Adventure in Simon’s Town

Written by Joey Speers

The week started off exciting as ever as we drove through the Karoo desert. We stayed the night at a retreat centre in the middle of who knows where. The Karoo is known for its beauty come night fall. Billions of stars were visible from the comfort of our porches throughout the night.

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The anticipation to get to the Cape region was building and it was incredibly hard to stay patient on the 17-hour bus ride. We arrived in Simon’s Town after two long days of driving.  The penguins that roam the shores of the Indian Ocean greeted us immediately.

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That was just the beginning though. The week consisted of a ton more firsts for us as a community. Throughout the week, we students got the opportunity to skydive and paraglide over Cape Town, swim, kayak, paddle board on the ocean, and take a trip to the Cape of Good Hope.

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As I said, this was a big week of firsts for many, so students grew in confidence by pushing their personal limits in terms of comfortability.  As the week went on, we continued to fall in love with the location we were so blessed to be living in. How can you not be in awe when you are surrounded by massive mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, right? We really got a taste of South Africa’s beauty when we took our trip to the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Point is the most South-Western tip of the continent. Personally, this was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever laid my eyes on.  Mountains and the collide of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans really make Cape Point special.

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The week ended with all of us exhausted. We headed off up the coast to a surf town called Muizenberg for our free weekend.

Pretoria

By Bailey Cressman

This week we made our home in Pretoria. We were split up into smaller groups and shipped off to an Afrikaner family. This was our chance to learn as much as we possibly could about the culture from the perspective of Afrikaners. For instance, I learned how to make Biltong (sort of like beef jerky), and we certainly all got our share of meat this week! But for some of us, we got a different perspective of South Africa.

One of our last days in Pretoria, we spent at a civil rights organization called Afriforum. There was a bit of a mix-up when we first came to this place. We had all been told we were going to a farm, so it was a bit of a surprise when we entered a nice air-conditioned building instead of a hot farm area. Whoops!

Afriforum is a non-government funded organization that fights for the rights of all the peoples of South Africa, but with a main emphasis of preserving the Afrikaner culture and language. This was a day where we received a very different perspective of historical and current issues than what we had originally been told. It was a very interesting day, and each of us had something different that we grappled with about our understanding of apartheid and human/civil rights in South Africa on our ride home.

One of the days that we all looked forward to the most, was our trip to the Lion Safari & Park. We entered caged trucks and drove through a lion park. The lions were so close to us! We saw other animals like giraffes, wildebeests, and wild dogs on this safari. Later, we had a chance to play with some of the lion cubs. What a day to check some boxes off my bucket list! I fed a giraffe, pet a cheetah, poked some ostriches, and played with lions cubs! It was a lovely way to end our week. Now we are on our way to the coast, but I know we are all thankful to our new friends who so quickly became family to us.

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Our visit to the Union buildings in Pretoria- Nelson Mandela statue!

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The Lion park.

Our Week in Soweto

By Cole Stewart

Last week our group was in the Johannesburg township of Soweto. The entire week was full of incredible moments which made for wonderful memories for every one of us. We arrived in Soweto on Sunday and had everyone we passed on the street waving at us. Walking off the bus, we were swarmed by a giant crowd of little kids. Their joyful energy and beautiful smiles would end up being what carried most of us through what turned out to be a very exhausting week. We quickly got to taste the culture with a stroll through the neighbourhood after spending a few hours with the kids. On Sunday we attended a service at Orlando Baptist Church. The loud music, dancing, and overall feel of the Church made the service one of my highlights of the week. The Holy Spirit was so very present and it was probably one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had at Church. The rest of the week was led by our partner, Mpho. We spent the first part of the week touring Soweto and getting a feel for the community while learning about the history and the culture. The first couple of days included trying new things like chicken feet (actually very delicious!) and tripe (intestines). Of course, the food is always a huge part of any culture, so how could we refuse those delicacies? Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were our service days. As a group, we split up and went to five different organizations: Kliptown Youth Program, Kliptown Creche, Lakeview Elementary School, Carl Sithole home, and Othandweni Orphanage. I, personally, spent all three days at Kliptown Creche which is a preschool/daycare for children ages 1-6. Kliptown is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in all of Soweto and both Kliptown Youth Program and Kliptown Creche are doing incredible work to show Jesus’s love to the community. I was in the three-year-old classroom the entire time and built a great relationship with both the kids and the teachers. The three year olds weren’t really learning anything, so we spent most of the time just playing with them and then we’d have a chance to talk with the teachers while the kids were napping. Both my connection with the kids and my connection with the teachers impacted me in such an amazing way and I’ll definitely remember my time spent there forever. We ended our service week with a gumboot dancing presentation/lesson from the guys at Kliptown Youth Program. It was an experience that I can’t really describe, but it was so much fun! Throughout the week, we had all made connections with the kids that came to play with us everyday at our compound, so we thought we would have a party for them. On Saturday, we had over a hundred little kids come to enjoy games, food, face painting and a photo booth. It was the best way to end an absolutely extraordinary week!

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First Days in South Africa

Greetings from South Africa!

Site 2 arrived safe and sound in Johannesburg on Tuesday, January 10, after two full days of travel or more. Exhausted from long plane rides and layovers, we were relieved to be taken straight to a retreat centre to spend a week relaxing, reconnecting, and easing into life in South Africa. Rocky Valley Christian Camp and Retreat Centre near Johannesburg treated us well with amazing food, gorgeous scenery and hikes, and refreshing manmade and natural pools.

The first thing we all noticed when we stepped off the plane was the heat. Coming from up to a few feet of snow and temperatures as low as -30, the bright sun and nearly +30 degree weather brought smiles to everyone. Over the week we would learn how to dress for the weather, as the sun woke us up at 5:30AM, fried our skin and drenched us with sweat throughout the day, then set suddenly at 7PM for a cool evening. Sunscreen quickly became part of our daily routines (more than once), and our normal hikes for adventure turned into searching for the best watering hole to cool off in during all our free time. The camp has a pool right in the sun, and a creek that runs past the camp with many gorgeous waterfalls and naturally formed pools along the way, that were put to use many times every day. We also learned that along with sunscreen and swimming, a very important part of bearing the heat is drinking water. Hydration is key to survive the African summer, so we carry our water bottles everywhere, and are very grateful for the clean water wherever we go.

The next thing we had to adjust ourselves to was the time. When we landed it was about 9:30AM, and staying awake for the rest of the day turned out to be a much bigger struggle than we could have imagined. Unfortunately, sleeping through entire flights is unrealistic, and we had people running on as little as 40 minutes of sleep in 2 days, going on 3 days as we tried to beat jet lag by staying awake the first day we were in South Africa. Traveling from home to South Africa, students and leaders were now anywhere from 6 to 12 hours ahead of their normal time zone, and we struggled to help our bodies catch up to the new time. It took a few days to beat the jet lag, but the first day was the hardest as we strived to stay awake until supper, and then everyone crashed as soon as they could afterwards.

Despite the few struggles in adjusting to a new country, we have been very blessed with our new surroundings. Rocky Valley is exactly what it sounds like: a valley between many rocky hills and cliff faces. The adventurous in spirit were easily able to find much solitude in hiking the ever-changing terrain, climbing up rock walls, and exploring what felt like a whole new world. We found monkeys, lizards, bridges, naturally formed pools, waterfalls, and rock climbing cliff faces, and admired the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets from the top of the hills.

This past week also provided us with a wonderful environment to reconnect with each other and be introduced to some of the South African culture. We had lots of free time to catch up with our friends, and some organized times in small groups and PMGs to share about our breaks. We had amazing meals all week that were usually seemed pretty normal to us but were just a little bit different (ex. they don’t have ketchup; they have tomato sauce), and we got to observe and experience a small taste of South African culture as we drove through Johannesburg and went to the mall to try out their cash and phone systems. We also had lessons from each of our leaders, a South African partner, and Paul Peters, on topics like the stages of adjusting to a new culture, being aware of our privilege, and owning our own stories.

Our week in Rocky Valley was refreshing and exciting, and as we drove into Soweto on Saturday and were greeted with dozens of eager, smiling little faces, and tiny waving hands, we knew we were in for a whole new type of adventure, and couldn’t wait for it to start.

(Pictures from Rocky Valley to come soon!! We have come to learn wifi isn’t always the most accessible or speedy. In the meantime- check out our instagram page!!)

Semester 1 Highlights

As the first semester of Outtatown comes to a close, our site has spent the past week debriefing all that’s happened since we drove off from CMU 3 months ago. While we pause to remember where we’ve all gone and what we’ve all done, we’re also taking the time to reflect on what we’ve learned this semester, and how that’s impacted us and caused us to grow. Since we’ve all been living, learning, and growing together, it can be hard to identify how we’ve changed individually, and it can be even more challenging to reenter back into our regular lives that haven’t changed in the same ways we have. Our goal is to have a smooth transition back into our lives at home, while continuing to remember all we’ve learned and retaining the growth that has happened within us.

To start off debrief week, we all collaborated to create this timeline to remember all that we’ve done and learned. The colours represent what happened this semester (black), what was good (orange), what was challenging (red), and what we’ve learned (blue). The timeline starts with the adventures of the first Outtatown students arriving in Winnipeg on Saturday, September 10th, the day before registration, and continues all the way until our site’s arrival at Alberta Pioneer Camp on Monday, November 21st to start debrief week. The following week included many sessions from our site leaders on reflection of the semester and reentry into our lives at home, learning about South Africa through songs, research presentations, and movies, information for next semester, and events such as a silent morning, horseback riding, and indoor rock climbing. Our next few days were spent in Canmore, Alberta to go skiing and snowboarding, enjoy a lot of free time together, and say our farewells before traveling home this weekend.

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To highlight the amazing experiences so far, each member of the Outtatown South Africa community was asked to share a favourite memory or quote from the first semester:

“The canoe trip and hiking.” -Adam

“Ski days, and ‘I’m not a keeper of time but we are late.'” -Joey

“The sweat lodge at the Roseau River Reserve.” -Alexa

“Lake Louise.” -Alyssa

“The last week in Canmore and Banff: hiking and being out in the mountains was so amazing.” -Amani

“Vancouver free weekend.” -Andrew

“‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.’ -Ecclesiastes 3:1,4a,6a,7b. God waits for me and so I shall wait for him.” -Bailey

“Outtatown is like a roller coaster it has its ups and downs it has its parts that can make you scared and nervous but also parts that make you excited and fearless but once you get off it you get right back in line to ride it again because it’s the best roller coaster at the park!” -Ben

“The Vancouver Urban Plunge, particularly holding out free prayer signs and praying for people and also seeing different kinds of poverty among the people in East Hastings and then on the West end.” -Beth

“The canoe trip, Vancouver Urban Plunge, and mudlympics.” -Brianna

“Worship: it was always so great to come together as a big family and praise God.” -Cole

“Harmonized humming in a pile while tired during guys week.” -Daniel

“Listening to God’s Voice week with Steve Klassen, and Leon from East Hastings.” -Danielle

“Sunny pow day at Lake Louise, all the great people, all the great hikes, skiing with friends at Sunshine, learning things, when I saw snow, and worship.” -Eli

“Listening to God’s Voice week with Steve Klassen, and spelunking.” -Hadiya

“Be still.” -Hannah

“Hunny.” -Holly D

“The know yourself days, especially Rianna’s, and seeing the northern lights at Roseau.” -Holly V

“The girls vs guys soccer game at Camp Arnes.” -Jana

“Hikes, spelunking, rock climbing, and generally having fun with the many great people I get to call my friends!” -Jessica

“Grouse Grind and Vision Quest, skiing at Sunshine, making music, free weekend in Vancouver, and teaching the whole group 4-part harmony for Come Walk With Us.” -Jonah

“Climbing mountains and seeing the Northern Lights.” -Josh D

“The canoe trip, Northern Lights, Vision Quest, and the free weekend in Vancouver.” -Josh T

“Spelunking.” -Katie

“Impact day with my PMG.” -Lyds

“#jellysjourneys” -Naomi

“Inspiring.” -Reanne

“All the hikes, including Vision Quest, Grouse Grind, and Hope Mountain.” -Sean

“Let’s get it.” -Sid

“Doing crazy spontaneous stuff with crazy spontaneous people.” -Silas

“Sid’s picture on top of the vans of the Northern Lights.” -Skye

“Steve Klassen, Nathan Regier, Lake Louise, and Banff.” -Tez

“Outtatown has been a great way to get closer to God and gain new friends.” -Tim

“Driving the mini van. #soccermom” -Jannelle

“The girls vs guys keep away game at River’s Edge.” -Julien

“The times of laughter within our community. I love how laughter tears down dividing walls and gives people a sense of commonality. Laughter is a unifying force!” -Justin

“Be at rest once more, oh my soul, for the Lord has been good.” -Rianna

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Small group photos from the Christmas banquet at Camp Squeah

The Idol Talk

Bailey Cressman

Last week at Camp Squeah in Hope, B.C; we had Nathan Regier come and speak with us over the course of three days. Nathan is an incredible man. We were all inspired by him, and I cannot wait until we meet up with him again while we’re in South Africa. The title of his lecture series was “The Jesus Revolution”, though it was more known to us as “The Idol Talk”. Nathan taught through stories. He would give us the main points of his lecture, and then share how he’s experienced these in his own life. One idea that really impacted me was Nathan’s way of explaining idols.

He told us that all idols were originally gifts from God that sin has twisted. The things that God had made for us to enjoy became something that we leaned on to receive love from. All idols fall under the headings of Value, Power, or Pleasure. Nathan made us realize that what these idols offer us is “love if…” We will receive our desire if we reach the next rung on the ladder. But it is never enough.

He taught us so much in the few days that he was with us, and I really felt God move in our group concerning idols in our own lives. At the end of the week, we gathered together and shared what we learned, and what our idols are. It was really impactful for me, and I’m sure for many others. As we finish this semester of Outtatown that week with Nathan Regier and the conversations we had with him will continue to stand out in my memory as a turning point in my life.

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View from a hike near to Camp Squeah in Hope, BC

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We went spelunking in caves near Hope, BC

Vancouver Urban Plunge

By Skye Wagenman

Last week we all participated in the Vancouver Urban Plunge. For three days we went out onto the streets of East Hastings and learned about the people living in that area. We learned about poverty and about how God worked in areas that may seem difficult.

The Urban Plunge was a wonderful opportunity to learn about poverty and how God works through it. One of my biggest learning moments was when I came to the realization that it’s not our job to fix poverty. It’s not our job to go into an area and assume that we need to teach them about God. He is already present and working through the people there. I found that I learned so much more about God and the work he has done this week than in everyday, comfortable living. God was working with the people in East Hastings in such remarkable ways and there was so much faith everywhere; it was truly inspiring. Everyone I talked to gave me a beautiful insight as to how God has worked in their life. Their faith was raw and real. The people I met on the streets weren’t afraid to talk about their struggles with faith and how they sometimes got really angry at God. I learned that despite their anger or frustration, they still put their full trust in God and they talk very highly of Him and His impact on their lives.

I felt very impacted this week by the many different people I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know. One of the most impactful days for me was the ‘Impact Day’. On the Impact Day we were split into our peer mentor groups and each group was given an envelope with a different amount of money in it. The goal was to use that money in a way that impacted others using all the things we have been learning this semester. The group I was in decided to use our $40 to buy helium balloons, attach encouraging notes to them and hand them out to people on both the East and West side of Vancouver. So off we went to the dollar store to buy some balloons and note paper. We then spent the next 2 hours writing over 50 encouraging letters filled with words of encouragement, bible verses, quotes and compliments to attach to these balloons. Once that was done we walked out onto the streets, starting in the East end, and handed the first balloon to a man who called out asking for one since it was his birthday. As soon as people noticed we were giving out free balloons they came from every direction and we were very quickly left empty-handed. We didn’t even make it to the West end. The best moment was when a woman who had recently taken a balloon from us, came running back filled with complete joy as she read the attached letter. She explained to us that she was having a really hard time and that our letter made her so happy. She then hugged us all and proceeded to tell everyone who had a balloon that the balloon was nice, but the letter was even better. After that we walked up the street into the West side and put letters everywhere with a simple, one sentence encouragement. We hoped that the people who walked by, would feel encouraged and we hoped to reach as many people as possible. By the end of the day my peer mentor group felt so happy with everything we had done. It was so inspiring to see the joy and happiness of the people we were able to personally impact, and the one woman who hugged us definitely left us all feeling good. All in all, it was a really impactful day for us. We went out expecting to impact others but in the end, it was the opposite. We were blessed to be impacted by the people around us and the Impact Day will definitely be a day I remember.urban-plunge-response