Outtatown South Africa

No Place I’d Rather Be

Recently our entire group spent three days in the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. We hiked, marvelled at God’s amazing creation, and spent the evenings camping out in a cave, playing games, and bonding more as a community. I think those three days really took us all back to our canoe trip at the beginning first semester. We recalled the constant rain and the awkwardness of entering our new community back in September. This reminder allowed us to look back and see just how far we have come as a community. It also prepared us to say goodbye, as the end of Outtatown has begun to creep up on us.

Throughout our first day of hiking, and later while we were in the cave, I found the song “Set a Fire” running through my head. In particular, the line that says, “There’s no place I’d rather be, than here in your love,” repeated itself. These lyrics continued to run through my head on the second day as we made our way up the steep slope to the top of Rhino’s Peak. I found this to be comforting as I looked out at the wonder and scenery around us.

Later that night, when we returned to our cave, we had worship and sat on the edge of our cave looking at the beautiful peaks that we had climbed just hours earlier. I remember sitting with my back against the cave wall watching as the sun set and darkness enveloped our group, with the only light coming from a few headlamps. During worship we sang “Set a Fire”. I felt my soul fill with joy especially as we sang the lyric, “There’s no place I’d rather be.”  Again, I found myself reflecting on the past six months, just how far our group has come and how different our community seems now.

The next morning I woke up early and watched as the rising sun make the mountains change colour and glow. I sat there with a few others in silence, just enjoying each other’s presence and being still before God’s creation.

I felt so at peace being with the people who have now become some of my favourite people in the world and sitting in what might be the most beautiful place I have ever been. During our time in Drakensberg God reaffirmed me and my choice to do Outtatown, as He has continued to do both semesters. I can honestly say there is no place I would rather be right now and no other people that I would rather be with.

– Amy Wiens, Site 2 South Africa student, 2018-19

Musings from Hwy 11

We were cruising down highway 11 in Northern Ontario. Cruise control was set, our puppy Pippin was curled up in the back seat, I was singing along to some tunes, when Zoe looked over at me and said, “Could it get any better for you? This is your dream.”

Spending roughly 60 hours in a car might not sound like vacation to you. That’s fair. It sounds a little odd to me as I type it out. That’s a lot of time. But the thing is, I LOVED it! It makes me feel some solidarity with Outtatown students who spend countless hours in the big, white Outtatown vans as they drive from Winnipeg to the Canadian Pacific Coast and back.

Every so often, we in the Outtatown office get the opportunity to take a vacation. I returned from mine a few days ago and still feel like I’m playing catch-up. In light of this, I’m going to gift you with a couple musings from 18 days spent road tripping to Southern Ontario and back.

It is so good and healthy to get into the wilderness. Nature has always been a place where I am able to relax and where I more naturally encounter God (pun intended). Highway 11 is pretty isolated at times. After months of busy work it was such a relief to find myself on that lone road, with only the occasional transport truck passing us. Life can get busy and complicated, but moments of relative solitude lead us to encounters and revelation. This makes me excited to think of how Outtatown students will be challenged to encounter God during a day of silence in first semester, led by Steve Klassen.

Part of our road trip included a visit to my grandma in Matheson, about 700 km north of Toronto. Grandma is now 94 and never ceases to inspire me with her vibrant, passionate faith and her incredible knowledge. How often do you get beat by a 94-year-old in Scrabble? Driving the many kilometres of highway I reflected on my grandma’s vitality and fun-loving attitude. Faith is paramount in Grandma’s life, and this inspires her to find deep joy in everyday life.

I think of Outtatown students this upcoming year who will spend time studying the Bible and exploring the beauty and brokenness of Canada and Guatemala. But they will also experience a lot of adventure and will have fun doing it! There can be a tendency to prioritize work while devaluing play and adventure, but I think of Grandma, who recognizes the goodness in both. This is something I love about Outtatown: students work and play in community, wherever they go. Formation and learning take place in both work and play, but Grandma’s words remind me that God delights in our joyful fun.

So, my prayer for each of you, and for each future Outtatown student, is that you would find space to rest, to encounter God, and that amidst the busyness of life you would have fun. Just say that Grandma told you so.

– Tim Cruickshank, Outtatown Co-Director