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