave looking pretty much pro

Krystal looking beautiful riding through the sand dunes

Jacob, Rachel and Christine walking some of the kids home after kids club

Friday, February 29, 2008

Goodbye for now

Early tomorrow morning (5:00 am to be exact) we'll be boarding the bus and heading out for our next adventure. We'll be heading to Mdumbi where we'll hopefully get to know ourselves better...literally since we're going to be doing part 2 of our Knowing Yourself module.

The reason that I'm writing this now (before we actually do it), is that for all parents and significant others who are used to hearing from your child or boyfriend or girlfriend (or whatever relationship you have with one of the students on Site on site 2) on a regular basis (and for all of those who wish you'd hear from your child more often), it might be good for you to know that we will not have internet or cell phone reception for the next week. Know that we still love you a lot.

The following photos are a preview of the write-up that will be coming about our time here in J-Bay.

Rachel looking beautiful on her horse

Mei-Lin and Simon

Mei-Lin, Jen, Sean, Gabe, Sabrina and Carla looking totally pro

Gabe picking up his board and heading out for another round

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The weekend at Bonnievale was a nice weekend of relaxation and activity; we did things like swim, swing off a rope swing into the water, canoe, a climbing wall, a high ropes course and just hang out and enjoy the wilderness. There were tents and tarps set out, but a lot of us chose to embrace the wilderness and sleep out under the stars. I have to say that there was something beautiful about spending the weekend sleeping outside, eating meals that were cooked over a fire and enjoying the nature that God created.

Another great thing about the weekend was that we were there with Site 3 and it was great to see them again and swap stories of all that we’ve experienced so far.

We left Bonnievale at 5:00 on Sunday morning…now you might be wondering why we had to leave so early…it was because we had a little stop to make along the way. After a five hour bus ride we made it to Bloukrans Bungy, which we were told, at 216 metres, is the highest bungy in the world…although there seems to be a bit of controversy surrounding that. Regardless, it was freakishly high. It’s funny though because although everything inside of you tells you it’s ridiculous to jump off of a bridge and you’re foolish for doing it (in fact, you may be reading this and fully agreeing with those thoughts), there is something beautiful about soaring through the air and seeing the beauty and hearing the silence that surrounds you.

Written by: Dave Toews and Sabrina Wiens

Dave going off the rope swing

Jodie and Joanne doing the high ropes course

Michelle walking the rope like a pro

Corey climbing the wall

The view that we had while sleeping's surprising how bright the moon can be


This write-up is written about the events that happened from February 17th – 20th

Hidden under piles of trash and behind the doors of the matchbox shacks lies the township of Kayamandi, simply waiting to rise out from underneath the burdens that have been covering up this township's glowing beauty. I had the opportunity to get to know this township and although it was only three short days that I had there, God revealed more to me than I ever could have imagined.

Our site was split up into groups of 3 or 4 and after spending a morning exploring the township, with guides who grew up in Kayamandi, each group was given a small budget in order to create its own service project. I truly believe that it was in discovering the community by walking the streets, holding a child’s hand and simply observing the day-to-day life in Kayamandi, that God revealed Himself to me in unexpected, yet clear ways.

We were advised to not only identify the needs that we saw in this township, but to look deeper and identify the assets of the people and the community as well. I was able to open my eyes and see not only the brokenness of the community, but also the beauty that was flourishing; I realized that I have so much to learn from their way of simplicity and especially from the emphasis on relationships. I was inspired by the amount of love and caring that was shown among neighbours. If someone was in need of a hand there was always a neighbour close by to help. For instance, one of our groups helped a 27 year old woman and her 4 year old son tear down and rebuild their shack because it had started to shift and as a result was crooked and not suitable for keeping the rain out. Amidst the three Outtatown students working on repairing the house was an abundance of neighbours joining in to help put this home together again.

The beauty of this relational attitude was made incredibly clear to me through my own group’s service project as well. We decided to build a fence for one of the many local crèches (nursery schools), because the children were constantly escaping through one of the many gaps in the existing fencing, however, we had absolutely no idea how to put up a fence. We walked into this project blindly, but when we started working and trying to figure it out, the neighbours, who had built many fences, came and showed us how to put it up. The fence would not have made it up, nor would it be stable without the help of the two men who picked up our mallet and drove those long poles into the ground for us. I am incredibly thankful for the help they gave us.

God was not only revealed to me through the hospitality and genuine care of the neighbours, but also through the way that our service project played out. As I’ve already mentioned, none of us knew how to put up a fence, or even what type of tools and supplies we’d need, so even going to the local hardware store was difficult. I really missed Canada and the friendly and helpful service that Home Depot offers since the local Builders Hardware was definitely lacking in that department! And yet, it all worked out brilliantly and plans seemed to fall into place. God revealed Himself to us in every step of our project.

Had we just driven by Kayamandi, like we have with so many other townships, I never would have discovered the beauty that it possesses. My judgment of the township probably would have stopped at the poverty, piles of trash and world that is in many ways opposite to the one I come from. However, I now see that God’s love is evident in all parts of this world and through all people. He was in our service. He was in the help that was offered to us by the community. He was in the children’s hands that we held. He was in the children at the crèche. It’s not hard to find God once we open our eyes and look past the trash that blocks our vision.

Written by: Jen Nickel

The following photos are of the house that one of the groups (Ben, Meagan, and Krystal) helped tear down and rebuild

Strandfontein – Homestay Take 2!

This write-up is written about the events that happened from February 10th – 15th

We just spent a week in the Cape Flats; a section of Cape Town that had been designated for the Black and Coloured people during the Apartheid years. We spent the week with Coloured host families, in the town of Strandfontein.

We enjoyed the hospitality and warmth of our host families the entire week as they instantly became our adopt-a-parents in just a few short days. They opened their homes and their hearts to us and it definitely helped the students who were feeling a bit homesick to cope and recharge for the last half of the semester.

We spent the week working in three different schools (one elementary school and two high schools) in a close by town called Steenberg, often answering questions the students had about Canada, but some of us also had the opportunity to teach a few lessons and help with homework.

Two of the groups were able to partake in their schools Track and Field days. Our very own Sean Hildebrandt even placed 2nd in the high jump competition. All in all, it was a great week to hang out with the kids and learn from them just as much as they learned about us.

We ended the week with a boat ride out to Robben Island, where we toured around and visited the prison that had been used during the Apartheid to isolate political prisoners, the most famous of which was Nelson Mandela. It was amazing to see how even seemingly small things, like mail censorship and solitary confinement were used to break the spirits of prisoners. Even more amazing was how the prisoners persevered and through teaching one another with the education that a few of them had, they created what has now become known as “The University of Robben Island”. This “university” nurtured and educated many of the leaders who came to power after the fall of the Apartheid. I’m sure we all enjoyed the time and even more so enjoyed the successful avoidance of seasickness.

The history, beauty, and love of South Africa was evident throughout our week. You’ll never experience a Valentine’s party until you have Rodney MC it…that’s all I have to say.

Written by: Stephen Foord

Sean and James with one of the host families...James looks super, I'm not sure what that face looks like...

One of the classes that we worked in...they're all wearing red because it was Valentines Day

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Simons Town

This write-up is written about the events that happened from February 4th – 8th

This past week we had a number of speakers come and talk to us about various methods and programs that are being used to help work towards a better future for South Africa. The main speaker of the week was a man named Rodney. Rodney’s expertise is in conflict resolution, a topic I was already interested in, but Rodney’s dramatic, interactive lecturing style led me to enjoy the subject that much more. He was able, through the way he approached the issue as well as with a few key activities, to show us how the ability to resolve conflict is not only necessary in large instances, such as the Apartheid, but also in our day-to day lives.

Outlining his ideas for us with large sheets of paper and marker, we learned about the basic types of conflict that we will encounter, as well as what the root causes for these conflicts may be. In one session we all paired up and practiced techniques for effective debating, learning how to get our point across to our opponent while still listening and responding to exactly what they said. But of all the activities, my favourite turned out to be a short test we were given, which was designed to show us what methods we regularly use when dealing with conflict.

Class was great, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so we also had a lot of fun playing in the ocean, planning Bible study for out small groups and playing more card games than can possibly be healthy for us. One evening our entertainment committee planned a brilliant indoors beach party, complete with massive amounts of fruit, palm branches and the limbo (which was won by our very own Jacob Droogh). One morning some o us crazy people even woke up at 4 am to hike up a nearby mountain and most of us reached the top just in time to witness a beautiful sunrise.

Written by: Gabriel Brunk

Simon and Carrie setting the mood for the luau by dropping some mean beats

Jacob, the king of the limbo, with some of the other students

Ben taking in the view

Some of the students enjoying the sunrise on their early morning hike

Can you say American Eagle...

A few of the African Penguins we shared the beach with

Godzilla...I mean, Amanda hanging out with the penguins